Send memorandum to repeal SEZ act : Plese Act Now!

Dear All,

We all know that the present move of the commerce ministry is a creation of 'Special Economic Zones' (SEZ). These are special tariff free zones for export and service industires to be setup under SEZ Act 2005. These are the Deemed Foreign Territories which will have their own systems of governance and rules. Till now within a period of few months the SEZ Board of Approvals (setup by the Commerce & Industry Ministry) has cleared 267 SEZ projects all over the country. Thes eprojects are ranging from petro-chemical plants to power plants to manufacturing and processing units to golf course and hotel industires etc.

For SEZs the labour laws have been liberlised alongwith less or no strict environmental and coastal reglations. The impact of these export oriented industries on environment and local people would be enormous. No consultation had been held by the ministry with the people before finalising this act, it has been passed in the upper house 'Rajya Sabha' within a day.

In Mahrashtra alone more then 50 SEZs projects have been finalised and of which 11 are in Pune District with 2 mega SEZs in Mumbai and Raigarh District (Reliance) . The land acquisition in these areas is proposed in between 4000 hecatres to 14,0000 hectares (MISEZ). Of which almost 60-75% is rich agricultural land. People in Mahrashtra have started opposing these projects and demanding attention of the governments towards their plight and to protect their rights against private industries.

In past three months there have been several meetings at local levels and people have contineously submitted their memorandums and Gram sabha's resoulutions, but the state governments are going ahead with land acquisition. In Pen of Raigarh District (Maharashtra) and in Dadri of Haryana the farmers protests have been suppressed by the state authorities callously and cases have been filed against local people. Moreover, commerce ministry is moving forward in clearing projects at a pace which is being questioned by Finance ministry itself.

On 26th August, many local farmers groups of Mahrashtra alongwith NAPM and other NGOs have formed a forum 'SEZ Virodhi Sangharsh Samit' to save the rights of farmers against proposed SEZs.

Please extend your support to the protesting farmers and local people. Find the Appeal attached demanding to repeal SEZ Act 2005.

You can modify appeal and send on your organisation or network name as soon as possible before ministry reaches its target of clearing 380 SEZs to say creating 380 foreign territories where we will not have any right to demand our rights.

Thanks,

Rifat
--
rifat mumtaz
ncas (national centre for advocacy studies),
serenity complex,
ramnagar colony,
pashan, pune-21
ph.020-22952003/4
m-9822541272
rifat_at@yahoo.co.in
rifat.mumtaz@gmail.com

People’s Memorandum on Special Economic Zones in India

To, Date:

Mr. Kamal Nath

Minister of Commerce and Industry,

Udyog Bhawan,

Govt. of India,

New Delhi,

Subject- Demand to re-consider and repeal the Act the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act 2005

Sir,

In 2005, under the aegis of your ministry The Special Economic Zones Act 2005, was enacted which involves the creation of foreign enclaves reserved especially for all types of export processing units and industries. This letter is to draw your attention to the fact that the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and the land acquisition processes for SEZs have been causing widespread discontent among the farmers and common people all over India.

Since 2005, 267 SEZs have been approved by your ministry. Out of this 41 SEZs have been approved in Maharashtra alone. Past few months have seen great resistance to the land acquisition processes for SEZs in Dadri in Haryana, Pen, Uran, Rajgurunagar and Karla in Maharashtra. The State repression of resistance and people's demands with the help of police and the corporate powers has increased the frustration, anger, and increased their suspicion about the state machinery as the agent of the corporates. This has shaken the faith of people in the democratic state. The people consider the whole process of SEZs as an affront to the Constitution of this country.

We, the members of ‘SEZ Virodhi Sangarhs Samiti’- Maharashtra, record our opposition to the Special Economic Zone legislation and the developments thereafter on the following grounds-

1. LARGE SCALE ACQUISITION OF LAND

As per the reports available, in India total 1,34,000 hectares of land is getting acquired for 67 Multi product SEZs (The financial Express, August 30, 2006),

The state Government has been acquiring and converting large tracts of prime agriculture land, coastal lands, salt pans and even forest lands into SEZs, while all the land reform measures and important decisions regarding restoring land rights and titles to Adivasis, tenants, landless people are still pending for decades together.

In Maharashtra almost 75% of the land proposed to be acquired for the SEZ projects is agricultural land. Inspite of this there has been no project information sharing with the local farmers. The land acquisition is proposed by the State Industrial Development Corporations immediately after the approval of the project without sharing any project information with the local people.

