Citizens' Issues
State of SEZs is warning for land acquisition

The new land acquisition bill piloted by the government of Prime Minister Modi has been sent to a parliamentary committee for re-consideration after facing opposition and accused of being against farm interests

 

There is strong evidence that past acquisitions of land for development have gone awry. That should serve as a warning, as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government enters the second year in office and proposes to continue its battle for a new, controversial land acquisition law.
 
A 2012-13 report of the Comptroller and Audit General of India, the official auditor of the central government, revealed these key findings:
 
- No more than 62 percent of land -- much of it acquired from farmers -- for special economic zones (SEZs) has been used for its intended purpose: to boost manufacturing, exports and jobs.
 
-- Most SEZs are populated with information technology (IT) and IT-related companies, while manufacturing accounts for only 9 percent of all SEZ projects.
 
-- SEZs fell short of their job, investment and exports targets by wide margins. For instance, they generated less than 8 percent of the jobs expected.
 
The auditor analysed a representative sample of 187 developers and 574 SEZ units spread across 13 states (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal) and the union territory of Chandigarh for the period 2012-13.
 
The new land acquisition bill piloted by the government of Prime Minister Modi has been sent to a parliamentary committee for re-consideration after facing opposition and accused of being against farm interests. 
 
The government’s argument is that India needs to fast track the bill, so that land can be made available for industries-to generate employment and power economic growth. 
 
What about SEZs? They were created, with motives similar to those expressed by the government, under the Special Economic Zone Act, 2000. This was enacted in 2005 to make SEZs growth-engines of the economy. An SEZ is a specifically delineated duty-free enclave, deemed foreign territory for the purpose of trade operations, duties and tariffs.
 
The previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government cleared 576 SEZs covering 60,375 hectares, of which 392 SEZs covering 45,636 hectares were notified (approved land) till March 2014. But on the use of land, of the 392 notified zones, only 152 are operational, accounting ro4 28,489 hectares.
 
The land allotted to the remaining 424 SEZs (31,886 hectares) has not been put to use (52.8% of total approved SEZs), although approvals and notifications in 54 cases date back to 2006. A look at some states and the percentage of idle land, based on the audit report: 
 
- Odisha 96.6 percent
- West Bengal 96.3 percent
- Maharashtra 70.1 percent
- Karnataka 56.7 percent
- Tamil Nadu 49 percent
- Andhra Pradesh 48.3 percent
- Gujarat 47.5 percent
 
In 30 SEZs (1,858 hectares) in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Gujarat, developers made no investments; the land is idle and has been in their custody for between two and seven years.
 
This apart, jobs, investment and exports also fell short of targets by a wide margin, the audit report found.
 
- Employment fell short by 93 percent: SEZs generated 0.2 million jobs instead of 3.9 million.
 
- Investments fell short by 59 percent: SEZs were to attract investments of Rs.194,662.5 crore ($36 billion) and no more than Rs.80,176.3 crore ($14.8 billion) was invested.
 
- Exports fell short by 74 percent SEZs exported goods valued at Rs 100,579.7 crore ($18.6 billion) instead of the projected Rs.395,547.4 crore ($73. 2 billion).
 
Manufacturing was supposed to be a key focus of SEZs, but that did not happen. Of the 625 approved projects, only 152 -- or 24 percent -- of the approved projects were operational. In IT/ITES, out of 354 notified projects, 91 were operational, in multi-product zones, out of 60 approved, 13 percent operations. It was 31 and a mere one for biotech, 26 and nine for pharma and 153 and 38 for others.
 
Almost 56 percent of the approved projects are from the IT sector, while only 9 percent are in the multi-sector, manufacturing business. While 59 percent of of the operational SEZs are in the IT sector, only 8.5 percent are from the manufacturing sector.
 
“The large number of IT/ITES SEZs coincides with the expiry of the 10-year income-tax break period allowed to IT sector under Software Technology Park Scheme which gave a fillip to the sector. Several units closed and shifted to SEZs to avail of the benefits offered in SEZ area,” the report said.
 
