When his son was married in the coastal state of Goa last year, Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s guest list included the richest man in the country and many a chief executive and top banker and bureaucrat. Most, however, just stopped by the night before to bless the happy couple and skipped the actual wedding. But one prominent friend stayed through all the ceremonies over a couple of days, genial and relaxed like a favorite uncle. It was Narendra Modi, chief minister of Adani’s home state of Gujarat.
Megha Bahree in her extensively researched piece on Forbes.com has lay open the largesse doled out by Narendra Modi to Gautam Adani to make him a multi-multi-billionaire in a span of 12 years. The article also reveals how large tracts of land that were given away are completely illegal and how the entire Adani enterprise is killing the environment. It’s a must read. We are quoting here, some of the salient points of the article.
The Adani Group was established in 1988 and became publicly traded in 1994. But its real rise happened under Modi’s reign in Gujarat. From 2002 to last March the group’s revenue rose from $765 million to $8.8 billion while net profits climbed even faster. It also tacked on a hefty amount of debt–$13 billion–more than doubling since 2011.
Adani has, over the years, leased 7,350 hectares–much of which he got from 2005 onward–from the government in an area called Mundra in the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat. Adani got 30-year, renewable leases on the land for as little as one U.S. cent a square meter (the rate maxed out at 45 cents a square meter). He in turn has sublet this land to other companies, including state-owned Indian Oil Co., for as much as $11 a square meter.
Between 2005 and 2007 at least 1,200 hectares of grazing land was taken away from villagers. Under Indian law land meant for grazing cattle can be used for something else only if it’s in excess. Villagers in Adani’s SEZ say their grazing land was signed away by earlier village chiefs without their knowledge. Gajendra Sinh Jadeja, the 28-year-old head of Navinal village, says the Gujarat government took some 930,770 square meters of his village’s grazing land for Adani’s SEZ. Adani got it for 19 cents a square meter.
Fly ash and saline water from Adani Power and a nearby Tata Power Co. Ltd. plant are spoiling the crops and making the soil less fertile. Jadeja says, “The saline water ruined the soil, and the poor production now is just not worth it”. After years of receiving complaints of environmental abuse, the federal environment ministry finally, in 2012, named a panel–known as the Sunita Narain Committee. In a report last April Narain’s group confirmed that Adani SEZ had violated multiple green rules at different points of its mammoth project–destroying mangroves, filling creeks and causing land and water degradation by dumping fly ash.
Residents of Navinal Village, including the head Jadeja, filed in 2011 a petition in the Gujarat High Court after they lost their grazing land to the SEZ. In January, the court declared the SEZ illegal and ordered the companies that had set up factories in there to stop all work. The Supreme Court, India’s highest, has refused to stay the lower court’s decision. With hundreds of millions of dollars already invested–albeit in a project now in legal limbo–the question now is if Adani’s effort has become too big to shut down. The Gujarat High Court passed the ball on that decision to the central government, asking if the project could be granted a belated environmental clearance.
So, this election, a lot is at stake for both Gautam Adani and Narendra Modi. Adani wants his environmental clearances and cheap land, but more importantly, wants to become a global player and compete with heavy-weights and not be limited to India. For that, he needs his close friend Narendra Modi to become the Prime Minister. Narendra Modi, on the other hand, needs to get rid of the fake encounter cases, riot cases and the snoopgate cases which have enough evidence against him to jail him for a few lifetimes. In a few months, we’ll find out what is in store for the Adani-Modi duo.
The following tweet by Jan Sangharsh Manch founder Nirjhari Sinha gives a glimpse into the future if Modi were to become the Prime Minister.
If I become PM, I shall give ONGC to Ambani, BHEL to Adani, Air India to Tata to make them richest in the world. Bharat Mata ki jai -NaMo!
— Nirjhari Sinha (@NirjhariSinha) March 12, 2014