Nandagudi and the SEZ
The pace and zeal with which resource rich land is being acquired in different parts of the country in the name of ‘development’ is shocking, to say the least. The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act of 2005 has made it the govt.’s task to acquire land for anyone who can claim to set one up and convince the babus in the Ministry of Commerce. An SEZ would be a sovereign of its own. One would need documentation to move anything into or out of an SEZ, similar to those needed to move anything into or out of a country. In exchange for this almost unrestrained freedom, the SEZ is expected to have a positive net foreign exchange. A recent CAG report lays out how SEZs reap the benefits while defeating this objective.
SEZs are mushrooming across the country(side). More than 500 of them have been cleared and more than twice that many are waiting for approval. A ‘multi-product’ SEZ is proposed to be set up on 12,500 acres of fertile land in Nandagudi hobli of Bangalore Rural district. It has been given provisional approval and the Govt. of Karnataka is testing the waters to begin the land acquisition process. The SEZ would lead to the displacement and loss of livelihood of more than a lakh people. Farmers from Nandagudi are known for their milk-silk and vegetables and supply about 30% of the fresh produce bangaloreans consume daily.
Nandagudi Bhooswadeena Horata Samiti (NBHS) (Anti-land Acquisition Committee of Nandagudi) was formed to lead the struggle. The community got its first information of the designs being drafted on their land when the media reported that an application for a SEZ was filed. Neither the local community nor the local elected bodies knew that a Nikhil Gandhi from SK Infrastructure Limited, had sought that their land be acquired by the goverment.
NAPM, Sahaja Samrudha, Community Health Cell, AID Bangalore and various other groups organized protest marches and dharnas against the SEZ act and in particular the proposed SEZ in Nandagudi. The change of govt. in Bangalore is not expected to change the direction of the onslaught by much. The NBHS has taken the GoK to court over its attempts to silently convert forest land into state government land.
Over the next few months and years I hope to support this struggle in whatever way that I can and will be posting about it…