Government faces SEZ heat in parliament

March 12th, 2008 - 2:38 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 12 (IANS) The Indian government was forced on the back foot in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday after members from the treasury benches joined those in the opposition in slamming the creation of special economic zones (SEZs) and chairman Mohammad Hamid Ansari agreed to a special discussion on the issue. “This is a very serious issue. I am appealing to you to allow a special discussion,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) member Sitaram Yechury urged Ansari during the question hour as MPs from across the spectrum raised their voices to protest the government’s refusal to amend the SEZ as recommended by a parliamentary committee.

“Fine,” Ansari replied and this somewhat served to restore order at a time when it seemed that the house could be adjourned on the issue.

What provoked the MPs’ ire was Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath’s statement that SEZs contained processing and non-processing areas, and that developers could do whatever they liked in the latter.

“They can put up a cinema or even their own house,” he contended in response to concerns from MPs that land in the SEZs could be misused.

“If there is any misuse or abuse, we would be very happy to look into it if any specific abuse is pointed out,” the minister added.

Nath even noted the complimentary words the pre-budget Economic Survey presented last month had to say about the SEZs, maintaining that the concept was “working well, generating employment and powering growth”.

“Therefore, at the moment, there is no proposal to amend the act,” he added.

The minister’s reply failed to cut ice with the MPs, with R. Chandrashekar Reddy of the Telugu Desam Party terming the SEZs as “special elimination zones” and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader M. Venkaiah Naidu calling for a meeting of all political parties on the issue.

“Everyone is opposing the SEZs. This is the sense of the house,” Reddy screamed as the din forced Ansari onto his feet in a bid to restore.

“I am afraid we are getting nowhere,” he said in exasperation before the clock came to his rescue and he announced at the dot of 1 p.m. that the question hour was over.

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