Package to pluck SEZ land thorns

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070308/asp/frontpag…

New Delhi, March 7: A proposal has been mooted to confine special
economic zones (SEZs) to wasteland.
However, in states where acquisition of farmland is unavoidable, SEZs
should be allowed on the condition that wasteland would be upgraded
into cultivable land to ensure “food security”.
The proposals are part of a blueprint drawn up by the rural
development ministry, which has been asked by the Prime Minister to
work on a rehabilitation package for land acquisition for SEZs.
In a written submission to Murli Manohar Joshi, the chairman of the
parliamentary standing committee on industry, the ministry said: “SEZs
should be established preferably on wasteland… where use of
agricultural land cannot be avoided, single-crop land in rainfed areas
may be considered. In completely unavoidable circumstances, multi-crop
land may be used for strategic requirements.”
But it has added a rider that if farmland is taken over, there “should
be compensatory development of wasteland for the sake of food
security”. This, sources said, will form part of the rehabilitation
package that the ministry will submit to the cabinet soon.
The ministry’s submission, sources said, is believed to form “the core
principles on which it has drawn up its report”.
If the cabinet accepts the suggestions, investors who have proposed
SEZs in Bengal will be among the beneficiaries. According to state
government data, only 0.5 per cent of land in Bengal is fallow – which
makes the use of farmland, including multi-crop land, for SEZs
unavoidable.
The fate of at least eight proposals for SEZs, including two from the
Salim Group, is hanging in the balance now as the Centre has slammed
the brakes, pending the rural development ministry’s rehabilitation
report.
In the note to the standing committee, which is preparing an
independent report on SEZs for Parliament, the ministry stressed that
there should be a state-wise balance in distributing SEZs to avoid
regional disparities.
The suggestion is seen as an indictment of the manner in which SEZ
proposals have been approved till now. States like Gujarat and Andhra
Pradesh have 19 and 45 formal approvals, respectively, covering some
10,682 hectares and 9,460 hectares. But the Northeast does not have a
single clearance.
The ministry has suggested the creation of “a list of activities that
may not be allowed on SEZs, e.g., setting up of golf courses or other
such facilities with large land requirements”.
An official said the government felt that allied activities could
include communication facilities, airports and employees’ quarters
“but not malls and housing estates for non-workers and stadia.

The Special Economic Zones Debacle of left front in West Bengal

http://protestagainstneo-liberalpolicies.blogspot….

