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Paper presented at the National Seminar on 'Special Economic Zones: Engines of Growth and Social Development for India: Present Problems and Future Prospects' (16 - 17 October '08 at Hyderabad) organised by the Department of Sociology, Osmania University.

SEZ Act-2005

Fact Sheet on Special Economic Zones by GOI- MINISTRY OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY

List of operational SEZs

List of Formal Approvals granted under the SEZ Act,2005 http://sezindia.nic.in/about-asi.asp

In principle approvals granted under the SEZ Act, 2005- http://sezindia.nic.in/about-asi.asp

Statewise distribution of SEZs approved under the SEZ, Act, 2005- http://sezindia.nic.in/about-asi.asp

Sectorwise distribution of SEZs approved under the SEZ Act, 2005- http://sezindia.nic.in/about-asi.asp

A critique of the National Policy for Rehabilitation and Resettlement (2007) by Priyanca Mathur Velath,

    * On October 11, 2007, the Union Government announced the National Policy for Rehabilitation and Resettlement 2007 (NPRR 2007), replacing the National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation for Project-Affected Families, 2003.

    * The new policy fails to examine the process of displacement, which is taken for granted. The draft makes no attempt to question the need for displacement in the first place, or to seek out and actively promote non-displacing or least-displacing alternatives.

    * The timing and true intention of the new policy along with govt.'s declaration to amend the outdated Land Acquisition Act of 1894 are suspect.

    * Attempt to redefine the ‘public purpose' under the amendment to the land acquisition act actually favours private interest and big companies over the poor and marginalised.

    * Under the 2007 policy it has become simpler to required land for big companies as well as strategic and public infrastructure projects.

    * 'Public purpose' has been redefined to allow the state government to acquire land for a private company, association or body of individuals, provided it is 'useful for general public'.

    * 'Land for land' principle in the 2007 policy suffers from ambiguity, as land is being offered as compensation but 'to the extent that government land is available in resettlement areas'.

    * The policy outlines a number of benefits such as scholarships for the education of eligible people from affected families; preference for groups of cooperatives of affected persons in the allotment of contracts and other economic opportunities in and around the project site; housing benefits to landless affected families in both rural and urban areas; and wage employment to willing affected persons in construction work on the project. But the ‘employment guarantee' to one person from each nuclear family is ‘subject to the availability' of vacancies and ‘suitability of the affected person'. Such qualifying clauses as "if available" and "as far as possible" are widely used by project authorities and policymakers to shirk responsibility.

    * Conducting a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) has been made mandatory in the policy, but only if more than 400 families have been displaced in the plains areas and 200 in tribal, hilly and other scheduled areas. Why is the SIA mandatory only in projects above a certain size?

    * There are provisions in the 2007 policy to introduce a Land Acquisition Compensation Settlement Authority (at the local level, removed from normal civil courts, to assist quick disposal of cases involving compensation disputes), a standing relief and rehabilitation authority at the district level, an ombudsman at the state level (to monitor rehabilitation under any project), a national monitoring committee and national monitoring cell (for effective monitoring of implementation of resettlement plans, with which state governments will have to share information) and a national rehabilitation commission (which will be empowered to exercise independent oversight over the rehabilitation and resettlement of affected families). Aggrieved persons can appeal to the high court and above against settlements decided by the Land Acquisition Compensation Settlement Authority. But the policy does not answer the crucial question as to whether these committees and commissions are empowered to stop a project from proceeding if there are indeed any discrepancies or issues of inadequate resettlement.

    * Resettlement rights must be guaranteed before any project begins and, in the event of faulty or inadequate resettlement, the project should be stopped from proceeding any further and the project developers held accountable. NPRR 2007 does not address any of these issues; nor does it give displaced persons ‘first rights' over the benefits of the project in question.

Positive points about the National Policy for Rehabilitation and Resettlement:

    * This policy makes an important announcement that land acquired by the government will revert to the government in case the proposed project does not take off within five years of the acquisition. Since land is often acquired in excess of what is needed and later handed over to the developers for extraneous purposes like building hotels, parks and golf courses, this new clause is a positive one.

