IsWhy Srikakulam??Ask any industry captain to consider investment in Srikakulam district – all you get is astern glare that is full of question marks?? Recent incidents of any corporation wanting toset up shop both in public & private sector have not been encouraging. Violence, death,protests, public hearings getting sabotaged, growing activism are factors worrying aninvestor to consider Srikakulam. But what led to this situation needs some carefulunderstanding?The moot question is about why Srikakulam district is unable to create employment &income generating opportunities, despite incentives from the State Govt. It has theadvantage of a long coastline of 193 kms and spread over 5,837 sq. kms with a populationupwards of 25 lakh; but more than 75% of the population is still dependent on agriculture,saltpans, fishing and sundry jobs.Whether it’s sand mining, fish research center, thermal power, nuclear power plant orpharmaceutical industry – protests are widespread. What are their lurking fears to permitand partner in any development project. Is it fear of losing land, poor compensation,provision of jobs, issue of pollution, human rights; bad rehabilitation & relocation policy forland losers; lack of proper jobs for land losers – without skill up-gradation; ill-health fromthe industries; political interference. Maybe a combination of all these factors andmisguidance by some vested groups as well.This kind of ambience definitely doesn’t augur well for any industry. Even if the bestincentives are offered – no businessman would like to risk his investment and work in atense environment that puts his men & material under threat of constant uncertainty. If theentire work cycle is to come under the cloud of protest & negative sentiment – he/she wouldre-consider his option and move to a more congenial industrial atmosphere that fostersdevelopment. Remember how the Tata Nano project moved lock stock & barrel from Singurto Sanand in the backdrop of a similar protest & negative sentiment.INDUSTRY COMPASSION OR LACK OF IT: The scale of industry coming up or proposingto set up shop needs to take cognizance of these local issues; identify the stakeholders,understand their issues, myths & concerns and partner with both the local Panchayatofficials and also with govt. administration. Is it lack of compassion by the industry captainsdenying these villagers who forfeit their land for the project & get a raw deal in the processand get further exploited by the vested groups and politicians. Is the industry being drivenby profiteering motive and denying the local villagers their share of the progress eithersocial, economic benefits accruing from the said project??The biggest loser is the Srikakulam district and its citizens. Can we change this?? Ipropose an initiative titled Srikakulam First that will identify the issues plaguing theindustrial development, partner in stakeholder engagement and work in conjunction withlocal villagers and Govt. administration. Members of Srikakulam First could be people withorigins & roots in this district – who have done well for themselves in any area – education,politics, cinema, sports, IAS, IPS, artist, business etc. Let’s identify such people – form acommittee and work on a time-bound agenda to bring change!!This needs to be done on TOP PRIORITY – with the rising protest groups, violence in theform of protests, media reportage, angst within the village folk against any developmentcould create the much needed gap for extremist forces to enter and create a Singur-likesituation in West Bengal??