The “Special Economic Zone” Debacle of the Left Front in West Bengal
Harry Magdoff, refuting the myth of bourgeois social science that capital and technology are the magic which will bring the entire world into the Garden of Eden, wrote:
Since the obstacles to successful capitalist development (in third world countries) are today so gigantic, the pursuit of industrialization inevitably involves the accumulation of capital at the expense of keeping the masses down. Agriculture remains backward, investment is insufficient to cure unemployment in urban and rural areas, and wages are kept at pitifully low levels to provide adequate incentives for entrepreneurs. Production decisions are, and must be, made to satisfy the desires of the middle-and upper-income sectors of the population, those that have the money to buy. The technology introduced is the kind most favored by, and closely tied in with, foreign capital, since this is the technology best suited for profit-making and for squeezing into some of the interstices of foreign trade. Brazil is an outstanding example of what I am referring to. Brazil has been successful in taking a significant step forward in industrialization — one in which native capitalists have actively participated, along with foreign investors from a number of advanced capitalist states. With what consequences? The real wages of the working class have declined and the backward agricultural regions have remained stagnant and poverty-stricken.”
Today, thirty years later, every word rings true for India.
The global counter-revolution of these last thirty years has only added a more vicious aspect. It is only in these last few decades that global trade and capital flows — as a share of world production and savings, respectively — have again risen to the scale of the prior imperialist golden age that preceded the First World War. But this increased transnational dominance of the capitalist market (“globalization”) does not mean that national states — even those not of the imperial center — are becoming obsolete. Rather, ruthless state actions associated with neo-liberalism, policies designed to enhance “competitiveness” and “flexibility,” not just for individual firms but for whole national economies, are required.
In India, the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) policy of the government, formulated in 2000, and brought fully into force in the SEZ act in February 2006, is a clear example of the brutal mobilization of the state for neo-liberal ends. Supposedly based on a Chinese model, in fact the SEZ act goes far further — a complete capitulation to imperial capital. It is sufficient to point out that the supposed Chinese “model” does not permit the sale of land to the corporate SEZ promoters and developers. Until September 2006, the Board of Approvals committee of the Ministry of Commerce had approved 267 SEZ projects all over India. Land area for each of these projects “deemed foreign territories” ranges from 1,000 to 14,000 hectares. Developers of large, multi-product zones with a minimum area of 1,000 hectares are required to utilize only 25 per cent of the SEZ for industrial purpose. The rest can be utilized for residential and shopping purposes, hotels, malls, and the other trappings of “development.” Moreover, the developers have a completely free hand to allocate space and other facilities within the zone on a commercial basis, in short for real estate business.
It is estimated by some experts that in the first phase only, 375,000 acres of land will be required. The well known historian Sumit Sarkar, an author of Khaki Shorts and Saffron Flag — A critique of Hindu Right (Delhi: Orient Longman, 1993), commented that “this is liable to create one of the greatest land grabs in modern Indian history.” India has never before witnessed the coerced transfer of hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land to private industry — and private real estate speculators.
Within the SEZ the trappings of Indian bourgeois democracy fade. The central government’s “Development Commissioner” is delegated the powers of the labor commissioner. All suits of civil cases and even specified criminal offenses that arise in the SEZ shall be tried in special courts. These corporate Guantanamos also offer formidable fiscal “incentives”: exemption from custom duties, central excise duties, service tax, central sales taxes, and securities transaction tax to both the developers and the units; and tax holidays for fifteen years, including one hundred per cent income tax exemption for ten years of the fifteen for SEZ developers.
And at the root of this gigantic theft is the seizure of the land for these global capitalist profit zones from the cultivators through state coercion via the British colonial Land Acquisition Act. Even “consensual” transfers are therefore coerced, since use of the Land Acquisition Act looms behind the shoulder of the governmental “negotiator.”
It should be no surprise then that there has been a great rush to create SEZs in the year since the act was passed.
Into the situation created by this initiative of Chidambaram & Co. the Left Front government of West Bengal has, spectacularly, blundered. Arrogant from a triumph in an election in which it had attempted to project the supposed success of its model of capitalist industrial development, it was blind to the rising anger of the cultivators targeted to be displaced for profit. What followed was the ruthless use of the coercive power of para-military forces, police, cadre, administrative and legal apparatus; all to drive thousands of peasants and share-croppers off a thousand hectares of agricultural land for the benefit of . . . the Tatas. The resulting debacle at Singur saw the worst enemies of the Left Front, the Hindutva fascists and their ally Mamata, posturing in the world media as the friends and leaders of the oppressed. Fortunately, the extra-parliamentary left (and the SUCI) did not permit the fascists to seize this position by default, but damage has been done.
What then is now at stake for the left parliamentary parties of the West Bengal Left Front? Throughout India, Singur-like scenes are brewing. In Maharashtra alone, 70 SEZs will be set up, and 31 of these SEZs will be in the Konkan region alone. Almost everywhere, landholding peasants, along with ryots [subsistence farmers], pattadars [leaseholders], sharecroppers, agricultural workers, and other affected people are preparing for battle to resist land grabbing. Protests are going on in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh, in the face of atrocities by the state. In Haryana and Punjab, the farmers are out on the field against the acquisition of multi-cropped fertile land tilled for years. Protests are now spreading to Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Assam. Orissa, which witnessed continuous and brave resistance of the people against indiscriminate land-grabbing by the state government on behalf of foreign and domestic mining corporations for the last few years, is now boiling with new vigor against the projects of POSCO, VEDANTA, Tata Steel, and proposed SEZs. Shall the Left Front parties now stand everywhere before the people of India as the open advocates of the coerced displacement of the agricultural poor in the interests of capitalist profit?
As of now, the Left Front government had “succeeded” in driving the Singur residents off the land and establishing a fenced perimeter defended by armed police. Aft
er Singur, a notice of land acquisition for an SEZ project by Salim group of Indonesia (a Suharto-connected crew), to be spread over 10,000 acres, set off protests in Nandigram, East Modnapore. The death of six villagers was reported as clashes broke out. Further West Bengal land acquisition by government for SEZ private profit, in the first phase, has no fewer than 28 projects with total land to be acquired of approximately 105,000 acres, spread across the entire state. How many more such “successes” as Singur can the Left Front survive? To continue on this course is suicidal.
In Nandigram and other targeted communities, cultivators, sharecroppers and agriculture laborers have begun to organize themselves, excluding all cadre of the parliamentary parties. And, indeed, none of the parties has opposed the model of development that the ruling classes have adopted. A new force from below in embryonic form is in the making.

