Special Economic Zones SEZ Controversy.


Introduction

Land, especially agricultural land is a very sensitive issue in India. There are millions of people whose livelihood depends on agricultural land. But the introduction of SEZ in India has resulted in the dispossession of agricultural land and has affected the livelihood of farmer at large. In against of this, farmers first protested to safeguard their interests through litigation and court cases challenging the establishment of SEZs. But later on, the resistance against SEZ in India became massive when political parties also joined the farmers.

Jamnagar Incidence

In November 2006, farmers from the Jamnagar District in Gujarat moved the High Court of Gujarat and later to the Supreme Court in order to challenge the setting-up of a 10,000-acre (approx. 4,000-ha) SEZ by Reliance Infrastructure. They claimed that the acquisition of large tracts of agricultural land in the villages of the district not only violated the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, but was also in breach of the public interest. This led the Government to “consider” putting a ceiling on the maximum land area that can be acquired for multi-product zones and decide to “go slow” in approving SEZs.

Nandigram Violence

The Nandigram violence is another famous incidence related to SEZ controversy. Nandigram is a rural area in Purba Medinipur district of the Indian state of West Bengal. It is located about 70 km south-west of Kolkata, on the south bank of the Haldi River, opposite the industrial city of Haldia.

In 2007 the West Bengal government decided to allow Salim Group to set up a chemical hub at Nandigram under the SEZ policy. Farmers of that village were against it. So, on the order of the Left Front government on 14 March, 2007, more than 3,000 heavily armed police stormed the Nandigram area. The main objective was to remove the protestors in order to expropriate 10,000 acres of land for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to be developed by the Indonesian-based Salim Group. During this incidence, police shot dead at least 14 villagers and wounded 70 more including children and women.

The above given examples show the controversies associated with SEZs. No doubts that these commercial hubs started with a lot of premature praise and have now became a bone of contention which is readily exploited by the political forces to the detriment of the peasants, who fear losing their means of livelihood.

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