Government rapped for policy on special economic zones


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New Delhi : The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government Friday came under attack for its policies governing special economic zones not just in parliament but also at a seminar organised by civil society.

The issue was raised during a debate on the national budget in the Rajya Sabha as well as at a seminar addressed by upper house member Rahul Bajaj, chairman of two-wheeler giant Bajaj Auto.

Participating in the debate in Rajya Sabha, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley wanted the government to come clear on its policy on special economic zones.

"The UPA government has given a bad name to special economic zones," he said, adding approval must be given only where there was a genuine case of export promotion.

Earlier in the day, a parliamentary panel also rapped the government on special economic zones and took offence to extension of approvals before examining its recommendations.

"The committee feels that it would have been in the fitness of things if the Department of Commerce had waited for the committee's report on SEZs," the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce said in its report.

It said the committee was examining the policy measures governing special economic zones and how they were functioning in the country and would submit a report soon, but the government has chosen to notify more such zones in the interim.

Earlier, Rahul Babaj said at a seminar that special economic zones were being misused by industrial houses in the garb of export promotion.

"Today, big industrial houses acquiring land for SEZs are almost turning it into a scam in the name of development," he told a seminar organised by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society.

He also said it was inappropriate to compare India with China since the land acquired for such zones in that country was owned by the government and not by hungry developers as it was the case here.

Bajaj's apprehensions were echoed by independent Rajya Sabha member P.C. Alexander who said special economic zones were going against the spirit of social objective of providing small and medium enterprises incentives to grow.

Both said when farmland was being acquired for industry it was necessary to ensure that companies paid the right value for such acquisition.