It is atrocious and unjust that the SEZ promoters are 'required' to be given more than 1000 hectares of land. This is outright violation of laws and Constitution of the country. It violates the number of Land reform Acts and the Parliament of India's decision and Supreme Court judgments confirming the Act.

Since environmental public hearings may not mandatory for these projects and ‘Single Window’ clearance procedure would be applicable to industries under SEZ the affected people would not have any space to voice their opinion about the land acquisition process and the projects’ impact.

2. LOSS OF LOCAL LIVELIHOODS – INADEQUATE EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

There has been no Cost-Benefit analysis conducted for SEZ projects or assessment of economic losses as a result of diversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes and resultant impacts on local livelihoods.

SEZs will not create employment for local population but will lead to distress migration of locals since the jobs created will need education and skill levels unreachable for most of the people. Therefore the communities such as those of the fisher folks, farmers, landless labourers, women, Dalits and other marginalized will remain untouched by all new employment opportunities arising out of the SEZs.

3. INCREASING BURDEN ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT

The democratic spaces available to the people to voice their dissent or consent to the projects may not even be applicable to these industries under the available Environmental Clearance Regulations because of the “Single Window Clearance’ provisions of the SEZ Act (Section 13),

The large scale industrial growth would lead to excessive use of water, increased deforestation and environmental pollution in ecologically sensitive and fragile areas like coastal belts.

The proposed CRZ (full form) amendments would completely deregulate SEZ growth in coastal areas – affecting fisher communities.

There are no provisions for monitoring of the cumulative environmental impacts of all the units coming under one SEZ.

4. CREATING REAL ESTATE ZONES

The SEZs are but creation of –‘Real Estate Zones’ to compliment the rich and elite in country,

As per the SEZ Act, only 35% land would be for industrial set up while the remaining would be for other non-industrial purposes. Rest of the land could be left to develop recreation centers and housing etc.

5. REVENUE LOSS DUE TO SUBSIDISING SEZs

The Finance Minister himself has consistently raised the issue of loss of taxes stating that we will loose almost 1,00,000 Crore due to tax sops offered to SEZs. (TOI, 25th August 2006),

Under the SEZ Act (Section 26 to 30) and SEZ rules, excessive Tax and Tariff concessions are being given to companies for a consecutive period of 15 years. This would increase the burden of taxation on the common people. Once given the status of SEZs private industries will simply reap the benefits of all leverages provided by the government, the most critical being land acquisition in the name of ‘public purpose’.

The definition of the ‘economic activity’ in the SEZ Act is very opaque and gives free hand to any activity – service, packaging, entertainment, hotels, golf course etc. All these activities would get all the concessions and subsidies from the people. The disproportionate growth as a result of SEZs will adversely hit the farming sector, small scale industries, manufacturers and entrepreneurs in the long run.

6. OVER RULING OF LOCAL SELF GOVERNMENTS

The status of deemed foreign territory to SEZs will encroach upon the rights of the local self governments like Gram Panchayats’ and will be violation of the 73 rd Constitutional Amendment

The SEZ Act (Section 9, 11, 12 and 31) is taking away this power back to the center and bureaucracy (by creating ‘Board of Approvals’ and ‘Development Commissioner’ and ‘SEZ Authority’, the most powerful in SEZs), the accountability of whose is not certain.

The status of “deemed foreign territory” to SEZs will snatch the sovereignty of locals from their lands, and natural resources which is the backbone of local economy and sustenance and also their fundamental right to movement as Indian citizens is being violated. The fact that the SEZs would have their own regulations, the rights for environmental and labour related clearances, security arrangements, which actually means that they would be ‘self contained privatized autonomous entities’. This is against the Indian Constitution and nationhood.

7. ADVERSE IMPACT ON LABOUR CONDITIONS

In India 93.2% of total work force still comes under the unorganized sector,

Liberalizing of labour laws under SEZ Act (Section Sec.49) would adversely impact the social security and livelihoods of this large labour force. This would only worsen the condition of labour in our country further.

8. NO PUBLIC CONSULTATION

The SEZ Act was passed in haste without much public debate. There was no public consultation; participation and debate on the SEZ Act facilitated by the Ministry. Even in Rajya Sabha the Upper House of Indian Democracy has passed this bill with a one day discussion undermining many of the objections. (Debate of Rajya Sabha, May 11, 2005)

The entire process of SEZ was undemocratic, secretive and without any study of the natural resources, the rights of the people or consultation with the people. The proponents of SEZs are working against the letter and spirit of Indian Constitution, which promises right to life and livelihoods to citizens through the Constitution Article 21.

