Saturday, January 20, 2007

SEZ benefits too many to lose 'site' of

SEZ benefits too many to lose 'site' of


NEW DELHI: Controversies have surrounded the special economic zones
(SEZs) policy right from the time the rules guiding the policy were
notified in February last year.

Whispers about alleged land-grabbing, which started early last year,
have gradually taken the shape of violent protests in some parts of the
country. While there is no question about the urgent need to address the
concerns of the farming community, the government has to ensure that the
baby doesn’t get thrown out with the bathwater.

The fact that the SEZs have managed to attract high investments in a
short period of eleven months and also generated a modest number of jobs
is a reminder of why the government went in for a SEZ policy and why it
should be preserved. When a policy of such an enormous magnitude is
implemented, it is not surprising that it gives rise to problems and

In a way, it is important for protests to be registered as it can act as
a check against the policy going wrong or its implementation going
haywire. A good example could be the notifications issued by the Centre
in August last year to prevent operating units from relocating in SEZs.

The protests against land-grabbing has also made the government sit up
and take notice. It has, in fact, forced Congress President Sonia Gandhi
to intervene and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order a relook at the
policy. But that certainly does not spell the death-knell of the policy

The empowered group of ministers, which is meeting on January 22, is
expected to minutely inspect every aspect of the existing policy and
come up with ways to tighten it to check misuse. The objective is to
plug every loophole which could lead to undue harassment of farmers and

The government should, however, refrain from putting caps on SEZs at
this stage. To be fair to the policy, it has managed to attract large
investments, which otherwise would not have come in such a short time.
An investment of a whopping Rs 11,900 crore has been made since February
last year creating 15, 812 jobs.


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