The Centre will seek to build a political consensus with its coalition partners, including the Left parties, ahead of a meeting of the empowered group of ministers (eGoM) on special economic zones (SEZ).
Clearances to new SEZs have been held up since January this year, when eGoM decided against it until a land rehabilitation policy was put in place.
A Union government official told Mint that a meeting of the coordination committee of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was intended to be convened last week to reach a consensus on the issue, but was postponed as some members were travelling. Kamal Nath Mint “We had a meeting with the Left parties on this issue a month ago,” Commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath told Mint.
The SEZs have been the marquee policy of UPA, and had proved to be extremely popular till they got caught up in high-profile disputes over acquisition of farmlands.
“Most state chief ministers are now supportive of clearing the SEZs where land has already been acquired. Once the political mandate is obtained, we expect that eGoM will be convened before 20 March,” the official said.
The commerce ministry has already petitioned the ministers of eGoM to clear 51 zones, which have already received formal approval and are pending notification with the law ministry. It has also sought clearance for the 111 proposals, where the land has already been acquired.
EGoM on SEZs is headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, and includes finance minister P. Chidambaram, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, communications and information technology minister Dayanidhi Maran, science and technology minister Kapil Sibal, law minister H.R. Bhardwaj and commerce minister Nath.
The ministry has pointed out that 33,807 hectares of land was needed for the 234 formally approved SEZs. Out of this, around 17,800 hectares is already in possession of the various state industrial development corporations. The rest is under the developers.
In 162 cases, where in-principle approvals (prior to formal approvals) have been granted, either the state governments have initiated land acquisition proceedings or the developers are directly purchasing land. Chief ministers of states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat, have written to the Centre that the freeze should be lifted on cases where the land was already in possession of the company wanting to set up the zone.
Ashish Sharma contributed to this story.