| Pillai: No golf courses
New Delhi, Oct. 27: The commerce ministry’s board of approvals today cleared 46 more special economic zones (SEZ), of which as many as 17 are for the infotech sector. A sector-specific textile zone proposal for Dadra and Nagar Haveli also figured among the approvals.
However, a proposal for setting up a pharmaceutical SEZ in Bengal by Ramky Industries was deferred as the company’s net-worth fell short of the required norms.
Commerce secretary G.K. Pillai said the total number of formal approvals for SEZs had now gone up to 236, while the in-principle approvals had increased to 169.
While 25 SEZs were formally approved today, the remaining 21 were given in-principle clearance. A Rs 16,000-crore proposal by Suncity to set up a multi-product SEZ in Haryana and a Rs 1,900-crore proposal by Wockhardt Infrastructure for a pharmaceutical SEZ in Maharashtra figured among the approvals.
Pillai said the list to be used by the board of approvals for authorising operations to be undertaken in the special economic zones was also being notified.
He said the earlier permission to allow the setting up of golf courses at SEZs has been withdrawn as the government did not want land to be diverted to non-productive use.
Pillai said the government expected to generate 80,000 jobs through the 36 SEZs that had already been notified and their turnover would touch Rs 25,000 crore. He added that the concern over misuse of land was unfounded as the SEZ promoters were not very keen to set up housing and power projects.
However, the development of this infrastructure was essential otherwise the additional employment created by these SEZs would bring the existing urban infrastructure under strain. The burden would then fall on the cash-strapped state governments. So it was better to leave this responsibility with the SEZ developers, he added.
Pillai said it normally takes three to five years to fully develop a sector-specific SEZ and the built area of one million square feet required an investment of anywhere between Rs 250-400 crore.
He said free market forces were at work and the promoters of the SEZs would have to compete with each other to attract customers. Senior officials said setting up SEZs was not an easy task and as many as 25 per cent of those getting approvals could even drop out.
According to sources, even Hewlett Packard has decided not to go ahead with its SEZ proposal in Bangalore although it had obtained a formal clearance for the project.
The company appears to have veered around to the view that it would not be able to attract suitable customers. It also fears that it would face a industrial security risk if it invited other companies to share its SEZ premises.