Monday, November 30, 2009

Repeal the anti-constitutional SEZ Act, 2005

Maharashtra, India

“SEZ hatao, desh bachao!”

GORAI, MAHARASHTRA, People’s movements from across India came together in Gorai – Mumbai, Maharashtra, to demand a repeal of the unconstitutional SEZ Act (2005) and to resist the anti-people model of development that SEZs represent. Farmers, fishermen, labourers, activists, artists, journalists and academics from thirteen states gathered at the National Convention Against SEZs to share the experiences of their anti-SEZ struggles and to strategise for a nation-wide movement.

In the name of these zones, hundreds of thousands of hectares of land are being forcibly acquired for the benefit of large corporates at the cost of millions of people’s lives and livelihoods. To date, 1,046 SEZs have been approved by the central government, including 206 in Maharashtra that will require over 1.5 lakh acres. The track record of these zones shows that rather than increasing employment and generating infrastructure for the public good, they are private land grabs for corporates to profit through speculative means.

Addressing the conference, S.P. Shukla, former Finance Secretary for the GOI said “SEZs are not a means of industrialization, but are rather a way of monopolizing natural resources for corporate purposes. We must defend our natural resources for future generations”.
Dr Anand Teltumbde said “SEZs are merely a form of accumulation by dispossession, violating the fundamental rights of the people”. Medha Patkar added that, “These nations within nations are a threat to the sovereignty of the country. Therefore, the SEZ Act must be scrapped.” Various other speakers pointed out that these zones will enclave development for the elite while marginalizing the vast majority of the Indian people.

Peoples movements from Nandigram, West Bengal; Raigarh, Gorai and Pune, Maharashtra; Chandigarh, Punjab; Haryana; Delhi; Orissa; Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat shared their experiences of their struggles and victories and vowed to work together to scrap the SEZ Act (2005). The movements chanted slogans such as “SEZ dhokha hai, dhakka maro moka hai” and “jameen aamchaya hakkachi, naahi kunachaya bapachi”.

The movements proposed various strategies for resisting SEZ development in the country. Among these were a national highway blockage, people’s audits and mock parliaments, dialogue with MP’s , creating a people’s commission on SEZ’s and raising awareness among youth, media and the general public. The peoples audits, being held in locations throughout the country will culminate in national level action in Delhi in January. It was pointed out that not only those losing their land and natural resources, but tax payers in general will suffer through revenue loss caused by the tax concessions granted to SEZ’s.

The National Convention on SEZs was jointly organized by the Socialist Front, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements, Jagatikaran Virodhi Kriti Samiti, Dharavi Bet Bachao Sanghash Samiti, Bombay Catholic Sabha, Aazadi Bachao Andolan and National Centre for Advocacy Studies. Among those present at the event were Subhash Ware, Ulka Mahajan, Surekha Dalvi, Samsunder, Peter Gudino, Neville, Rattan Singh, Manav Kamble, Maruti Bhapkar, Gajanan Khatu, Dhairyashil Patil and Sampat Kale. The convention was hosted by the Gorai Bet Bachao Sangharsh Samiti.

Report by-
Sampat Kale
Programme Officer-NCAS

Saswati Swetlena
Programme Officer,
Governance and Advocacy Unit,
National Centre for Advocacy Studies,
New Delhi

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