Opposition against special economic zones (SEZ) is becoming a nationwide movement with anti-SEZ activists, academia and action groups from across the country drafting a national citizens report on SEZs.
The report documents the current status and issues of 44 SEZ-affected areas, which were visited by the action groups.
The government’s SEZ policy proposes specially delineated duty-free enclaves for trade and operations, with developers getting fiscal and regulatory incentives. These zones are self-contained and have their own integrated infrastructure and support services. As per the government’s regulations, land for the projects should be acquired by providing compensation to the displaced. Employment and developments is also promised to locals. However, based on factual study and surveys of 44 SEZs, the citizens’ charter lists problems associated with land acquisitions for developing SEZs, inadequate compensations or jobs for displaced farmers and proposes a need for a public audit for these projects.
“This is the next step of our movement. We will submit this report to the government in January, when we also do a national people’s audit,” said Ulka Mahajan from the SEZ Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti, a group fighting against the economic zones in Raigad.
The citizens charter demands a freeze on further approvals, an independent committee to review SEZs proposals and a public audit before these proposals are sanctioned. The charter also demands that those SEZ projects, which are tangled in controversies, should be cancelled or de-notified. The charter demands that the government’s legislation on SEZs should be repealed.
Official figures state that the government has put its stamp on 578 SEZ projects, of which 315 have been notified.
In November, 150 delegates from 11 states came together for a national SEZ meet at Gorai. Medha Patkar, a social worker and convener of the National Alliance of People’s Movement led the meet.