DECISION TO FURTHER SEZ IS STILL LAND GRAB WITH MINIMUM BACKTRACKS AND FALSE PROMISES
UPA'S BETRAYAL OF FARMERS-LABOURERS-FISH WORKERS WILL PROVE COSTLY
The Central Government's EGoM on SEZ has approves 83 new proposals hurriedly ignoring the nation wide SEZ related conflict and struggle of farmers, labourers, fish workers.
While the demands raised from Nandigram (West Bengal) to Raigarh (Maharashtra) of repealing SEZ Act and furthering employment generation without displacement and at the cost of agriculture still persists. This approval is given at a time when election are happening in Delhi and UP, the internal disputes amongst UPA members including Left Front partners, the stand taken by Sonia Gandhi, questions raise by the Finance Minister under the pressure of the corporates and financial institutions who have the support of the Commerce Minister and the Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission (both of whom were members of the EGoM).
Under the banner of Action 2007 delegates of people's movements and organisations from across the country had met Shri. Pranab Mukherjee and Shri. Jairam Ramesh while sitting on a Dharna at Jantar Mantar from 19th March to 3rd April, raising the issues of the country's sovereignty, the attack of global capital and market forces and in support of socialist development.
We have been demanding that the UPA, following its common minimum problem, should review the SEZ Act and hold a national consultation. Without holding dialogue with the farmer-labour organisations and social groups, this decision of the Government is undemocratic and uncalled for.
While approving 83 SEZ projects beyond the already notified 63 projects, the EGoM has declared few changed and conditions. A cap of 5000 hectares, reserving 50% of the land for the approved project only, land to be purchased directly from farmers by private developers and provision of job security to at least one person of the displaced families.
It is clear that the massacre of Nandigram and the ongoing struggles, whether in Andhra Pradesh or in Punjab, have led to bowing of the corporates and the State. Still, instead of ensuring security and justice to farmers-labourers, the State is ensuring the profiteering of corporates-builders. This is going to facilitate and push the lot of natural resources in the name of industrialization and approved construction of hotels, parks, swimming pools, parking lots, clubs, shopping malls, entertainment zones for the corporate houses and their employees. Agriculture and the agriculturists will be ruined due to corporatisation, privatization and industrialization.
The stand of Ministry of Commerce and respective State Governments regarding no disputes and conflicts to land acquisition process in the already notified and approved SEZs is blatant lie. The Kakinada SEZ of Andhra Pradesh, the freeze on which has been lifted yesterday, is testimony to this fact and is being concealed. ONGC, which is the developer in this case, has acquired only 3000 acres out of the total 10,000 acres which is to displace 1 lakh people. The struggle of 50,000 affected fisher folk in 3 big blocks against the proposed SEZ are continuing. Out of the 3 SEZs of Vishakhapattanam district, the Brandix Apparel city is being opposed by hundreds of fisher folk. Even the Mundra SEZ of Kutch, Gujarat is being opposed by local fisher folk. The farmers of Mann village of Pune district have saved their 2000 acres of land, facing lathis and bullets, which was otherwise to be handed over to Infosys Company and thousands of acres of fertile land is proposed to be handed over to Wipro, Infosys, Mahindra etc and acquired by MIDC.
The SEZ Act has no mention of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement and how the new promise of employing at least one person per displaced family will be implemented. We have witnessed the tactics of Reliance and the approach of the West Bengal government. The debt ridden farmers, a result of misplaced economic policies, will now be forced out of their rural habitats and farm lands and their resources will be grabbed by the corporate mafia.
The proposed Rehabilitation policy is being pushed while ignoring and bypassing the Policy on Development Planning approved by the National Advisory Council which was presented by the representatives of almost all the people's organisations and movements collectively. The proposed Rehabilitation Policy merely talks of "providing employment, subject to availability of vacancies and eligibility of the affected persons for the employment…" Thus the Commerce Minister has only taken the country for a ride and ignored the legitimate demands of the National Consultation on SEZ.
The SEZ Act and its implementation are going to further widen the disparity between agriculture and industry. The loss of 2 to 4 lakh crores due to the approved and notified SEZ is only acknowledged, ignoring the other incumbent losses. The Government Notification dated 27th October 2006 mentions concessions on tax duties for constructing car parking, swimming pools, hotels, clubs etc.
While the farmers/ unorganized sector workers are not given decent wages, social security benefits and subsidy, quoting the rules of WTO or availability of funds, the corporates are being given such wide ranging concessions. The authorities need to answer the deprived and marginalized people of this country.
Under Section 50(8) of the SEZ Act, the State Governments are abdicating their duty towards the labourers. More than 10 states (Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh etc) have amended their State laws and legislation from Minimum Wages Act to Industrial Disputes Act, to declare all activities undertaken by SEZs as public utility services.
While the local self government institutions will be left redundant, the SEZ-deemed foreign territory- is also against Article 243 of the constitution. As per this Article, every village has to formulate its own development schemes which are to guide the District development plan. These local bodies of self government are more constitutional than bodies like the Planning Commission which is guiding and deciding our national policies and plans.
Ironically the Deputy Chairperson of the PLANNING Commission, in the name of rural and urban units under US-India Economic partnership and US-India CEO Forum, is pushing ahead SEZs and our dear Minister Kamal Nath is associated with the corporates who are a threat to the people and resources of the country.
Medha Patkar Sunilam Shaktiman Ghosh Gautam Bandhopadhyay
For Co-ordination Committee ACTION 2007
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