Sunday, February 04, 2007

RTI reveals No info on farmer displacement!

The UPA government, by its own admission, has collected no data to ensure that the special economic zones (SEZs) established in the states do not displace farmers from fertile land. "Land is a state subject" is the response received by this newspaper to an application filed under the Right of Information on the government’s SEZ policy, with the nodal ministry of commerce and industry maintaining in its response that no specific information was available even on the number of farmers likely to be displaced by the 237 SEZs it has approved in different parts of the country.

The 237 SEZs would be set on a land area of 34,510 hectares. The 237 approved zones include the who’s who of corporate India — Tata Sons, Wipro, DLF and Indiabulls, among others. To questions by this correspondent in the RTI application as to how many farmers would be displaced when these SEZs would be come up, how much fertile land would be affected and the percentage of one crop, two crop agricultural land allocated for the economic zones, the commerce ministry has given no specific answer, maintaining that it does not have the information.

The finance ministry is on record saying that tax holidays to SEZs are estimated to lead to a revenue loss of over Rs 1,00,000 crores by 2009-10. But the commerce ministry claims that in the next five years, if all the projects are implemented, investments by SEZ developers are expected to be over $ 60 billion (Rs 3,00,000 crores).

To another question in the RTI application whether any study was done to know what would be the impact of the SEZs on the environment, the commerce ministry has again no information, maintaining, "Information in this regard may be available with the ministry of environment and forests to whom a copy of your application has been forwarded by the department of agriculture and cooperation." A response from the environment ministry is still awaited.

The Asian Age
New Delhi
05 Feb 2007
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