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Arun Sadhu

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A Journalist by profession and a renowned author, Arun Sadhu, works with the same passion in both the fields. The precision and convincing power of his reports; alluring yet captivating power of his stories and novels; both are equally enthralling. His news are unbiased while the characters of his novels are real life and absorbing.
Starting a career as a school teacher in a small village of Maharashtra, Arun Sadhu has worked with many news paper from the Times of India, The Statesman and finally as the Editor of the Free Press Journal in Mumbai. At the same time he wrote many novels in Marathi language, Short stories, plays and Biographies, varying on range of subjects from Politics to science fictions and human relationships to history.

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Window on India
September 27, 2006

News Bullets


Opinion

SEZs under a cloud - By Arun Sadhu

This is democracy. You cannot bulldoze your decisions at your will. Even if the intention is benign and the objective is growth, development and general welfare. And of course, there are many layers, legal and constitutional hurdles before you make a decision. And further, there are many more processes through which the plan passes before you see the fruits on ground. The fruit may not be as luscious, healthy, wholesome and nutritious as you had first visualised.. Nevertheless, there is some gain. It serves the purpose.

After all, democracy means people's government. The man/woman on the street is the real king, the ruler. Of course, she, the woman on the street, vests her power in the elected representative. As a result, sometimes during the intervening five years, she is completely sapped of that decisive power which makes and destroys governments. Well, but that is the way how a democracy works. You cannot have a Greek-style democracy of a city state where every citizen could vote in a country of continental size with more than a billion inhabitants.

But here, in the modern democracy, every person above the age of 18 years can vote – the magical universal franchise – unlike the Greek democracy where women and slaves were bereft of any power. And that is how on some crucial occasions, the PEOPLE are all powerful and do exercise their right to demolish a government which seemed omnipotent till yesterday. In between these occasions – the elections – they feel powerless. Even so, sometimes the ruling politicians, the bureaucrats, the ministers, the usurpers of the people's power, are forced to climb down their perches and listen to their masters, the people, show respect to them and take cognizance of their sentiments –even if to protect their own turf.

Thus the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) adopted in India on the Chinese model seem to have come under a cloud and their further proliferation may temporarily go into a cold storage till the vital issues that bear on them are resolved. Not because the people are opposed to them. But because at some places, they are being used as real estate opportunities for sharks at the cost of the peasants who are displaced. When the land is acquired for the SEZ, the compensation paid to the poor peasant holder is sometimes less than one-hundredth of what the authorities actually realise from the final buyer. What is more, the profit thus realised may not go into the State coffers; a large part of it may be gobbled up by the agencies which actually process the transactions on behalf of the government. The original land-holders are left high and dry, without their land, without adequate means of sustenance and without a job. And to rub salt on their wounds, the SEZs, the happiest tax havens that ever existed in India, harbour unscrupulous elements that twist the rules or take advantage of loopholes to make fortune on the sly by cheating the government and the people.

The outcry of the bereaved peasants struck by this blatant injustice has finally reached the highest echelons in Delhi, the seat of the central government. The government is now tightening the norms, evolving stringent procedures to monitor the functioning of the developers and formulating a general policy oof acquiring land for the SEZ so that the displaced original holders are given their due share and are properly rehabilitated. The government is also finalising guidelines for developing social infrastructure for the SEZs including hospitals, schools and houses for the locals.

Incidentally, the Board of Approvals for SEZs has recently given a final sanction to 14 new proposals which takes the tally of approved SEZ proposals in the country to 164. The work is on at a number of SEZ's but the very concept of the special zones has come under suspicion by the people and also by a group of investors as also a few economists. There are many reasons for this: first the lack of fair play and want of justice to the people whose land is requisitioned, second, lack of transparency in the processes followed, third, a sense that the scheme has given a free hand to the land-grabbers and unscrupulous dealers and third, intervention of the government agencies at various stages which some free-marketers see as harking back to the licence-permit raj of the yore.

Perhaps, the course-correction which the government is now attempting would set the matters right and, above all, render justice to the displaced. Otherwise, on the next crucial occasion, which may not be very far, the rulers might experience the strength of the people's real power.


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