New Delhi: Amonth after the government announced a freeze on the approval and notification of special economic zones (SEZs), developers of such zones—including some of the country’s best-known companies—want it to step in to prevent trading in approvals should this happen.
Several companies believe the freeze could encourage some developers who have acquired an approval for a SEZ from the government to sell this at a premium.
This should be discouraged, said Arun Nanda, executive director of Mahindra & Mahindra, which is developing two zones: one in Rajasthan and the other in Tamil Nadu.
The companies also believe their problems would be resolved soon. They say the government is due to announce a comprehensive rehabilitation policy for displaced landowners; once that’s done, they will be back in business. On 22 January, an empowered group of ministers froze the process, citing concerns over rehabilitation of displaced farmers and protests: 63 proposals have been approved and notified and 237 have received approvals but are yet to be notified. Around 300 applications are pending with the board of approval, the authority that oversees the process. Developers and firms that apply are granted an approval first and then, after they complete their land acquisition, a notification.
The developers are also taking heart from the fact that while most political parties have advocated changing the policy, not one has come out against it. “I am sure (the) decks will be cleared soon. We have full faith in the government,” said Rajiv Talwar, group executive director, DLF Ltd, that has an information technology and business process outsourcing SEZ each in Tamil Nadu and Gurgaon.
The government, too, is seeking to reassure companies that it will go ahead with the SEZ initiative. “The idea is to regulate, not ban SEZs,” said Abhishek Singhvi, Congress party spokesman. “The formula is simple: acquire non-fertile, non-agricultural land wherever possible. And if you need to acquire agricultural land, make sure the landowner gets paid the market price”.
Rehabilitation isn’t the only issue worrying politicians. Murli Manohar Joshi, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader, the main opposition party, said that security was another. As reported in Mint on Tuesday, the commerce ministry says it would ensure security requirements are addressed.