Monday, February 05, 2007

Time to process SEZ plans may come down



NEW DELHI: SEZs, the latest source of policy wrangling, have some good
news. The ministry of home affairs (MHA), which is often blamed for
inordinate delay in providing security clearance, has offered to limit
the processing time for SEZ proposals referred to it to one month.

Security clearances are mandatory for SEZs coming up in locationally and
sectorally-sensitive areas. The MHA is firm that the processing time for
applications referred to it for security clearance cannot be less than a
month as “this is the minimum time needed by intelligence agencies to
check the antecedents of the SEZ developers” and their implications on
national security.

“It is only after the reports from our intelligence agencies are in that
we can take a view on whether or not to give the security go-ahead to
the SEZ proposal... a month, in the home ministry’s opinion, is a
reasonable time for the entire drill,” said a senior MHA official. The
MHA, however, has refused to tone down its stance that all SEZs coming
under the purview of the term “locationally- and sectorally-sensitive”
must have mandatory security clearance from the Union home ministry
before being put up before the Board of Approval for SEZ headed by the
commerce secretary.

Only last year, the government had discussed the implications of FDI on
national security and the need to regulate foreign investment coming in
from “sensitive” countries like Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and UAE or
headed for “strategic” sectors like telecom, IT, shipping, aviation,
petroleum and energy or ports.

Also, the need for mandatory security clearance for foreign investors
wanting to locate their operations in states sensitive regions like J&K,
north-east and Left-wing extremism-hit states, besides border and
coastal states, was stressed by the security establishment. The same
criteria is to be followed in case of SEZ proposals. Though the
government is not keen to make the restrictions on FDI as
“country-specific”, it is clear about routing all proposals posing
locational and sectoral threats through the MHA.At the same time, the
MHA is amenable to suggestions for cutting down delays in processing SEZ
applications for a security nod.


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