We are pleased to invite you to a Peopleâs Audit of SEZs in Maharashtra on September 15, 2009 at Pen Taluka in Raigad District.
As you may know, Maharashtra has the largest number of approved SEZs in the country to date: 202. This Peopleâs Audit, along with an eminent panel, will critically examine issues emerging around large SEZs, of land acquisition; displacement; corruption; environmental impact; compensation as well as questions of development and economic growth from 4 districts in Maharashtra: Raigad, Gorai, Nasik and Poona.
Your participation and engagement would prove extremely valuable in critically examining the unfolding political economy of SEZs and in articulating the development needs of the State. We hope that you will join us in this process and since this is a largely campaign based initiative we are requesting participants to find support for travel to Mumbai. We will make all necessary arrangements for your food and stay within the area and travel from Mumbai to Raigad and back.
This effort has been jointly initiated by the Jagatikaran Virodhi Kriti Samiti (JVKS; alliance of several peasant organizations in SEZ areas in Maharashtra), National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), the National Campaign for People's Right to Information (NCPRI), the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), National Centre for Advocacy Studies (NCAS) and the India Centre for Human Rights Lawyers Network (ICHRLN).
The SEZ Act was enacted in India in 2005 and since, 722 SEZs have already been approved in the country with many in various stages of approval, land acquisition or completion as the case may be. SEZs have invited controversy and peasant resistance in many quarters and have become bones of contention between the state, the developers and ordinary citizens.
To recap some of the features of the law: the Special Economic Zone Act 2005 deems SEZs as âpublic purpose.â The definition of manufacturing in the Act includes manufacturing and production processes, and includes agriculture, aquaculture, animal husbandry, floriculture, horticulture, pisciculture, poultry, sericulture, viticulture, mining and services. This comprehensive inclusion of all types of economic activities within the purview of SEZs, comes with no restrictions on the maximum size and numbers of SEZs and a requirement of only 50% of the proposed land to be dedicated to economic activity. SEZs do not have any local body representation; nor adequate representation of labour and environmental concerns in their administrative structure. The Act contains provisions like section 31(9) that further remove accountability mechanisms from the Zone Authority: âNo act or proceeding of an Authority shall be invalidated merely by reason ofâ"a) any vacancy in, or any defect in the constitution of, the Authority; or b) any defect in the appointment of a person acting as a Member of the Authority; or c) any irregularity in the procedure of the Authority not affecting the merits of the case.â
What has been the impact of this radical legislation? Given the potentially large scale implications and the nature of "development" envisaged by the SEZ Act in the country, the NAPM, the NCPRI, TISS, ICHRLN, NCAS, JVKS and several other groups and organisations from across the states and SEZ areas met early last month to initiate a national Peopleâs Audit on SEZs process in India. The Maharashtra Peopleâs Audit is first in a series that will be followed by similar exercises in Goa, Guajarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Orissa, West Bengal and Delhi. The Peopleâs Audits will seek to examine the impact of the projects against stated objectives, as well as the impact of the law on the people of the area, and the political economy of the country.
Looking forward to your kind participation on September 15.
Warm Regards, Ulka Mahajan and Sampat Kale
On Behalf of the Organisers.
P.S. Div Village is 1 hr (40 km) from Panvel in Mumbai by road on the Mumbai-Goa highway. There are regular buses to Pen town from Mumbai Central, Sion and Chembur Maitri Park bus stations. From Pen frequent 6-seaters are available outside the bus station to Div Village.
For more details please contact Sampat Kale: ; Ulka Mahajan: ; Shiva Dhakal: 9011596707; Simpreet Singh: ; Preeti Sampat: 9004071740
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