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India: Citizens Report Card on SEZs

by People’s Audit of SEZs, 18 November 2009

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We as citizens, members of the academia, people’s movements, action groups and representatives of various community based organisations have for the last four years been consistently raising several concerns in the matter of the SEZ legislation passed by the UPA government in 2005 followed by the widespread establishment of SEZs across the country. The provisions of the legislation itself, which promotes the creation of new political and economic territories in the country, made it clear that this is a recipe for disaster and instability. But the actual implementation and creation of these zones have also demonstrated that the stated goals of industrialisation, technological development or even export growth are a mere eye wash. After four years of the SEZ Act - it is out in the open - that these zones are promoting expropriation of public and community resources for profit interests of domestic corporations and the financial market.

The UPA government has been amply aware but has chosen to ignore, resistance against forced land acquisition for creation of Special Economic Zones in various parts of the country - West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana. Despite repeated demands made by farmers and affected communities to stop this forced acquisition and grabbing of resources for these zones, governments across the country instead of having a dialogue have used force of the state machinery, coercion and fraudulent means to subvert and suppress people’s protests be it in Nandigram (Salim SEZ), Kakinada (KSEZ and GMR SEZ), Kalinganagar (Jindal SEZ) or Jagatsinghpur (Posco).

As citizens’ organisations and people’s movements, we are deeply concerned about the SEZ Act and its implications for the Indian polity, society and economy for the following reasons:

  1. The Un-constitutional nature of the SEZ Act which has overriding effect over other legislations
  2. Breakdown of democratic governance systems especially of the Local (both Urban and Rural) Self Governments with the creation of independent private capital enclaves outside the purview of the Indian State
  3. Large scale forced acquisition of land and promotion of speculative real estate businesses; resulting in loss of agriculture, fisheries based and other traditional livelihoods
  4. Creation of exploitative work environments
  5. Increasing burden on natural resources like land, water, forests and uncontrolled environmental destruction
  6. Revenue losses and creation of serious economic imbalances
  7. Breaking down multi stakeholder pattern by supporting hegemonic monopolistic business model and centralisation of capital and resources
  8. No effort by the government to initiate or open public consultation on the matter

The above mentioned issues were raised at meetings with the Union Minister of Commerce, the Special Secretary MoC, Minister of State (MoC) in September 2006, Chairperson of the Empowered group of Ministers in April 2007 and with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce in May 2007 by delegations of civil society members, activists and representatives of affected communities. Each time assurances of consultations were given but no such initiatives were taken and the demands put forth have been completely overlooked till date. In the time that has lapsed more that 550 projects have received approvals and land grab continues.

We believe that the current SEZ Act and Policy provides legislative and judicial support to privatization of the country’s resources and has the potential to destabilize the democratic governance system. In addition to this, it threatens and over rides the existing rights of workers, farmers and other communities to be affected by SEZs. We are also concerned about the huge costs to the state exchequer as well as the economy of this country as a result of concessions provided to Private Corporations under the SEZ legislation and policy.

Therefore, we once again firmly demand that to ensure industrial and economic development which is sustainable, equitable and democratic the SEZ Act be thoroughly reviewed. We demand:

  • A moratorium on further approvals of SEZ
  • An independent review of existing SEZs vis a vis recommendations by the Parliamentary Standing Committee in its 83rd Report and issues raised by the CAG report.
  • In areas where there have been protests against approved and notified SEZs the projects must be cancelled or de-notified and land acquisitions already made be annulled.
  • The ultimate move should be to repeal this legislation because of its un-constitutional nature
Full Text of Citizens Report Card on SEZs
November 2009