Board on SEZs to meet on Feb 25, likely to consider hike on land cap

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New Delhi, Feb 10 (UNI) The board of approval (BoA) for special economic zones (SEZ) headed by Commerce Secretary G K Pillai, will meet here on February 25 and is expected to consider hiking the cap on land allocated to the SEZs.

Though the Commerce and Industry Ministry has not issued the agenda of the BoA meet, yet it is understood that it could among other things take up the case of multi-product SEZs like that of Reliance Industries' which is slated to come up in Jhajjar district of Haryana.

Ministry of Commerce wants the government to remove the 5,000-hectare cap on such SEZs on a merit basis. RIL's Haryana project has already got BoA's in-priciple approval.

Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath strongly favours lifting the cap which was imposed by the empowered Group of Ministers (EGOM) less than a year ago following widespread protests over land acquisition.

The (EGOM) headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, which was scheduled to meet on February 4 to consider the cap among other issues, was postponed. New date has yet to be announced. However the Commerce ministry officials hope it would meet before February 25 to enable the BoA to take decisions on large SEZs requiring more than 5000 hectares of land.

Besides Reliance Industries, DLF, Omaxe and Ascendas have also planned mega multi-product SEZs.

In December last year, Mr Pillai said the government was considering hiking the cap on land allocated to the SEZ from the present 5,000 acres to 10,000 acres.

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 policy.

The Commerce Ministry favours relaxation of rules on land size since concerns over displacement is being addressed by the The Land Acquisition Amendment bill before the lower house, which is expected to be passed in the budget session.

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

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, Mr Pillai added.

UNI SAA/PBB VC14440

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