While I appreciate and welcome the export-oriented Special Economic Zone that boosts the wider growth of the economy, it has always struck me as "at what cost?".
Taking away the farm lands, and erasing 1000's of acres to build concrete structures - what do we do to counter-balance the ecological, social and economic impact of this?
Taking away acres of farmland for SEZs definitely starts depleting the water table - to start with. It also adversely impacts the flora and fauna of the region. One of the positive solutions could be to make mandatory to create special agri zones - earmarking atleast 20% - within SEZ, to protect farming and provide all modern farming technology available to them. These would include providing amenities like deep bore-wells, water treatment plants.
Social impact of "haves" and "have-nots". Get the SEZ to depend on the agri produce of neighbouring villages. Also, allow for a "Farmer's Supermarket" kind of thing within SEZs. I feel this would start bridging the gaps, and help in local development. Allow for social development by first building schools with help of NGOs - let the corporate companies contribute to this at 100% tax-free; let these schools be vocational centers depending on the kind of industries that come up in the SEZs. Provide employment to atleast one member of every family, if the livelihood is to be affected by the forming of SEZs.
Economic imbalance created by the payout of market-price by the Govt to buy out the property. Any owned piece of land - either as investment or as mere wealth creation for the common locals becomes meaningless. The bureaucratic argument of "this piece of money will help them regain the piece of land elsewhere" may not be very applicable. First thing is the land-value appreciation in nearby areas. One of the solutions, I am thinking here would be to lease the land from the owner at the market price for say - 25 years or so. And renew the lease depending on the situation then - when even P. Chidambaram feels SEZs are paying off.
Prepare for SEZ Co-operative Banks and stores, in the lines of Grameen Banks model. Encourage the units within SEZ to use this bank for their salary accounts et al. Few more points to be added here, I am not clear about this right now.
Now how would we ensure establishing such measures? Any unit within SEZ would become operative only after there is a collective contribution for all of this. Or simply squeeze their u-know-where.
If such steps are not taken, SEZs would become another "Sardar Sarovar".