Land acquisition for SEZs: SC seeks reply from Centre, 7 states

By: | Published: January 10, 2017 6:49 AM

The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre and seven states on a PIL seeking compensation and return of the unused land, which was acquired for setting up Special Economic Zones (SEZs), to farmers.

GAR Corporation has proposed to set up two IT/ITeS zones in Telangana, while Vaxenic India wants to set up biotechnology and bio pharmaceuticals SEZ in the state. (Reuters)SEZ Farmers Protection Welfare Associations, an NGO, claimed that between 2010 and 2015, several state governments had notified a total of 4842.38 hectare of land as SEZ land, and out of that the companies have utilised only 362.25 hectare for SEZ. (Representative image: Reuters)

The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre and seven states on a PIL seeking compensation and return of the unused land, which was acquired for setting up Special Economic Zones (SEZs), to farmers. It has also sought a CBI probe into all the alleged instances of “misuse” of SEZ land for other use including real estate.

SEZ Farmers Protection Welfare Associations, an NGO, claimed that between 2010 and 2015, several state governments had notified a total of 4842.38 hectare of land as SEZ land, and out of that the companies have utilised only 362.25 hectare for SEZ.

The bench led by chief justice JS Khehar asked the ministry of commerce and industry and the seven states –Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab and West Bengal — to file their reply in four weeks to the plea raised by the NGO.

While stating that the land was acquired for setting up SEZs by the states, it said that most of the land is lying unused and even some corporates have either taken heavy loans from banks or have diverted the land to other uses like real estate.

Quoting a government committee on land reforms, it said that more than 2.1 million hactare of agricultural land has been transferred for non-agricultural purposes during 1990-2003, the NGO said.

Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, on behalf of the NGO, said the companies have very often borrowed from banks by mortgaging these lands and have raised more than R6,000 crore. Even a CAG report in 2014 found that of the 50 SEZs that were approved for the state, only 15 are operational, six have been denotified and as many as 29 are still to start commercial activities, he said.

The senior counsel further told the bench that the government has admitted in the Rajya Sabha that as high as 40% of the total land acquired for SEZ across 20 states of the country remains unutilised up to March 13, 2015. “In a written reply to a Rajya Sabha question, Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state for commerce and industry (Independent Charge) had provided figures on the unutilised land in various states. She said that in four states — Nagaland, Manipur, Goa and Jharkhand — 100% of the SEZ land acquired remains unutilised, while in seven out of 20 states 50% of the total land acquired under SEZ remains unutilised. Some of the states with high ratio of unutilised SEZ lands include Chhattisgarh (78.24%), Haryana (70.69%), Rajasthan (82.31%), Uttar Pradesh (63.24%),, Tamil Nadu (53.08%), Punjab (67.04%), Chandigarh (59.60%),” the petition said.

The PIL further said that more than 77% of notified SEZ land is concentrated in four states – Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. These states have acquired 35,415 hectare of land out of 45,782 hectare of total land acquired by the 20 states. Besides, the SEZ developers allowed to purchase agriculture lands with the support of local government officials/police in various states, it said.

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