With the Union Budget set to revive Special Economic Zones, West Bengal would lose out on industrial incentives with a rigid anti-SEZ policy in place that has so far stopped entry of IT firms, including TCS and Infosys, in the state.
The state government has in last two years stalled setting up of 18 SEZs planned during the Left Front regime. Sources in state industry department said there were at least 27 proposals of SEZs in 2009-10, of which 18 were close to getting clearance, and could have generated 10 to 12 lakh jobs. The proposals included five SEZs of IT companies at Salt Lake Electronics Complex in Sector V and in Rajarhat-New Town area.
The IT companies included Infosys and TCS, both of which were keen on starting their operations in the state, provided they were given the status of SEZ. The TMC had spearheaded a movement against the proposed chemical SEZ at Nandigram and its manifesto mentions opposition to SEZs.
Party leaders in Kolkata said they will oppose the central government if it would push SEZs in West Bengal. A senior official of the IT department said the government has lost several big IT projects due to the government’s anti-SEZ stance. “It is difficult for IT companies to survive without the benefits that SEZ entail. They need tax benefits to face global competitiveness. Both Infosys and TCS had acquired land but put their projects on hold following the state’s reservation against SEZ status.”
The state scrapped its Special Economic Zone Act (2003) in 2012. A senior industry official said, “For SEZs, all tax benefits are given by the Centre while the state is required to provide permission and land. However, the West Bengal government in its industry policy no longer has a provision for setting up SEZs. So, we do not accept any proposal of SEZs.”Abhirup Sarkar, economist and vice-chairman of West Bengal Industrial Corporation, said, “SEZ or no SEZ is to be decided by the state government. I do not think the Centre can impose the idea on the state. Our government’s policy is that there would not be any SEZ in Bengal.”
He added, “As an economist, I see no economic logic in setting up SEZs. Why should a government give incentives of various kinds and tax benefits to a particular company. This is not fair.”
The state BJP slammed the TMC government for its anti-SEZ stance. “All the state governments will take the benefit of this provision and this would generate huge employment. But our government in Bengal will neither have an industry policy nor a land policy. Which is why no industry is coming here. All these policies, including land acquisition policy, urban land ceiling act and anti-SEZ policy, are deterrents to industrialisation,” said state BJP president Rahul Sinha.