Modi favours SEZs, but not at farmers' cost

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New Delhi, Jan 9 (UNI) Gujarat Chief Minister Mr Narendra Modi was today one with Commerce Minister Kamal Nath on the controversial issue of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), describing them as ''the prime movers of growth in the future,'' and sought investment of the rich Indian diaspora for these projects.

In an interactive meeting with Gujarati NRIs on the sidelines of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) meeting here, Mr Modi said he firmly believed that the future of growth lay in SEZs, but farmers must not be coerced into parting with their land.

''SEZs are going to be the new paradigm of development,'' but these should not be in conflict with farmers' interests,'' he said.

It appears that the BJP is divided on the issue as veteran party leader Murli Manohar Joshi, who headed the Parliamentary Committee on SEZs, made a scathing attack on the manner in which SEZs are being developed in the country.

Pointing out that Gujarat approved 51 SEZs, the largest number in the country, he also took pride in the fact that the state had not witnessed any controversy in this regard and referred to the violence in Nandigram in West Bengal to drive home his point.

Mr Modi said Gujarat was among the earliest states to enact an SEZ Act in 2004. ''Today, as many as 51 SEZs have been approved in the state, of which five are functional and others are in the process of being developed,'' he pointed out.

Asking entrepreneurs to develop their SEZs having world class facilities, he said the state government is also setting up a separate mechanism for proper development and monitoring of the implementation of SEZs coming up in Gujarat.

Mr Modi said the aim of the government is to develop at least one SEZ in each district of the state.

He also said the state government had identified some Special Investment Regions (SIRs), based on their existing industries and potential for infrastructure growth, for their development as industrial clusters or corridors.

Some of the identified regions include Dholera Special Investment Region, Petroleum, Chemical, Petrochemical Region (PCPIR) at Dahej and the Ankleshwar-Baroda region.

''These SIRs are not expected to depend upon the fiscal incentives from the Government to attract investors to the state, but it will be the quality of infrastructure that would lure them to Gujarat. The development of SIRs would be self-contained and comprehensive in nature,'' he said.

Mr Modi said his government believed in wooing industrialists and entrepreneurs by providing quality infrastructure and through a string of incentives.

In support of his argument, Mr Modi said the Uttarakhand government announced a number of incentives to the pharmaceutical industry, but not a single company in the sector shifted there from Gujarat.

UNI SKS PB GC1810

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