IT SEZs results 35 % rise in land rises

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Magazines/The_…

RAJA AWASTHI & ANURADHA HIMATSINGKA

TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ SUNDAY, MARCH 04, 2007 12:00:00 AM]

It’s a real(ty) tale with a virtual plot. Even as real estate prices across the country have seen a southward dip in the last four to six months, land prices in and around IT and ITeS special economic zones (SEZ) are bucking the trend. In fact, this segment is now calling the shots and the big rush for IT SEZ projects across the country has resulted in a 25-35% rise in land prices in the past one year.
For those still waiting to tune into the SEZ story, formal approvals were given for 148 IT SEZs and in-principle approvals to about 75 such zones. And among the 63 SEZs notified so far, as many as 36 are in IT and ITeS sector. In Andhra Pradesh, for example, out of 14 SEZs notified so far, nine are for IT and ITeS projects.
In Karnataka, eight out of 11 are in this sector whereas in Tamil Nadu, it’s seven out of nine. Among the notified SEZs, only two happen to be in Madhya Pradesh, but both are in the IT sector. It is estimated that more than 300 such SEZs are in the pipeline in different cities around the country.
Explaining the reasons behind Realtors looking at development of IT-SEZ projects, P S Group director Pradip Kumar Chopra says, “Since real estate developers have the expertise and competence to undertake such large format developments, it makes business sense for them to undertake these developments as well.”
Rohtas Goel, CMD, Omaxe Group, feels that the IT/ITeS companies do not have the knowledge base or the expertise to undertake such developments. “These include amenities such as clubs, multiplexes, schools, food court, shopping malls, restaurants, residential-cum-commercial complex as well as an intelligent building, which only big and organised players can provide,” he says.
One reason for the sudden rush of activity in IT SEZs is that regulations like Urban Land Ceiling Act as well as land conversion rules are not applicable to any IT SEZ development. Again, the large and growing pool of skilled professionals has been a key driver of the rapid growth in the IT-ITeS sector. According to Nasscom, India has the largest pool of suitable offshore talent, accounting for 28% of the total suitable pool across all offshore destinations. It is unlikely that India will face a shortage of suitable talent pool for IT-ITeS in the future.
Even if one takes the opportunity cost, national statistics available with developers indicate that agriculture on one acre of land supports four people for nine months. Instant back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate 2.5 FSI means construction of over one lakh sq ft of IT space spread over one acre of land and can house more than 1,000 IT workers. It is also said every IT worker creates four additional jobs down the line, including some for caterers, drivers and support service

Protest march against sucides by farmers, SEZs

Madhur Tankha

Activists demand creation of a Zero Hunger Act

NEW DELHI: Members of Youth for Justice, Kisan Log Abhiyan and MCKS Food
for Hungry Foundation jointly staged a march at Jantar Mantar here on
Sunday protesting against the continuing farmers’ suicides.

