Sez - Public Purpose and Private Property

1. Should the Indian government change the law on eminent domain, so that they can acquire land for Special Economic Zones? 2. Is setting up Special Economic Zones the right development strategy for India? 3. Under what circumstances and to what extent should the government intervene in market transactions?

* Many of the people displaced are scheduled tribes (about 2 crore ) protected by many laws. Under many laws, they have been given rights to cultivation and possession of forest lands. Without addressing any such rights, the law of eminent domain can simply seem to have negated them. This would ultimately aggravate the situation when land is acquired. * Under the law of eminent domain, private property can be taken over for public purpose. What is public purpose? The term “public purpose” does not bear the same meaning as “public use”.

“Public purpose” of SEZ: The term must be clearly defined in a genuine sense. Acquiring 30% land for the private corporation without estimating the purpose that would be satisfied for the ‘Public’ is not fair at the cost of ‘living’ of a farmer. * The importance of the usage of the acquired land must be weighed against the usage foregone by the land owner. Compensation must be duly paid taking such aspects as the emotional attachment of the owner with the land. It must be seen as the source of income from future years rather than just as property. *

Total land to be acquired across India for SEZs is 1, 50,000 hectares. This land is typically multi cropped capable of producing 1 million tonnes of food grains. If the concept of SEZ is proven successful and this success triggers acquiring more agriculture land in the future, there could be a serious threat to food security of the country. * Tax exempts for all activities in the SEZs makes little sense.

This essentially is the revenue foregone by the government. Activities of entertainment, shopping malls etc. which add little value to the economy must not be exempt from tax. Share in the tax thus collected must be given as additional compensation to the people who have foregone the land. * Appropriate training must be given and employment must be provided to owners of the land, if they previously depended on the land for living.