Plan panel, finance ministry officials divided over SEZs

July 9th, 2008 - 7:37 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) Agricultural land can be used for developing special economic zones (SEZs) if it was not very fertile, Planning Commission member Anwarul Hoda said here Wednesday, attracting sharp criticism from a finance ministry official. “One cannot justify agricultural land acquisition by saying that it accounts for just 0.1 percent of the total land,” R. Sekar, joint secretary, Central Board of Excise and Customs under the finance ministry, said in his address at an international conclave on SEZs, soon after Hoda’s address at the same venue.

“People are not disposable commodities that can be replaced so easily without proper policy framework and suitable arrangements for them. So, the whole issue has to be more inclusive,” Sekar said.

In his address, Hoda said, “Agriculture will have to give way in certain areas for other types of economic activities to improve the living standards of those dependent on agriculture. It is inevitable.”

Sekar reacted, saying the issue couldn’t be dismissed so conveniently. “The whole issue has wider implications and is much more complex than that presented,” he said.

“The very rare tax incentives (to SEZs) are to support economic growth and not vested interests. However, the incentives are attracting real estate developers and people with other vested interests as well,” Sekar added.

“Also three-fourths of the SEZs are IT SEZs, which do not require that much land. So these issues require serious consideration,” he said.

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