The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Location bar on SEZs

Calcutta, Jan. 5: The Bengal government will not allow “new, big” special economic zones in districts where such projects have already been lined up, according to a policy being drawn up.

The districts include South 24-Parganas, North 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, East and West Midnapore.

The government has not said so but all these districts fall in the fertile Gangetic plain and have vast stretches of cultivable land, the acquisition of which has triggered a confrontation in the state.

However, since projects already cleared will not be affected, the impact of the new policy is unlikely to be felt immediately.

“Big SEZs in these districts will not be recommended to the Centre for approval. However, small ones can be considered depending on their merit,” commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen said today. He defined “small SEZs” as those needing not more than 250 acres.

Large SEZs — those exceeding 10,000 acres — will be allowed in backward districts that do not figure on the investment map now. (See chart)

The guidelines are part of an SEZ policy the Bengal government is readying on its own, which is scheduled to be announced next week. SEZ approvals have to be sought from the Centre but states can modify the rules governing location and land use.

The policy comes amid the Nandigram standoff and close on the heels of an announcement by chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee that the government would not allow more than “four to five” proposals for SEZs in the state.

Sen today clarified that the new policy would not affect the eight proposals given “in-principle” clearance by the Centre in October.

The policy will dwell on three principal issues — land use, location of SEZs and a comprehensive rehabilitation package for those displaced.

“The document is almost ready. The policy revolves around what should be the nature of land use, the sites to be chosen for creation of such zones and the compensation package. Everything is being worked out in detail and the document will leave no room for confusion,” Sen said.

Both English and Bengali versions of the policy document will be released to the public. “We don’t want any information gaps and people of Bengal should be aware of the government’s policy. That’s why it is our conscious decision to inform the public about our intentions on SEZ creation,” Sen said.

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