One of the leading industrialised states in the country, Gujarat, wants the entire state to be declared as a special economic zone (SEZ) so that it can attract more investment.
This request was put up by a senior Gujarat Government official to the Standing Committee on Commerce looking into the SEZ issue on Wednesday. The committee, for the first time, had invited political parties and organisations, state governments and corporate houses, like the Tata Group, Infosys and Mahindra and Mahindra, to give their views and share their experiences on SEZs.
In the earlier two meetings, the committee had asked various ministries and government departments to share their views on SEZs. BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi chairs the 40-member Committee.
In another development, the Union Commerce Ministry has formed a seven-member sub-committee to exclusively look into the SEZ issue. The members would be visiting states, starting with Maharashtra, to check SEZ-related developments.
A member of the Standing Committee said that Gujarat – which has 46 running or approved SEZs, the largest number in the country – has so far largely used government land unlike in states like West Bengal, which has had to acquire land from farmers.
"The official argued that since Gujarat comparatively has large chunks of fallow or infertile land, more SEZs could be set up. More than 15 per cent of land in Gujarat is infertile, so acquisition is not a problem," the committee member said.
West Bengal demanded that for multi-product SEZs, the land ceiling should be fixed between 400 and 1000 hectares. "Unnecessary land should not be acquired," the member said.
Member of BJP’s panel on SEZ, Kirit Somaiya, and CPI’s AB Bardhan and D Raja also submitted reports to the Committee on SEZs. The BJP report demands that farmers should have informal equity in SEZs. It also wants the SEZ Act and Rules to be changed so that at least 60 per cent of the land is dedicated to manufacturing.
The CPI, it was learnt, demanded a fresh look into rehabilitation and compensation package besides demanding that acquisition of agricultural land be discouraged. There should also be a ceiling on the total land to be made available to the developer, the CPI said.
Both the CPI and CPIM’s farmers’ wing, All-India Kisan Sabha, demanded that the government should ensure that IT companies do not misuse the tax holiday provisions in the Act and Rules.
For IT companies, the government-declared tax holiday gets over in 2010. So, the CPI and Kisan Sabha fear that many fraud IT companies could crop up to take advantage of the 10-year-holdiday provision for SEZs. There should be a provision to look into antecedents of IT companies applying to set up SEZs, they said.