Auditor slams Goa government over special economic zones

March 25th, 2009 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, March 25 (IANS) Virtually confirming suspicions raised by opponents of special economic zones (SEZ) here, India’s official auditor has hinted at a possible scam in the process of releasing vast tracts of land to four of the seven SEZ operators in Goa.
“The Goa Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) executed lease deeds with four SEZ allottees for more area than approved by the Board (SEZ Board of Approval), which was rectified by allotting the area at lesser rates resulting in loss of Rs.39.47 crore,” the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said in a report tabled in the assembly Tuesday.

Criticising the arbitrary allotment of land to SEZ operators, the CAG said while the GIDC had handed over the land to the developers even before the state government formulated its SEZ policy, “the allotments were not made based on any selection process such as invitation of expression of interest”.

The CAG also said GIDC’s decision to keep the annual lease rent (ALR) fixed at the time of allotment unchanged for a lease period of 30 years was an undue concession.

“The change in the clause was detrimental to the interest of the GIDC as it deprived the corporation from revising the ALR as and when the lease premium in that area was revised,” the report stated.

The setting up of several SEZ in the state has created a furore, with the opposition and various civil society groups taking to the streets alleging that the exercise was a camouflage for land-grabbing.

Following rising public outcry, the state government in 2008 scrapped 12 out of the proposed 15 SEZ projects. While seven SEZ promoters had been allotted 3.894 million square metres, only three SEZ projects had been notified.

Chief Minister Digambar Kamat now says the state government has asked the central government to de-notify the SEZs on account of public opposition.

“The state government will not go against the wishes of the people. We have written to the central government seeking de-notification of SEZs in Goa. Their approval is awaited,” Kamat has said.

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