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Last touches to business hub law

Calcutta, Nov. 16: The bill on privileges for Special Economic Zones is being brushed up before its enactment as law in the next Assembly session.

The final draft, now with the law department, will be placed before the cabinet on Thursday, and tabled in the House when it sits for the winter session, said a senior labour official.

The law will grant the special zones the status of “a free enclave deemed to be foreign territory”. That means, they would operate independent of the municipalities within whose areas they are located.

The zones would be declared industrial township areas under the provisions of the Bengal Municipal Act, 1993, and a separate body, SEZ Authority, would be formed to look after roads, sewerage, water supply and other civic amenities.

A development commissioner appointed by the Centre would be at the head of each zone. The commissioner will deal with labour, environment, electricity, taxes and municipal affairs.

“He would be declared the ex-officio labour commissioner and deal with all labour issues for units operating within the zones. However, he will be assisted by officers of the state labour department,” the official said.

He would also deal with all issues relating to environment. The development commissioner would be empowered by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board and aided by its officers.

All the units within the special zones would be declared public utility services and employees would not be allowed to go on strike without notice several days in advance.

The government will offer single-window clearances to investors in the special zones. It has already offered total waiver of electricity duty for Manikanchan and Falta, the two existing Special Economic Zones in the state. According to the bill, all such zones would be exempt from the duty. All other power provisions for the zones would be guided by the Electricity Act, 2003.

Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh already have their own laws for the special zones. The Union government will also form a central act.

The state already has a policy in place for Manikanchan, the gems and jewellery park in Salt Lake. Before the state embarked on its mission to formulate a law for the privileged business zones, the Centre had offered a model SEZ act.

The state commerce and industries department framed the West Bengal SEZ Bill, 2003, in consultation with the departments of labour, environment, power and municipal affairs.

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