Wearing masks, the protesters holding banners like “The Constitution
Guarantees Me Right to Life Yet Death Haunts Me All The Time” shouted
slogans against the United Progressive Alliance Government’s policies
that were leading to lack of livelihood for farmers across the country.
They called for a Zero Hunger Act.

Claiming that the Haryana Government had sent notices to farmers of
Rewari to hand over their agricultural land for Special Economic Zones,
Kisan Lok Abhiyan State president Dinesh Joshi said: “We don’t mind
giving barren land, but parting with fertile agricultural land for big
multi-national companies is quite unreasonable.”

Stating that he had received a notice from the State Government to
vacate his agricultural land, Lal Singh Yadav of Haryana said he grows
“bajra” and mustard in his 10 acre agricultural land but will now be
left with no option but to hand over his ancestral land to the
administration. “At least farmers should have the right to decide
whether they want to sell their land nor not. And the price paid to us
by the administration is pittance.”

Sharing their concerns, a number of Delhi University students under the
Youth for Justice banner marched with the farmers. Stating that they
interacted with farmers of Vidarbha, Youth for Justice representative
Kapil Mishra said the youth and the farmers had come on a common
platform to awaken the Government so that it comes out with a
farmer-friendly budget.

Demanding separate packages and waving off loans for farmers in all the
affected districts, Mr. Mishra said organic farming should be encouraged.

“Since 1997, over 25,000 farmers across the country have taken their own
lives. The worst affected places are Warangal, Amravati, Vidarbha,
Karimnagar and Nizamabad. Even though we are boasting of 8 per cent
economic growth, the grim fact is that our farmers are committing
suicide. This means our policy-makers need to change their approach
towards running the economy,” said Mr. Mishra.

Besides travelling to Vidarbha next week in March for a first hand
experience with the situation prevailing in the rural areas, Youth for
Justice members will visit Capital’s Connaught Place and Ansal Plaza
every Sunday to distribute pamphlets to make Generation X aware of the
farmers’ plight.

http://www.hindu.com/2007/02/26/stories/2007022620640300.htm

NHRC issues notice to centre on land acquisition act

http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/2182007022612…

New Delhi, Feb. 26 (PTI): The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to the Centre on a petition seeking amendment in the “out-dated” Land Acquisition Act 1894, which it alleged was being used “arbitrarily” against farmers to grab their land.

The petitioner P Pullarao, an economist from Andhra Pradesh, moved the Commission alleging that in the past three years many acres of land has been acquired under the Act, displacing over 10 million farmers across the country in the name of development.

“No explaination is being given by the state governments or officials. The land is taken away using the Act. Farmers are thrown away from their villages without ensuring them any proper rehabilitation,” he said.

Pointing out “flaws” in the current land acquisition procedure, he said, “the District Collector issues a notification of land acquisition. It is then followed by revenue officials giving notice of vacation from the property.”

While drawing the attention of the Commission to the various provisions under Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which does not allow any public hearing on the issue of land acquisitions, Pullarao said it amounts to human rights violation.

Terming the Section 3 (2) of Chapter II titled “Establishment of SEZ” as a “bully” act on the part of the government, Pullarao has sought intervention of the NHRC in the matter.

The section states that “any person who intends to set up a SEZ may after identifying the area make a proposal to the state government concerned for the purpose of setting up the SEZ”.

In Andhra Pradesh, alleged Pullarao, the officials had been grabbing the land by forcing the farmers to voluntarily accept the compensation whatever decided by them.

Seeking suspension of the land acquisition Act, the petitioner has urged the NHRC to direct the Ministry of Rural Development to amend it in a “sensitive manner.”

