Special Exploitation Zones (SEZs)

Suddenly our business people and industrialists are turning their attention towards rural areas. Not for any real development of the deprived farming communities. But to explore the unexplored avenues of wealth generation for them and their companies. As in other cases the state dances to the tunes of business class and patronises their whimsical ideas. The crucial question is how far the proposed Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are going to mitigate the lives of rural folks? One of the immediate answers from the protagonists of SEZ is that it provides marketing facilities to the agricultural products and can connect international buyers directly to the villages. Agreed because it promises better returns to the ailing farm sector. But when the producing mechanism itself is killed for the construction of godowns and markets, from where would the agricultural goods come from? SEZ policy introduction by the government on 1st April in 2000 and the present enthusiasm to spread SEZs everywhere raises the doubt. If the website of SEZ is to be believed there will be Rs. 1000 billion investment and employment provision for half a million people through these special zones.

Rich and fertile farming lands are converted into real estates for the big industrialists. So far the union government has approved 181 SEZs around the country. Most of these are located in agriculturally rich areas. With drought and famine hitting the most parts of the country, only very few land area is available for essential food crops cultivation. If these lands are occupied for marketing facilities then there will be drastic drop in the food production in the coming years. Seeing the success of China for the past twenty five years in converting the SEZs into a multi billion dollar giving zones, India has started seriously thinking this idea for the last six years. Now the implementation process of this grand idea is in full swing. The tug of war between the ministry of finance and the Planning Commission on the one hand and the Ministry of Commerce on the other is going to play the spoilsport in this fancy idea too. MoF says that too many SEZs will create a loss of Rs. 90,000 crores to the state exchequer. Whereas the MoC believes that the SEZs will bring in Rs. 400 million in annual revenue. Every proposing state is facing tough opposition from the political and social fronts.

Political parties are singing different tunes. Internal differences are implicit in Congress over SEZs. BJP opposes SEZs in agricultural lands. CPI(M) supports this policy while pitching for higher compensation to the landowners and state taking the trouble of SEZ land regulation. The other Left parties oppose tooth and nail this method of development saying that it is against the workers rights and eating away of agricultural lands by big sharks.

The past experience shows that the landowners didn’t get enough compensation from the companies and government whenever their land was taken over for the “development” purpose. This time situation is different. They may be paid excess to the original land price due to the high stakes available in the SEZs in terms of attracting higher foreign investment. India first date with the Zones started with the establishment of Export Processing Zones (EPZs) in 1965 giving duty free capital goods importing and raw materials, fiscal concessions, quick banking and industrial clearances. Last five decades experience of EPZs is not that encouraging. Less than four percent of the country’s exports came from EPZs and it attracted only 17 percent of the total foreign investments. There is no remarkable employment generation and development of the surrounding areas. So an extreme caution must be exercised in pushing forward SEZs in the rural areas.

India needs an Italian born Sonia Gandhi to sensitize the people in the power corridors about the bad consequences of SEZs. After she expressed strong sentiments against the SEZs in the recent Chief Ministers conclave in Nanital, Congress ruled states are thinking twice in going madly in favour of making business with industrialists over rural lands. Now most of the political parties are blowing their trumpets against this scheme and trying to draw political mileage out of the poor farmers frustrations.

An analysis of the following tables will show that there is an increase in the malnutrition and decrease in food production in the country for the past few years. In this scenario, converting agricultural lands into real estates just for quick bucks will be dangerous for the future social situation. Hunger and rural deprivations will push the nation into severe crisis like the ones that are brewing in the Naxal affected areas. Then whatever amount of central package and international aid will be insufficient to ensure smooth sailing of the country.

Table- 1
Calorie Deprivation in India States

Percent consuming Calorie Gap (FGT-1) Calorie Severety (FGT-2) Child Mal-
States Below 2700 Cal/cu (Ref. 2200 Cal/p) (Ref. 2200 Cal/p) nutrition
1983 1999-00 1983 1999-00 1983 1999-00 (


Box office Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi was comfortable in wearing many hats at a time. Barrister, philosopher, activist, freedom fighter, writer, spiritualist, champion of poor’s cause and many more roles he played successfully. In all these ventures his base line was non-violence or ahimsa. Without hurting physically or otherwise, he brought his enemies to his line of thoughts and action. His satyagraha, spinning wheel and self-regulation are hard to be emulated by ordinary people on earth. In this globalised society and economy, Gandhian values are distant dream and mere philosophy to be read and cherished. But no other time was urgently in need of Mahatama as today. With the spreading terror network without discrimination of powerful and powerless nations, Gandhism is the one of the best solution to the highly infectious terror mind disease.

