Special Economic Zones and Sustainability : A Paradox?

Mrinalini Shinde


Special Economic Zones (SEZs) are meant to be akin to foreign territories with respect to trade, tariffs and duties. They can involve private, public, or joint sectors players for development and there are several hundred such zones in India today. In a globalised world, SEZs can play a crucial role in commercial success as epicentres of globalised trade structures This paper, aims at exploring the existing provisions in law and status quo with respect to Special Economic Zones in India, analysing the problems and benefits of the same, while throwing light on specific locations like Nandigram. The question of sustainability is of prime importance with respect to SEZs, because while they are promising avenues of infrastructural development, technical advancement and flow of capitalist wealth, they also exploit and displace several thousands of citizens, while claiming ultimate upliftment and therein lies the paradox. The questions that need to be considered are, as to what conceptions of development does India need to pursue, and whether or not SEZs will turn out to the white elephants for the Indian State; prima- facie heralding development while requiring massive capital inputs, and land acquisition, resulting in displacement, inadequate compensation, and destitution in order to satisfy „public purpose*. The paper compares the costs and benefits of SEZs, discusses the policy debate regarding SEZs, especially in the context of sustainability, in order to deduce whether the development will be inclusive of larger interests, or satisfy corporate agendas, and thereby critique the legal provisions regarding Special Economic Zones.

Keywords: SEZs, globalisation, sustainability, Nandigram, land acquisition

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