Taking cognisance of the complaint, the Commision has also issued notice to Andhra Pradesh to submit the factual report in the matter within six weeks.

Protest march against suicides by farmers, SEZs

http://www.hindu.com/2007/02/26/stories/2007022620…

Madhur Tankha

Activists demand creation of a Zero Hunger Act

NEW DELHI: Members of Youth for Justice, Kisan Log Abhiyan and MCKS Food for Hungry Foundation jointly staged a march at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday protesting against the continuing farmers’ suicides.

Wearing masks, the protesters holding banners like “The Constitution Guarantees Me Right to Life Yet Death Haunts Me All The Time” shouted slogans against the United Progressive Alliance Government’s policies that were leading to lack of livelihood for farmers across the country. They called for a Zero Hunger Act.

Claiming that the Haryana Government had sent notices to farmers of Rewari to hand over their agricultural land for Special Economic Zones, Kisan Lok Abhiyan State president Dinesh Joshi said: “We don’t mind giving barren land, but parting with fertile agricultural land for big multi-national companies is quite unreasonable.”

Stating that he had received a notice from the State Government to vacate his agricultural land, Lal Singh Yadav of Haryana said he grows “bajra” and mustard in his 10 acre agricultural land but will now be left with no option but to hand over his ancestral land to the administration. “At least farmers should have the right to decide whether they want to sell their land nor not. And the price paid to us by the administration is pittance.”

Sharing their concerns, a number of Delhi University students under the Youth for Justice banner marched with the farmers. Stating that they interacted with farmers of Vidarbha, Youth for Justice representative Kapil Mishra said the youth and the farmers had come on a common platform to awaken the Government so that it comes out with a farmer-friendly budget.

Demanding separate packages and waving off loans for farmers in all the affected districts, Mr. Mishra said organic farming should be encouraged.

“Since 1997, over 25,000 farmers across the country have taken their own lives. The worst affected places are Warangal, Amravati, Vidarbha, Karimnagar and Nizamabad. Even though we are boasting of 8 per cent economic growth, the grim fact is that our farmers are committing suicide. This means our policy-makers need to change their approach towards running the economy,” said Mr. Mishra.

Besides travelling to Vidarbha next week in March for a first hand experience with the situation prevailing in the rural areas, Youth for Justice members will visit Capital’s Connaught Place and Ansal Plaza every Sunday to distribute pamphlets to make Generation X aware of the farmers’ plight.

