Special economic zones may have got the green signal from the group of ministers, but it is now being termed as unconstitutional. Article 243 G and 243 Z e and Z d in the constitution introduced in 1992 will be stumbling blocks for the smooth passage of the SEZs despite 117 of them being cleared by the Centre.
Activists, including Medha Patkar and legal experts pointed out today that the Articles require each village community to make its development plan which is to be incorporated in the district plan. But neither the district planning committees nor the State Finance Commissions are in place in most states except rare cases like Kerala, they pointed out.
"Till a time a village or district committee with specific development plans is in place, how can the SEZs be thrust on the country?" ask the activists who are planning a countrywide agitation against SEZs from April 9.
The district committees will say how much agricultural land the village would want to retain. In fact, Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia in a letter to all state chief secretaries last year had sent reminders to set up their devolution machineries with district and village planning plans, Patkar said.
"Now how can the same person sit in an empowered group of ministers and approve SEZs which is a top down approach to development and militate against not only democracy but the Constitution itself?" ask Patkar and Sanjay Parikh, a Supreme Court advocate on environment and human rights.
The government can allow SEZs once they get approval from village and district planning boards, said Parikh.