TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2007 03:59:54 AM]
MUMBAI: The Manmohan Singh government should scrap its SEZ policy as many lacunas in it have been exposed, the threat to food security being just one, says BJP MP Kashiram Rana, also the convenor of the parliamentary committee on SEZs.
In an exclusive interview to ET, a day after 15 lives were lost in Nandigram, West Bengal, in a protest against a chemical hub in the region, the BJP leader from Gujarat lashed out at the Centre’s obsession for SEZs. His views assume significance because as head of the Parliamentary panel he had recently toured Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Orissa and Karnataka, where many SEZs are coming up.
In Mumbai last month, Mr Rana minced no words criticising the Vilasrao Deshmukh government for being “hand-in-glove with SEZ developers”. The committee will submit its report to Parliament in the current session.
“Time has come for the government, and particularly the Group of Ministers led by defence minister Pranab Mukherjee to revisit the whole issue. Considering the developments across the country, the existing policy needs to be scrapped,” he said. When pointed out that the SEZ idea had been his party’s (the BJP) creation, Mr Rana said it was more balanced than the current policy.
“We had a clear idea of core and non-core business activities that would be allowed in SEZ territories. And most importantly we never wanted agriculture land to be used for these zones,” he said.
According to Mr Rana, the most important changes the current policy needs pertains to use of agriculture land for SEZs. “The policy allows single crop land for SEZs.
But even in single crop land, farmers carry out lot of allied activities such as growing seasonal fruits or horticulture. How can one measure the farmers’ losses?” he asked and went on to suggest that there should be a blanket ban on using such land for SEZs.
However, he is not against SEZs. “I’m not against these zones. But my point is that there is enough barren, unused or waste land available in the country. Why not make such land open for SEZs,” he said. Mr Rana is also concerned about India’s food security.
“Our agricultural production has been falling drastically. It’s a matter of serious concern. Preventing use of agriculture land for industrialisation could be one way of arresting this decline,” Mr Rana feels.