The rights of displaced people

http://mycitizennews.blogspot.com/2007/02/rights-o…

Dr Sandeep Pandey

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has acquired 340 acres of village common lands, 70 acres of temple lands from the Endowments Department and 500 acres from the local Gram Panchayat – China Mambattu of the Tada Mandal in Nellore District to set up a Special Economic Zone here. Some private industrialists have purchased another 100 acres of agricultural lands in the vicinity. 400 acres of the SEZ have being given to Apache to set up a shoe factory.
Three hamlets of the panchayat, N.M. Kandrika, China Mambattu and Peda Mambattu are being affected by this SEZ. There are weavers, shepards, barbers, washer men and women and Yanadi tribals living in these villages. The most vulnerable among these are the Yanadis because they do not have any land ownership making them ineligible to receive any kind of compensation in lieu of the displacement caused by the SEZ. The question of such communities and their livelihoods which are non farm based and dependent on natural resources and Community Property Resources is the most crucial one here.
Bandi Polamma, a member of the Yanadi community says that because of the land being sold they are losing their daily wages. The water bodies too are either being taken over by the company or are being polluted as a result of which fishing is becoming increasingly difficult as a livelihood option. Apache is setting up a fence which is making it difficult to access the forest which was a source for firewood. The tribals used to earn a part of their income by selling firewood. Hence the life and livelihood of this community is getting seriously affected due to the setting up of the shoe company here.
The local community facing displacement was promised jobs, education for their children, etc. However, it turns out that all promises were false. The displaced people have been left to fend to for themselves. Only two women have got sweeper’s job in the Apache shoe factory! The people feel let down and are in a public hearing organized in Nellore on 31st January, 2007 by Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union and Andhra Pradesh Matsyakarula Union they have expressed their intention to wage a struggle for their basic rights. Earlier a public hearing organized by the Government on 6th January turned out to be a sham as no people were allowed inside the hearing.
The people are demanding that every family displaced by the SEZ must be provided 2 acres of agricultural land with irrigation facility within the Panchayat limits, a housing site with low cost house built by the government, fishing nets worth Rs. 3000, one bicycle and a compensation of Rs. 10,000 per annum for the next 25 years.
At the same public hearing people from the Midderevu village of Muthukur Mandal of the same district also presented their woes. 1329.43 acres of land in three Panchayats, Krishnapatnam, Muthukur and Thamminapatnam is being acquired by the Government to set up Krishnapatnam Greenfield Port and Krishnapatnam Ultra Mega Power Project.
Midderevu village is next to Kandaleru creek and Bay of Bengal. Land along seashore is used for parking of boats, nets, catamarans, etc. People use common lands for grazing and firewood collection. They have also planted casurina in ten acres along the seashore. The village was hit by Tsunami and was only beginning to recover from the economic shock. In violation of the CRZ regulations, the villagers are being asked to cut the casurina plantation now. They are being asked to resettle at a distance of 7 km from the seashore and the local district collector has promised jobs for every youth.
180 families living in the village, including 20 Yanadi, mostly depend on fishing for livelihood. They are completely baffled by the idea of doing fishing from a distance of 7 kms. The fish move in groups and the colour of the sea is to be watched on a regular basis to determine when to begin the fishing operations. Parking of boats and gear would become a problem. In addition they would have to buy wood and fodder, imposing extra burden on their income. The people of Midderevu also face the dilemma of how to repay the Rs. 38 lakhs loan they had collectively borrowed from fish merchants in the post-Tsunami phase on the condition of supplying their catch.
People of Midderevu would not get any compensation because they do not own any agricultural land. Their traditional occupation has been fishing. But the existing legal framework doesn’t recognize fisher people’s right over the sea, for payment of compensation.
The people of Midderevu are determined in their resolve not to be displaced before the promises being made to them are fulfilled. They want that each family being displaced be given 2.5 acres of agricultural land, house constructed for them with a cost of Rs. 1 lakh, a compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs for forgoing fishing (rights) on the sea and adequate compensation for all plantations in the households and along the sea. Collectively they want repayment of Rs. 38 lakhs loan by the government on their behalf to the fish merchants, construction of fishing harbour for safe parking of boats and gear and provision of basic infrastructure like roads, drinking water, electricity, schools and community hall, etc, at the resettlement and rehabilitation site.
The demands being made by the people of China Mambattu and Midderevu are quite legitimate considering that most of the families may be forced to completely alter their lifestyles and livelihood options. The respective compensation package being demanded in the two cases will at least ensure that the families will have a one generation cushion to rehabilitate and resettle themselves. But since the authorities are not known to be very sympathetic to the people facing displacement in such cases, it is unlikely that the demand will be met easily. However, as increasingly more and more communities are awakening to their traditional rights under threat from modern development projects, in particular, and their human rights, in general, they are throwing up more resistance all over the country. The Government will ignore these democratic resistances and demands at its own peril.
Dr Sandeep Pandey

(Dr Sandeep Pandey is recepient of Dr Ramon Magsaysay Award for the year 2002, and is a reputed social activist leading National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and People’s Union for Human Rights (PUHR). He had co-founded Asha in 1991 in Berkeley California, after which he returned back to teach at India’s premier engineering institute (IIT Kanpur). He is presently actively engaged in strengthening people’s movements across the country, and can be reached at: ashaashram@yahoo.com)