In any democracy, the State is expected to be the protector of the common and marginalized people and their rights. However, with the measures like the SEZ, the State itself is violating the right to life and livelihood of people for the sake of promoting the interests of rich private parties.

The present SEZ Act 2005, SEZ Rules 2006, and subsequent State policies grossly negate the ideals of a socialist, democratic republic proclaimed in the Indian Constitution. We demand that issues raised by the people must be kept in mind by you while taking any further step regarding the SEZs. Let not the Commerce and Industry ministry be turned to serve the cause of the rich, but encourage the productive potential of the common people and provide them opportunities.

Unless there is a significant change in the objectives, provisions of the Act and Regulations we fear the entire SEZ process would lead to the widespread discontent and explosive situation in the Indian countryside, which would make impossible for the corporates to grind their axe- even with the government complicity. You along with the corporates will be judged guilty of crime against the people and Constitution.

In the light of all this we strongly demand to immediate repeal of the Special Economic Zone Act 2005.

Thanking you,

Yours’ Sincerely,

SEZ Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti-Mahahrashtra

(Coalition of People’s Movements and NGOs in Maharashtra)

Address list of the Ministers to send the appeals-

Ministry of Commerce and Industry

Shri Kamal Nath,

Minister Commerce and Industry,

45, Udyog Bhawan,

New Delhi-110011

Ph. 011- 23061008/ 23061492

Fax: 011-23062947

Email: cim@nic.in

nath@sansad.nic.in

Shair Jairam Ramesh,

Minister of State (Commerce),

146, Udyog Bhawan,

New Delhi-110011,

Ph. 011-23061194/24638111/ 23062166,

Fax: 011-23062807

Ministry of Environment and Forest

Shri Raja A.,

Minister Environment and Forest,

423, 4th Floor, Paryavaran Bhawan,

CGO Complex,

New Delhi-110003

Ph. 011-24368633/24361727

Fax: 011-24362222

Shri Namo Narain Meena,

Minister of State,

101, Paryavaran Bhawan,

CGO Complex,

New Delhi-110003

Ph. 011-24364791/24362131

Fax: 011-24362016

Email: mosef@menf.delhi.nic.in

Ministry of Labour and Employment

Shri Chandra Shekhar Rao K.,

Minister Labour and Employment,

120, A-Wing, Shram Shakti Bhawan,

New Delhi-110001

Ph. 011-23710240/23717515

Fax: 011-23711708

Shari Chandra Shekhar Sahu,

Minister of State,

104, Shram Shakti Bhawan,

New Delhi-110001

Ph. 011-23325635/23731585

Fax: 011-23731585

Ministry of Panchayati Raj

Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar,

Minister Panchayati Raj,

401, A-Wing, Shastri Bhawan,

New Delhi-110001

Ph. 011-

President of India

Dr. Abdul Kalam A.P.J.

President of India

Rashtrapati Bhawan,

New Delhi – 110011

Ph. 23015321

Fax 23017290, 23017824

Prime Minister of India

Dr. Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister of India

152, South Block,

New Delhi – 110011

Ph. 23012312, 23016857

Fax 23019545

E-mail pmosb@pmo.nic.in

Union council of Minister

Dr. Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister of India

152, South Block

New Delhi – 110011

Ph. 23012312, 23016857

Fax 23019545

E-mail pmosb@pmo.nic.in

Rural Development

Dr. Raghubansh Prasad Singh

Minister of Rural Development

48, Krishi Bhawan,

New Delhi – 110001

Ph. 23013581, 23032922

Fax 23385876

e-mail singhrp@sansad.nic.in

Smt. Suryakanta Patil

Minister of State

197, Krishi Bhawan ,

New Delhi – 110001

Ph. 23782211, 23782063

Fax 23782328

Urban Employment & Poverty Alleviation

Kumari Selja

Minister of State

101, C-Wing, Nirman Bhawan,

New Delhi - 110011

Ph. 23061242, 23063989

Fax 23061780

Water Resource

Sri Saif-U-Din-Soz

Minister of Water Resource

210, Shram Shakti Bhawan,

new Delhi – 110001

Ph. 23714200, 23714663

Fax 23710804