Indian Agrarian Crisis now moved to

Farmer-the most endangered species

Package to pluck SEZ land thorns

Posted by Ramoo on March 9, 2007…

New Delhi, March 7: A proposal has been mooted to confine special
economic zones (SEZs) to wasteland.
However, in states where acquisition of farmland is unavoidable, SEZs
should be allowed on the condition that wasteland would be upgraded
into cultivable land to ensure “food security”.
The proposals are part of a blueprint drawn up by the rural
development ministry, which has been asked by the Prime Minister to
work on a rehabilitation package for land acquisition for SEZs.
In a written submission to Murli Manohar Joshi, the chairman of the
parliamentary standing committee on industry, the ministry said: “SEZs
should be established preferably on wasteland… where use of
agricultural land cannot be avoided, single-crop land in rainfed areas
may be considered. In completely unavoidable circumstances, multi-crop
land may be used for strategic requirements.”
But it has added a rider that if farmland is taken over, there “should
be compensatory development of wasteland for the sake of food
security”. This, sources said, will form part of the rehabilitation
package that the ministry will submit to the cabinet soon.
The ministry’s submission, sources said, is believed to form “the core
principles on which it has drawn up its report”.
If the cabinet accepts the suggestions, investors who have proposed
SEZs in Bengal will be among the beneficiaries. According to state
government data, only 0.5 per cent of land in Bengal is fallow – which
makes the use of farmland, including multi-crop land, for SEZs
The fate of at least eight proposals for SEZs, including two from the
Salim Group, is hanging in the balance now as the Centre has slammed
the brakes, pending the rural development ministry’s rehabilitation
In the note to the standing committee, which is preparing an
independent report on SEZs for Parliament, the ministry stressed that
there should be a state-wise balance in distributing SEZs to avoid
regional disparities.
The suggestion is seen as an indictment of the manner in which SEZ
proposals have been approved till now. States like Gujarat and Andhra
Pradesh have 19 and 45 formal approvals, respectively, covering some
10,682 hectares and 9,460 hectares. But the Northeast does not have a
single clearance.
The ministry has suggested the creation of “a list of activities that
may not be allowed on SEZs, e.g., setting up of golf courses or other
such facilities with large land requirements”.
An official said the government felt that allied activities could
include communication facilities, airports and employees’ quarters
“but not malls and housing estates for non-workers and stadia.

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