Aongthe states, out of the 392 notified SEZs in India, 301 (77 percent) are located in states regarded to be developed. Andhra Pradesh (now bifurcated into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) has 78 units, followed by Maharashtra (65), Tamil Nadu (53), Karnataka (40), Haryana (35) and Gujarat (30).
 
A key reason for the uneven spread of the SEZs across the states, according to the audit report, was the absence of single-window clearance in many states. This led to approval delays.
 
SEZs are mainly located close to urban areas. For example, in undivided Andhra Pradesh, of 36 operational SEZs, 20 were close to the capital city, Hyderabad.
 
The report, in conclusion, said: “The SEZ policy and procedures need to be integrated with the sectoral and state policies with the involvement of the unique advantageous points therein.”

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Telling tales via journeys: Bollywood's latest route
Here's a dekko at a few films of the past decade where you can just sit back and admire the landscape, or even get inspired to pack your bags and travel with family, friends or alone
 
Be it a train journey in "Chennai Express", the National Highway journeys in "Highway" and "NH10", a father-daughter journey from Delhi to Kolkata in latest entertainer "Piku" or a cruise trip in the forthcoming "Dil Dhadakne Do" - Bollywood filmmakers are telling fresh tales set around journeys, mode notwithstanding.
 
This has also helped them to move away from studios and explore real locales. A case in point is the absolutely splendid shot Rohit Shetty took of the Dudhsagar Falls in Goa. Then, there are shots of places like Varanasi which Shoojit Sircar has captured in "Piku".
 
This adds a distinct look to their stories and a welcome change is the fact that they are mostly looking within the country for their locations. Of course, exceptions like "Queen" and Zoya Akhtar's "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara" and "Dil Dhadakne Do" are always there. They're entertaining, nevertheless.
 
Here's a dekko at a few films of the past decade where you can just sit back and admire the landscape, or even get inspired to pack your bags and travel with family, friends or alone:
 
* "Kabul Express": Directed by Kabir Khan, this John Abraham-Arshad Warsi starrer anti-war film tells the story of a 48-hour car drive through war-torn Afghanistan. Shot over 45 days in and around Kabul, the film was critically acclaimed.
 
* "Jab We Met": Imtiaz Ali's second romantic comedy "Jab We Met", featuring the former 'hit jodi' Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor, delighted several film buffs and enticed people to take train journeys to the beautiful Himalayas and even Punjab. The film introduced people to places like the mysterious Ratlam to the lively Bathinda and the picturesque Shimla.
 
* "Chalo Dilli": A film about two mismatched travellers on the road from Mumbai to Delhi via Jaipur showcased the rustic flavour of Rajasthan. Directed by Shashant Shah, the film features Lara Dutta and Vinay Pathak.
 
* "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara": Director Zoya Akhtar explored the journey of self-discovery of three male friends through a road trip in Spain. The film gives viewers a chance to experience a visually delightful road journey in and around the cities of Costa Brava, Seville and Pamplon. To many urban youngsters, the film gave an idea of a perfect 'bachelor party'.
 
* "Chennai Express": This movie takes film buffs on a journey across India -- from the north to the south -- showcasing beautiful visions of the countryside en route. From Dudhsagar Falls in Goa to Munnar in Kerala, this Rohit Shetty directorial and Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone starrer, featured beautiful locations that should be a must-see at least once in a lifetime.
 
* "Highway": As the name suggests, the film was mostly shot on the road and that too on a highway. This Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda starrer may have romanticised a grave issue like abduction, but it also portrays an eye-pleasing montage of images that a road trip can offer a traveller on the highway. So if you are someone who can't go far to travel, this film shows how you can just get into a car or even a truck, and flirt with the road!
 
* "Queen": Kangana Ranaut surely inspired many women to lead life on their own terms through her portrayal of Rani in this Vikas Bahl directorial. In an attempt to find her own identity, she plans to spend her honeymoon alone. Where? In Paris and Amsterdam! The film's success proved viewers enjoyed her journey.
 