    * Another creditable clause in the new policy is that if the land is sold after the project has taken off, 80% of the net profit earned from the sale goes to the original landowner. Also, that land acquired for ‘public purpose' cannot be changed to any other purpose.
The study by Planning Commission titled Dams, Displacement, Policy and Law in India,

    * With the adoption of policies for planned development after freedom in India, a major priority for policymakers was the harnessing of the country's water resources for irrigation and power. Large storage works such as the Bhakra, the Hirakud, the Tungabhadra and the Damodar Valley Dams were amongst the earliest projects undertaken in the post-Independence period in the country.

    * A formidable body of independent empirical research into many of these large dams has established how their social, human and environmental costs have been ignored or grossly understated in the planning of these projects. Of the very many neglected costs of the big dams, some of the most grave are the social and human consequences of displacement.

    * There are no reliable official statistics of the numbers of people displaced by large projects since Independence. Many researchers place their estimates between 10 and 25 million. In an influential 1989 study, Fernandes, Das and Rao provide an estimate of some 21 million displaced persons. Scholar-administrator Dr. N. C. Saxena, places his estimate of persons displaced by big projects since 1947 at nearly double this figure - 50 million.

    * From the inception of planning of most projects, through various stages of displacement and resettlement, it is to be expected that those likely to be negatively affected by the projects would be consulted and kept informed in such a way as to enable them to best rebuild their ravaged lives. This, however, is very far from being the case. The studies have revealed that the level of information that the oustees had regarding the dam, submergence and subsequent displacement due to them, is lamentably low.

    * It is only in recent years that, chiefly under the impact of people's movements, project authorities, state governments and international funding agencies have accepted responsibility for rehabilitation-one that extends beyond the payment of monetary compensation for expropriated individual assets and the provision of house sites. This neglect of rehabilitation assumes the gravest aspect when seen in relation to older projects, particularly those that commenced or were concluded in the first three decades after Independence.

    * It has been observed that the driving objective of project authorities has not been to prepare and assist the families to relocate and to make a gradual and less painful transition to their new habitats. Instead frequently the only objective is to vacate the submergence zone of what are perceived to be its human encumbrances, with the brute force of the state if necessary. The evacuation of the villages was carried out with brutal insensitivity towards the feelings of the villagers who, not unnaturally, were bewildered and distressed at being forced out of their homes.

    * Resettlement sites are often inhospitable in a number of ways and their locations are selected without reference to availability of livelihood opportunities, or the preferences of displaced persons themselves.

    * With the destruction of community and social bonds, the displaced are mired in anomie and a profound sense of loneliness and helplessness. The inflow of money creates greater pressure on family bonds. The outcomes are psychological pathologies and alcoholism, common among displaced populations.

    * Arguably the most culpable aspect of state-induced impoverishment of displaced populations is the phenomenon of multiple displacements. It has been documented, for instance, that as a direct result of the lack of co-ordination between the multiplicity of irrigation, thermal power and coal-mining agencies in Singrauli, most oustees have been displaced at least twice, and some three or four times in a matter of two or three decades.

    * A frequently neglected, but extremely serious problem, is the unwillingness of host populations to accept resettled oustees in their midst.

    * The vast majority of tribal people displaced by big projects face danger of extinction as traditionally they depend more on natural resources. They are pushed inexorably into a vortex of increasing assetlessness, unemployment, debt-bondage and hunger.

    * Any loss of access to traditional sources of livelihood - land, forest, sea, river, pasture, cattle or saltpan land - marginalizes women on the labour market. Women not only suffered in terms of health and nutrition, they also lost the capacity to provide a secure future for their children.

    * Another extremely vulnerable group of oustees is oustees without land, including landless agricultural workers. The only legal reparation to displaced persons recognised by the statutes in India is compensation for loss of assets that are compulsorily acquired by the state for what the state designates as a `public purpose'. However a landless family dependent on the acquired land for their livelihood may be most severely pauperised by the displacement because it loses its only source of economic survival. However, the law and most ehabilitation policies still do not recognise this profound vulnerability.

Rural Expert

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