Re-examine the whole concept
KOLKATA: The Communist Party of India on Saturday demanded an "immediate halt" to land acquisition for setting up Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
It called for constitution of a "high-level commission for examining the issues involved and ensuring the rights and interests of the affected people, especially farmers. The whole concept behind the SEZ Act should be re-examined."
Speaking at the conclusion of the three-day national council meet here, A.B. Bardhan, general secretary, said the party leadership "totally rejected the concept that the establishment of the SEZs is the only way to industrialisation. Neither it is inevitable. The number of SEZs has to be limited to a bare minimum ... and there has to be a cap on the number in each State... There is no difference among the Left parties in our attitude towards SEZs."
Caution should be exercised in any decision on setting up industrial projects and acquiring land.
The process should be transparent and no administrative measures should be initiated "without clinching the issues in the coordinating mechanisms of the coalition governments."
Mr. Bardhan regretted that "transparency has not been maintained" on the proposed car project at Singur in West Bengal. His party was "not only a complainant [in this regard] but also part of the [Left Front] Government and [Singur provided] one of the lessons that should be learnt."
Simultaneously, "the unity and internal cohesion of the Left Front must be maintained." This could be done through cooperation and transparency among its constituents.On the proposed SEZ at Nandigram in West Bengal, to be set up by the Indonesian conglomerate, Salim Group, he said: "We have made it clear that the project should be discussed with the Left parties for the sake of transparency. Only after discussions and ascertaining whether there is need for amending [the project proposals] should notices for land acquisition be served and steps taken."
It was not just in West Bengal that the issue of land acquisition "had created a storm," Mr. Bardhan said.
"It was happening everywhere, there are so many," he added and cited Uttar Pradesh and in Maharashtra.
In some places, "the situation had reached boiling point due to unbridled approval of the SEZs by the Union Government and the rat race among the States to hand over maximum land to a corporate house without following the rules, a proper rehabilitation policy for the affected people and without being transparent."