ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Piecemeal Tinkering

The United Progressive Alliance government seems to have been in an unusual hurry to lift the freeze on the process of approval of special economic zones (SEZs). Some of the would-be SEZ promoters, like the footwear and apparel transnational corporation, Nike, had been threatening to withdraw their investment plans. That was not really a credible threat, considering the spirit of the gold rush that India’s SEZ policy has summoned. But how could such threats be ignored? After all, union commerce minister Kamal Nath has been showcasing India’s SEZ policy as evidence of the country’s new openness, and one that will soon fix the nation’s “infrastructure deficit”. But peasant protests over government arm-twisting in the acquisition of their land for big business, especially in the wake of the deaths in police firing in Nandigram in East Midnapur district of West Bengal on March 14, could not have been ignored for long.

The government is, however, hoping that with the decision of the so-called empowered group of ministers (eGoM) on April 5 to dissociate state governments from the acquisition of land for private SEZ promoters, in effect leaving the peasants and landowners at the mercy of market forces, such protests will fizzle out. And this, even without the institution of a legally enforceable re-settlement and rehabilitation liability of the promoter to redress the loss of habitat and environment of those displaced. Piecemeal tinkering is the knee-jerk response of the government, even while it continues to pander to the whims of SEZ promoters/developers.

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