Calling the draft Maharashtra Special Economic Zones and Designated Areas bill, 2010, to a corporate-backed plan to recreate princely states, activists and scholars vehemently opposed the bill, calling it anti-democratic.
Raising banners of protest weeks ahead of the state’s winter session, activist plan to raise the tempo as they believe that the bill might be up for discussion in the upcoming session.
Activist Ulka Mahajan from the National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM) said, “The case against SEZs has been falsely projected as one meant for agriculture and against industries. For starters, there will be no local self-governance in SEZs, no state labour laws would exist there and the developer could go against the state laws to create his own fiefdom. How is this different from the princely states that the country consisted of?”
Urban Design Research Institute’s executive director Pankaj Joshi, dissecting the legal aspects of the bill, lambasted its approach towards dilution of the state’s laws.
“The bill makes it clear that SEZs have to be treated as if they are not part of the country. The people there would have to depend on the private developers for each and every civic amenity, since the state would be invisible in the SEZs,” Joshi said.
Joshi also agreed that the bill went against the basic principles of democracy. “There will be no elections, no public authority and hence, no questioning of any authority.”
Contrary to popular perception, the bill should face tough opposition from Mumbai as well, he said.
“There are 16 SEZs slated to come up in Mumbai alone and another 24 in Thane. Statistics show that out of the 238 SEZs proposed, 81% are in and around Mumbai itself, while only 19% are in the rest of Maharashtra.”
Mahajan said that it is the right time to conduct statewide protests against the bill.