Rehabilitate those displaced by Special Economic Zones, says Gurudasan

Staff Reporter

“Densely-populated Kerala can ill-afford mass acquisition of land”

“FDI is welcome, but with reasonable restrictions”

“SEZ’s are foreign territories within a sovereign nation”

KOCHI: Farmers and others who are displaced by Special-Economic Zones (SEZ) and other development projects must be rehabilitated so that they are assured of a new place to live, livelihood, and adequate compensation, Minister for Labour and Excise P.K. Gurudasan has said.

Inaugurating a seminar on ‘Challenges to protect labour rights in Special Economic Zones,’ organised here on Sunday by the Kerala Labour Officers’ Forum, he spoke of how densely-populated Kerala can ill-afford mass acquisition of land for different projects. He expressed reservations on the issue of governments giving “too much” concessions and subsidies to foreign and Indian investors in SEZs and the exemptions granted to them on matters such as tax.

“Special Economic Zones are nothing less than carving out a foreign territory within a sovereign nation. This will result in extra-territorial powers calling the shots. These zones are of no value unless they contribute considerably to the host nation’s economy. Foreign direct investment is welcome, but there has to be reasonable restrictions to guard against exploitation of labour. The workforce is a nation’s strength and there should be labour laws to protect them from exploitation. Seventy per cent of the people in India’s unorganised sector get less than Rs.20 every day. This has to change. Workers must get fair wages to live a decent life,” Mr. Gurudasan said.

Monopoly capitalists were calling the shots in India six decades after independence, he added. Indian monopolists were collaborating with foreign multi-national companies to loot India. A conflict was emerging between the rich and the ordinary people on sharing the nation’s wealth. Till Independence, it was colonial masters who plundered the nation’s natural resources and exploited its manpower, he noted.

Referring to unwelcome labour practices that existed in the Cochin Port, he said that matters were changing for the better. “Sadly, the media is not highlighting this.”

Earlier, delivering the presidential address, former Labour Commissioner S. Srinivasan called for a meeting point for the interests of the Union Labour and Commerce Ministries on SEZs. Referring to the raging debate on whether IT companies were amenable to labour laws, he said that there was once a directive that Labour Department officials should not enter Technopark in the State capital. “Projects like the Vallarpadam container transhipment terminal are likely to become SEZs.”

Referring to the performance of some law graduates who were recruited to the Department as field officials, he said that there were some not-so-good reports about them. Inspections in firms must be positive and not at the stake of the reputation of officials, Mr. Srinivasan said.

The others who spoke included G.C. Gopala Pillai, former M.D. of FACT; C.J. Mathew, Development Commissioner of the Cochin Special Economic Zone; Thampan Thomas, HMS president; and K.V. Mohandas, Additional Labour Commissioner.

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