New Delhi: In a bid to speed up approval of special economic zones (SEZs) and reduce backlog of applications, the commerce ministry has said that it will only consider those applications that have already been approved by the governments of the states where the projects are located.
The ministry has given the states three months to send in their approvals for the 170 projects already in the pipeline.
“We are not going to put anything on the agenda of the board of approval for SEZs unless there is state government approval,” a senior commerce ministry official said on condition of anonymity. The clearances from the state governments mostly relate to land acquisition or environmental sanctions.
Proposals for setting up SEZs are first approved by state governments and then forwarded to a board of approval at the centre.
“Pending cases are being referred back to state governments by the board of approvals in the hope that they will either be cleared immediately or closed once and for all,” said the official. The states will get 90 days to approve a project after it has been referred back to them, after which companies are free to file a fresh application.
Lalit B. Singhal, director general of the Export Promotion Council for SEZs, said the government’s aim is to speed up clearances, and that its latest move will help the 170-odd SEZ proposals that have accumulated with the board over the past six months.
“It is necessary to hasten the endorsement for new proposals and also clear the backlog,” Singhal said. “Many proposals were received when the SEZ policy was new. It is now time to take stock of the projects and separate the serious ones from the non-serious,” Singhal added.
Over the last two months, there has been a fall in new applications, with the rate dropping to one or two a week.
“With over 500 SEZs already in various stages of approval, India now has a significant number of these projects. It was felt that there was no need for the board to keep considering older proposals again and again even as the new applications taper down,” said the commerce ministry official.
There are more than 370 formally approved SEZs, of which over 130 have been notified (this is done after the land acquisition is complete).
None of the approved projects required any government intervention in land acquisition, the official said.