Some 40 percent of land for special zones unutilised: Minister

New Delhi, March 18:

Even as political parties spar over the contours of the new bill on land acquisition, nearly 40 percent of the area acquired for special economic zones in the country remain unutilised, official data showed Wednesday.


Out of 45,782.64 hectares of land acquired for the 365 notified special economic zones (SEZs) across India, as much as 18,023.71 hectares is lying vacant, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman told parliament in a written reply.

Incidentally, the maximum land lying unutilised is in Gujarat – the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of which he was chief minister till 2014. But the state also boasts the maximum utilisation as per area, and not equating it with the percentage of total available land used.

Out of 12,382.83 hectares of notified land, 6,818.58 hectares have been used and 4,795.29 is lying vacant. In terms of percentage of land unutilised, the state is just a shade better than the national average at 38.7 percent.

The area of 45,782 hectares is larger than that of Sweden, slightly less than that for Spain, and roughly the size of Puducherry.

The fresh data on land meant for special zones lying vacant comes at a time when the Modi government has proposed a unified, pan-India legislation for acquisition of land and providing due rehabilitation mechanisms for all affected persons, replacing the age old Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

The proposed new legislation, which most of the opposition parties are opposing in the present format and terms, has to be adopted by the respective state governments once passed, since land, as explained by Sitharaman, is a state subject in the constitition.

“State governments have been advised that in case of land acquisition for SEZs, first priority should be for acquisition of waste and barren land and if necessary single crop agricultural land could be acquired for the SEZs,” the minister said.

“If perforce a portion of double cropped agricultural land has to be acquired to meet the minimum area requirements, especially for multi-product SEZs, the same should not exceed 10 percent the total land required for the SEZ,” she added.

“Further, the state governments have been informed on 15th June, 2007 that the Board of Approval will not approve any SEZs where the state governments have carried out or propose to carry out compulsory acquisition of land for such SEZs after 5th April, 2007.” (IANS)

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