Farmers must get good deals on land loss to SEZs

New Delhi, Jan 18 | Updated: Jan 19 2007, 05:30am hrs
Joining the cry for a better deal for farmers while setting up SEZs, rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has written to the commerce ministry to include provisions under the SEZ Act that enables farmers to develop equal area of wasteland into cultivable land, where acquisition of farmland is inevitable. In a letter to the commerce minister Kamal Nath earlier this week, Singh also mentioned that his suggestion was under consideration in the draft paper on National Rehabilitation Policy 2006. A draft Cabinet note on the policy is ready and will be sent to Cabinet secretariat, he said.

You would agree that prime agricultural land should not be acquired for establishing SEZs or industrial units and these need to be established invariably on wastelands. Under unavoidable circumstances, if it is necessary to acquire agricultural land for the said purposes, the project promoters must be made responsible to develop equal stretch of wastelands simultaneously to avoid any loss of farm produce," he said, adding that he has requested the minister to keep the above suggestion in mind while approving any SEZ proposals in the country.

In a separate status note on the issue, Singh said, Some mandate in this regard may also be possible through the provisions for social impact Assessment (SIA), which is being envisaged by his ministry under the proposed National Rehabilitation Policy." A bill based on the proposed policy is expected to be introduced in the Budget session of the Parliament, which will consequentially amend the Land Acquisition Act of 1894.