* "NH 10": Directed by Navdeep Singh and starring Anushka Sharma in the lead, this film tells the story of a young couple whose road trip goes awry after a run-in with a group of violent criminals. You can also plan a same road trip, but sans an impulsive boyfriend, played by Neil Bhoopalam in the film.
 
* "Piku": No journey can be better than one you enjoy with your parents. "Piku" captures one such father-daughter trip - from Delhi to Kolkata in a car via the scenic and holy Varanasi. Apart from the endearing bond essayed by Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan, the film captures the nitty-gritties of road travel.
 
* "Dil Dhadkne Do": This Zoya Akhtar directorial has caused a fan frenzy ever since the first look and posters were unveiled. This ensemble cast film revolves around a dysfunctional family on a cruise trip and in the course of their vacation, they discover love and friendship. It's likely the film will be a delight for travel lovers.

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UN raises projections for India's growth, making it the fastest-growing economy
he UN has now raised its projections for the Indian economy's growth this year by 1.7 percent to 7.6 percent and by 1.4 percent to 7.7 percent next year from the estimates it made in January.
 
The Mid-Year Update to the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015 released Tuesday puts India on the trajectory to be the world's fastest-growing large economy, outpacing China, the previous champion in the development stakes.
 
The original report by the UN Development Policy and Analysis Division (UNDESA) released in January had estimated India's gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate for this year at 5.9 percent and 6.3 next year. They were behind China's growth rate projection at 7 percent for this year and 6.8 next year in the January report, which remain unchanged.
 
The UN update matches the projections of other international institutions that have put India's growth rate as the fastest, and all of whom have also revised estimates for India upward.
 
Last week, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) released a report that said Indian economy would grow by 8.1 percent this year and 8.2 next year, which are the highest projections made by international institutions.
 
Ingo Pitterle, a UNDESA Economic Affairs Officer and India expert, told IANS in an interview Tuesday, that with "a return to a high degree of macro-economic stability," India is winning the confidence of investors and the international community.
 
"Overall, I think the authorities in India have done a very good job over the past two years and this is actually reflected in some indicators," Pitterle said. "In 2013 India was group grouped together with Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia and Brazil, and considered a fragile economy.
 
"And now you look at the same variables, today they look very different. When you look at the currencies the story is India's is the only currency that has held up well here, which is a sign of confidence by investors, by the international community, in the Indian economy."
 
While the rupee has come down by about 9 percent over the past year, it has done better than the currencies of most other countries.
 
Referring to India's economic policies, Pitterle said: "The changes that are being made are all going in the right direction, both by the government and by the central bank."
 
"I have been following the Indian economy now for seven years or so,(and) I see a return to a high degree of macro-economic stability," he said. "We have seen that inflation came down, and this not only all related to the oil prices but also to a very prudent monetary policy, and we are seeing that the external imbalances have declined, current account balance is much better."
 
Asked about the differences in the UNDESA projections for India's growth and ESCAP's Pitterle said, "I believe that for India's economy whether it grows by 8.1 percent or 7.6 percent, that doesn't matter, not in the medium term or the long run. What is important is that it is balanced growth, that it is the same (level of) growth, that it can really have five-ten years of this high growth period without major disruption without causing excessive inflation or other imbalances."
 
He attributed variations to the time periods and the models that were used to make the forecasts. "We use the calendar year. ESCAP may actually use the fiscal year, which starts on the first of April for India."
 
In the forecasting model DESA used, a significant part of the growth in India over the past year came from net exports mainly because, not because export grew strongly but because of imports declined, he said. The assumption was that net export decline - - that is the difference between the value of imports and exports - - would not continue with the same force, and eventually imports would pick up. "This is a good thing actually for the economy," he said. But "from a GDP perspective, higher import would lead to lower net export and that would probably translate into slightly lower growth."

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