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SEZing fertile land!!!

Written by: Pavithra Rao

Open any school textbook for the primary classes and you will surely come across one sentence that will read as follows: Agriculture is the backbone of Indian economy.

For centuries, India has been an agricultural nation. Indians, especially those living in the rural areas, have always been dependent on agriculture for a livelihood. Even the Green Revolution, which gave boost to our economy, proves how much India depends on agriculture.

But when India entered the new millennium, agriculture slowly began losing the battle to industrialization.

Manufactured goods and services market grew so much so that they now support our economic growth. Indian exports are now not just agricultural products but include a range of other products. And this could be possible only because of industrialization.

Industrial units proved extremely beneficial to India. They helped in increasing exports and there by earned a lot of foreign exchange. This huge flow of foreign exchange was nothing but a boost. The next step was foreign investment. And then again the best way to earn these investments were industrial units.

The government, to ensure increased foreign investments in India, started developing Special Economic Zones (SEZ).

A Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is a geographical region where economic laws are liberal than the nation's typical economic laws. The main goal is to increase foreign investments.

SEZ helps to enhance foreign investment and promote exports from the country. SEZ also helps in providing a level playing field to the domestic enterprises and manufacturers to be competitive globally.

In April 2000, the Government of India announced the introduction of Special Economic Zones policy in the country. SEZs are deemed to be foreign territory for trade operations, duties and tariffs purposes.

So far so good!!!!

But now India should learn that too much of anything is too bad. SEZs are the best option to earn foreign exchange and in turn also provide employment but does that mean India should now stop looking at agriculture?

The craze for SEZ is such that now the government is diverting fertile agricultural land towards industrialization. Land is being snatched from the poor labourers and marked for SEZ. If this continues what will the labourers do? How will they earn their livelihood? And moreover if all the fertile land is taken away for SEZ where will India grow its crops? What will Indians feed on? Manufactured goods?!!

The latest entrant to the SEZ is the fertile land in Singur in West Bengal. The communist government in West Bengal is using all its strenght to give away the vast agricultural land to Tata Motors for its upcoming SEZ. The state government has all at once realised the importance of SEZ and is backing Tata with all its might thereby pushing the poor labourers working on the land to starve to death.

Developing SEZs on barren land is understood. In that case, the otherwise useless piece of land is used for good. But if fertile lands are earmarked for SEZs then the day is not far when India will import its food from other countries. As it is the government imports wheat and certain other agricultural products, but if the trend continues all the earnings from SEZ will have to be used for importing food. Does not make sense, does it?

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