Has the government dialled a wrong number with special economic zones (SEZs)? Is it pampering the already well endowed regions and well heeled workers?
Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh suggested that on Wednesday when he said SEZs, intended to create jobs in manufacturing, may end up helping more sectors such as software and information technology enabled services (ITES).
"SEZs appear to be increasing the digital divide," Ramesh told the executive board of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom).
"I have always felt the true value of SEZs must be judged by the extent to which they help promote labour-intensive manufacturing. But so far, of the 142 SEZs notified, 86 are for IT and ITES alone," he said.
Breaking the figure up further, Ramesh said of the 86, as many as 26 were in Andhra Pradesh, 14 in Tamil Nadu, 13 in Karnataka and 10 in Maharashtra – making about 80 per cent of them concentrated in four states.
The minister asked the IT industry leaders to think of "under-served regions and areas." He praised Tata Consultancy Services in trying to help him develop Guwahati as an IT location using the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) there as a focal point.