There are different shades of opinion within the industry to the challenge of land acquisition for the Mangalore Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) following the government's decision to de-notify lands to be acquired for its second phase.

The official view at MSEZ Ltd. is that there was no obstacle to the MSEZ and that work was progressing. Another view was that of the region's chamber of commerce and industry, which thought that the project could not take off till all the stakeholders, including people, see it as a win-win game. A third opinion was that either people should accept the situation or the policy should be modified for a smaller area SEZ, with industry finding a work-around.

Ramachandra Bhandarkar, spokesperson, MSEZ, said: “Just a handful of people, NGOs, and vested interests have begun a movement in which learned quarters of industry see no hindrance. We don't see it as opposition at all. MRPL work is going on and OMPL (ONGC Mangalore Petrochemicals Ltd.) project is 60 per cent complete.”

Lata Kini, president, Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), said: “Industry wants a win-win situation. Now that the land has been denotified, whoever wants to part with land can do so. The problem is whether it is any use giving parts of land. If there is no continuity in the land, there is no point.”

When the SEZ was originally mooted (when the KCCI started it), it was a general purpose SEZ not just for petrochemicals. Then, in the early 2000, when the SEZ policy was framed, the government policy said that 2,500 acres of land was a prerequisite for setting up a multi-product SEZ (this is other than one-third of the area earmarked for greenbelt and general infrastructure such as roads and sewage lines). “That is when the acquisition issue began. We didn't ask for 2,500 acres, it is not from the Chamber. It was a Union government policy,” said Ms. Kini.

All stakeholders should agree if the MSEZ had to click. “If government is happy, people are happy, then industry (MSEZ) can begin. Otherwise, it cannot happen. There must be a conducive atmosphere,” she said.

It is certainly a setback to the exchequer as the revenue from the district was lost and in terms of employment, said Ms. Kini. The district could have been showcased as an industry hub. One of the grouses of those who oppose it was that employment had been assured and still remained an assurance. Until now, the MSEZ has had only the petrochemical industry, which requires highly skilled manpower that was recruited at an all-India basis. If we had been able to create a multi product SEZ, that would have created immense opportunity for the service sector and ancillary units. That was how it was thought of, originally, as a multi-product SEZ instead of a sector-specific SEZ, she said.

Giridhar Prabhu, proprietor, Achal Industries, and former president of KCCI, said: “Per se, the MSEZ second phase has not lost its scope. All parties should come to an amicable settlement on making available 2,000 acres of land so that it is good enough to make it a multipurpose SEZ.”

Another perspective of the issue on land acquisition was that either those who oppose the land acquisition reconcile themselves to the situation or that the State and Union government accept that the land available was not sufficient.

Mr. Prabhu said since the land for the MSEZ requires continuity, the party (citizens, or whoever started the ‘social veto') should reach a compromise so that the minimum needs for land of the SEZ were met.

Otherwise, the State government and the Centre should come to an understanding that they had to make an exception on the land size area. It was up to the MSEZ Ltd to make it viable.

Keywords: MSEZ

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