They came from different parts of the country. Over 150 of them from 11 states. All with a common agenda: to do away with the special economic zone (SEZ) policy. As they unanimously passed a first-of-its-kind resolution formulating a ‘national anti-SEZ agenda’.
All this happened at Gorai in Borivli (West) after deliberations over two days at the ‘National Convention on SEZ’.
The talks were held between scattered agitations from farmers and people affected by SEZs.
According to the Centre’s policy, economic zones are meant to be set up for ‘public purpose’.
These are specially delineated duty-free enclaves, with incentives for developers. For this purpose, land is acquired from landowners who receive compensation while displaced people are rehabilitated.
Till date, the Ministry of Commerce has cleared proposals for 578 economic zones. Of these, 315 have been notified.
“Our agenda has a multi-pronged approach. It has come about after our experiences and study of movements across the country,” said founder-member of the anti-Raigad SEZ group Ulka Mahajan, also the convenor of the conference.
Terming the policy as “draconian”, social activist Medha Patkar said it would be quite a task to get it eliminated.
“They should clearly keep off agricultural land and ensure minimum displacement,” said Patkar, who is also the national convenor of the National Alliance of People’s Movement.
Mahajan said taxpayers from urban areas need to be told that they will have to bear the brunt of tax concession of Rs 1.75 lakh crore being given to the SEZs.
A national commission for SEZ is on the cards to keep checks on the status of projects and decide further course of action. The agenda’s highlight is a national audit of economic zone projects facing agitation to be held in Delhi in January.