By Dr.Srinivasan and Mr.Alagarswami
“The protests against land grab for SEZ's have spread like wildlife.” Vandana Shiva ( 2007). The overarching problem this study tries to address is the question why the wild-fire of protest spreads in some regions, while in others it is either doused living behind a dying ember or perceived not as a fire but as a well spring of hope. What can explain the regional differences in public responses to SEZ?
The state of Tamil Nadu has been proactive in implementing SEZ policy both at the regional level as well as at the central policy levels. Mukherji and Shivpuri Singh argue that “the Act has made partial progress towards evolving a procedure for single window clearance of SEZ projects. Issues such as labour regulations; skill shortages; land acquisition; environmental clearance; power availability; a developer’s powers with respect to town planning; transport linkages; access to finance; corruption; and the overall propensity to approve foreign direct investments will have a state-level component. In most of these cases, state-level SEZ Acts will determine the extent to which state-level policies are synergised with central policies”(Mukherji and Shivpuri Singh, 2006).
Even before the central SEZ Act was passed in 2005, Tamil Nadu had formulated its policy on SEZs in 2003 and passed the Tamil Nadu SEZ Act in 2005. Since 2005, a series of public hearings were organized by various civil society groups, political parties and government agencies. Civil society groups have argued that the bulk of the land being acquired for SEZs is fertile agricultural land, especially in case of the multi-product zones.
The state of Tamil Nadu(TN) one of the four southern states of Indian sub-continent is considered “a pioneer in implementing many developmental programs such as nutrition noon-meal scheme for school children, integrated rural development program, adult-literacy programs, Rs.1 (4.7 cent) per kilogram of rice for poor, and more recently self-help group based micro-finance initiatives. It has also been a forerunner in implementing industrial policy focused on small scale industries and marginally successful land reform that sought to distribute land to landless farmers. Tamil Nadu has followed a unique trajectory that blended industrial policy and developmental initiatives, which have withstood the vagaries of local politics, corruption and other malaises that have been traditionally associated with governance in India.” (Ref)Tamil Nadu, being among one of India’s most industrialised states, shows certain unique patterns emerging in the establishment of SEZs.
The Indian SEZ model was most widely adopted in the state with both negative and positive fallouts. Even before the central SEZ Act was passed in 2005, Tamil Nadu had formulated its policy on SEZs in 2003 and passed the Tamil Nadu SEZ Act in 2005 (Dhurjati Mukherjee, 2007). With 122 notified and proposed Special Economic Zones (SEZs), Tamil Nadu boasts of maximum number of SEZs in the country after Andhra Pradesh and Maharastra.
Two large and powerful state agencies State Industrial Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Ltd (SIPCOT) and Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation Ltd-(TIDCO) exercise considerable influence and authority in the acquisition of land. The government is intent on pursuing a policy of aggressive industrialisation, especially of a capital-intensive nature and has proposed to create 10,000 acres land bank in the state as per the 2007 Industrial Policy (TN Industrial Policy Note, 2007). Till date the state has 44 notified, 66 ‘formally approved’ and 19 ‘in-principally’ approved SEZs. Proposals are pending for another 13 SEZs. With over SEZ 54 approvals, State of Tamil Nadu (TN) has one of the highest numbers of SEZs in the country. In Tamil Nadu, 55 SEZs have been approved with 13045 hectares (32,235 acres) of land as of 2012.
In response to the...