The CPI(M) on Thursday welcomed the decision of the Government to put on hold all proposals for Special Economic Zones (SEZs) but said rehabilitation of the displaced is not the only issue that needs examination. It reiterated the need to amend the SEZ Act and rules.
In fact, CPI(M)'s Rajya Sabha MP from West Bengal, Moinul Hassan, has submitted a detailed note on SEZs to the Standing Committee on Commerce earlier this week, highlighting the issues, the party thinks, should first be addressed before more SEZs are sanctioned.
The nine-page note first addresses the issue of land acquisition. The main demands include that no land should be transferred to private developers; they should only be allowed to take land on lease. It then said: "The Central Government should set an appropriate ceiling on the total land under a SEZ, which can be developed by a private entity…SEZs whose land area exceeds the specified ceiling should only be developed by the State (Public enterprises of the Central or State Governments).
Hassan also wrote that a provision limiting the acquisition of multi-crop agricultural land should be built into the SEZ Act itself. He suggested that compensation and rehabilitation criteria for SEZs should ensure that the current owners of land are awarded compensation in line with market prices taking into account the expectation of future land development.
The CPI(M) MP raised the issue of the government sanctioning a larger number of IT SEZs compared to other sectors. "148 of the 237 SEZs approved so far are IT SEZs. The disproportionately large number of proposals for IT SEZs clearly shows an attempt by new IT units to avail the benefit of the 10 year tax break under the SEZ Act which otherwise cannot be availed by the IT Companies beyond 2009,"' the note said.
Hassan claimed in the note that the Centre was trying to nudge state governments towards diluting labour laws within a SEZ. "The model SEZ Act for the state governments framed by the Centre also contained a long list of exemption clauses in labour laws, including the Minimum Wages Act and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, that the states are advised to invoke. This clearly shows that having failed to dilute the labour laws within the SEZs during the passage of the SEZ Act in Parliament, the Centre is trying to implement it by encouraging the state governments in that direction," the note said.
The CPI(M) leader ended the note by saying that if these issues are not addressed, "the SEZ policy would degenerate into a free for all and political opposition to it would snowball."
Email Sutirtho Patranobis: sutirthopatranobis @hindustantimes.com