Govt considering hiking land cap for SEZs: Pillai

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New Delhi, Dec 3 (UNI) Notwithstanding the stiff opposition from the BJP and the Left parties, Commerce Secretary Gopal Krishnan Pillai today said the government was considering hiking the cap on land allocated to special economic zones (SEZs) from the present 5,000 acre to 10,000 acre.

Mr Pillai, however, said a decision has not yet been taken as to whether the new cap will be done on a case to case basis or it will be across the board as a change in poilcy.

The Commerce Secretary made these remarks on the sidelines of the India Economic Summit here. The three-day summit, inaugurated yesterday by Finance Minister P Chidambaram, has been jointly organised by the World Economic Forum and CII .

Mr Pillai said the enhanced availability of land will be part of the The Land Acquisition Amendment Bill which is now before Parliament.

He said 34 multi-product SEZs are coming up and only three to four have land higher than the present limit of 5,000 acre.

The Empowered Group of Ministers, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, had recommended a cap of 5,000 hectares on the size of SEZs. It had asked the governments not to intervene in any manner in land acquisition proceedings.

The SEZ controversy has seen much heat and dust being raised in both Parliament and outside it. Members from almost all political parties, especially those from the BJP and the Left, are opposed to the manner in which the SEZ policy is being pursued.

They have been joined in their protests by civil society groups all over the country.

So much so that the SEZ concept has become a very highly emotive one. The two key points on which the opposition is strong are related to giving a fair deal to the farmers and the fact that there is not enough leeway to ensure that land allocated to SEZs is used for propelling exports.

The only condition in this regard in the SEZ Act relates to foreign exchange neutrality.

The Bill to be introduced in the lower house will be tabled by the Ministry of Rural Development.

Mr Pillai said the Bill will address the issue of higher compensation to the people who are displaced because of allotment of land to the SEZs.

The official said apart from higher compensation the attempt on the part of the government would be to make the displaced population partners in the companies that are set up. This could be by way off by giving them shareholding and ensuring their employment.

UNI

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