In a short span of time he had silently revolutionized world thoughts and deeds. By his sheer patience, perseverance and novel political philosophy he conquered the mighty British Empire and won India freedom. Mahatma got his great of ahimsa as political tool when a racial Britisher kicked him out of the first class compartment of a train in South Africa. There is no looking back for the ahimsa way of winning hearts and minds thereafter. Satyagraha and ahimsa came with Gandhiji to India. He introduced this method in the freedom struggle. Within another thirty years British Empire fell to his brilliant yet simple ahimsa weapon. He unleashed record after records of new social and political practices. Mahatma practiced what he preached. He refused to accept presidentship or prime ministership. Wanted to mingle and mix with ordinary people, Gandhiji continued to walk with his stick and followers. He was heart-broken to see the abuse of power and positions. Gandhiji was hopeful to get the due share for all the people in his free country. Unfortunately he couldn’t live long after independence either to ensure change or to see the atrocities unleashed on the people everyday in form or the other.

Many thought that the Gandhian deeds and thoughts would vanish after his falling to the cruel bullets of Nadhuram Ghodse on 30 January1949. Contradictory to the calculations of Gandhian enemies and jealous filled attackers, it is thriving even today. The reason for the lively presence and penetration of Gandhian thoughts are many. One, he achieved his and nation’s agenda of winning independence without resorting to violence. That was a very powerful example for non-violent lovers around the world. South Africa and East Timor became free nations following Gandhian methods. Those who had gone for eye for eye and blood for blood route were destroyed and diminished. Palestine, Tamil Elam crisis in Sri Lanka, Chechnya are clear pictures of failure of violence to win freedom. Two, he never rejoiced over his successful experiments. That modesty and sustainability of principled life took him to the Himalayan heights.

Although Gandhism is actively operating in the world there is also violence and war happening indirectly in the lives of people around the world everyday. The new Bollywood hit movie, Lago Raho Munnabhai has brought back Gandhism into the public debate once again. This time with new phrase, “Gandhigiri” which is opposite to dadagiri practiced by underworld groups, anti-social elements and even some ordinary people in the society. Sanjay Dutta mesmerizes the audience with his Gandhian practice to bring his troubleshooters to his line. Surely his style is creating an effective impact among the movie watchers about the non-violent way to achieve their goals and day-to-day work. This hardcore ideology was simplified in the movie to send a strong message to the crowd. Even some of the senior Congress leaders have suggested that showing Lago Raho Munnabhai will be the good idea to celebrate centenary of Gandhi’s satyagraha movement.

Already people are chanting Gandhigiri as their path of life. One’s needs to analyse thoroughly this new found way of promoting Gandhian thoughts for public emulation. It is very difficult to say that the memory of Gandhigiri will be there very longtime with this movie. But it has rekindled the Gandhian spirit that is dying silently in every corner of the country. Although Gandhi is remembered everyday through Khadi Gramodaya bhavans, many universities, colleges, schools, roads, statues, textbooks and souvenirs, his ideas are followed rarely. With Mahatma picture in the backdrop, atrocities are committed in the power corridors, police stations and public places. Every minute downtrodden, women and children are abused and tortured. Violence has penetrated very intensely. Educated youth are getting entangled in the bomb making and blasting innocent lives. It is due to the failure of public representatives and civil society members to influence the thinking of frustrated young people. With society and family abandoning them without adequate care and guidance, more youth are on the way to adopt destructive path.

Politicians remember him only on 2 October and 30 January during his birth and death anniversaries respectively. Wreaths placed on his samadhi with bhajan singing, the political class has say something regarding Gandhiji. With that compulsion they utter few words praising Gandhian theories and practices. But who remembers politicians’ words when the same speakers and message givers did not follow it. On the other side of the spectrum some of the civil society activists like Anna Hazare, Medha Patakar and others use Gandhian hunger strike to negotiate with the government to get justice for the poor people. Now the Indian state run by the followers of Gandhi brutalize the peaceful protestors. The recent lathi charge and inhuman police action on the nursing students in Ludhiana and anti-reservation campaigners does not go well with the Gandhian country.

What is needed now is infusing Gandhian principles among the political class and powerful lobby to create social change. Even if half of them adopt “Gandhigiri” in half of their practices, powerful impact can be shown in the lives of deprived sections. Only commoners shouting Gandhigiri as a slogan and trying to shown it in their lives or films coming up on this theme is not going to pay the real returns of propagating Gandhian values and mantras.