The government should “revisit” its Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act “comprehensively” and put a ban on transfer of common property and agricultural land for its implementation, a high-level panel has recommended in its report.
The Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task in Land Reforms has noted that concerns of tribals and farmers remained “totally unattended” under the Act as there was no cost-benefit analysis for such projects and also due to the absence of an upper limit fixed for land acquisition.
The report of the committee, which was set up by the Rural Development Ministry in 2007, was submitted through the ministry to the National Land Reforms Council, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, sources in the ministry said.
Committee noted the status of “deemed foreign territory” to SEZs stands to undermine the institutions set up under the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, as also the rights of individual citizens.
SEZ have been given the status of industrial townships and the state governments would declare the SEZs as industrial township areas to function as self-governing, autonomous municipal bodies under the Act, the committee noted.
|THE COMMITTEE SAYS
|* The government should ban transfer of common property and agricultural land
|* Concerns of tribals and farmers remain unattended under the SEZ Act
|* Concerns of tribals and farmers are unattended as there is no cost-benefit analysis and due to the absence of a cap on land acquisition
|* The status of ‘deemed foreign territory’ to SEZs stands to undermine the institutions set up under Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996
|* Concentration of powers in the hands of development commissioners at the state level and board of approvals in the Centre is greatly going to challenge the local governance under the Act
“Once a SEZ is declared as an industrial township area, it will cease to be under the jurisdiction of any other local body, like municipal corporation and gram panchayat. Moreover, the SEZ developer and units would also be exempted from taxes levied by the local bodies because of its self-contained local body,” it added.
The committee also noted that concentration of powers in the hands of development commissioners at the state level and board of approvals in the Centre “is greatly going to challenge the local governance” under the Act.
The Act says that grievances related to the SEZs can only be filed with courts designated by the respective state governments, which will only be for trials related to civil and other matters of SEZ. So other court can try a case unless it goes through the designated court first.
“Building of a physical boundary around the SEZ and restricting entry to authorised persons only mean it would be difficult for any individual or civil society groups and independent agencies to enter the area without prior approval of the development commissioner,” the committee said.
Raising environmental and ecological concerns, the committee has observed that there was no mention of the role of the pollution control board and coastal regulation-related provisions under the SEZ Act and rules.