Nirjhari Sinha


When Modi became the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001, one of his primary focus was to build as many Special Economic Zones (SEZs) as he could to make his industrialist friends happy. According to Gujarat Government, there are presently 55 SEZs in Gujarat covering an area of approximately 27,125 hectares. Some of the SEZs have been given away to his close friends, Ambani, Adani and Tata. For eg, Adani got the Dholera and Mundra SEZ, Reliance got the Reliance SEZ, while Tata got the Tata SEZ.


But why did these industrialists make a beeline for SEZs? Large corporations have always lobbied from the state, “labor flexibility“. However, due to strength of unions and other formations in India, this was impossible to implement throughout Gujarat, which is why separate zones were required. In SEZ, certain very important rights under the labor laws are taken away. Acquiring thousands of hectares of land for these SEZs also resulted in forceful land-grabbing from the poor farmers. This has resulted in the displacement of poor farm families and villagers and gross human rights violations by the state at the behest of private capital.


Since the corporate bodies working under demarcated SEZs do not have to pay certain local taxes, this also means transferring the burden of local tax on the common man to create a tax free haven for the rich corporates. This is the Gujarat model of Narendra Modi which he now wants to implement now in all of India to please the Indian American NRI businessmen and other multinational groups.


On September 28th 2014, Modi in his Madison Square Garden extravaganza in New York announced that his government is looking to abolish all the outdated laws. He also announced that he has created a committee to look into all the ‘outdated laws’ and his aim is to repeal one law per day. Next day on September 29th, 2014, he hosted a breakfast meeting with the heads of 11 major US companies, including Google, PepsiCo, Citigroup, Cargill, and Caterpillar. He then held one-on-one meetings with the CEOs of Boeing, KKR, BlackRock, IBM, General Electric, and Goldman Sachs. Responding to big business complaints that India has not done enough to open up its economy to foreign investment, and that its regulations limiting layoffs and plant closures are “onerous (incovenient)”. Modi declared “India is open-minded. We want change.”. Essentially telling the business heads that rights of labourers in India will not impede their business interests in India anymore.


On the same day as Modi’s meeting with all the business magnates, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government has identified 287 obsolete laws to be repealed in the winter session of Parliament. As reported inLivemint, changes to three key labour laws—the Factories Act of 1948, the Apprentices Act of 1961 and the Labour Laws Act, 1988 have been introduced in Parliament. Rajasthan’s BJP Government has already approved amendments to federal labor laws, including the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 (IDA), Factories Act, 1948 (FA) and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 (CLRA).


Government is also moving to water down certain provisions of the Land Acquisition Act to make it investor-friendly and the Rural Development Ministry led by Nitin Gadkari has suggested a number of amendments to the Act that seeks to dilute pro-farmer provisions like mandatory consent of at least 70 per cent locals for acquiring land for PPP projects and 80 per cent for acquiring land for private projects.


Thus Modi government is intervening aggressively to eliminate all barriers including environmental and labour regulations to make India ‘business friendly’ for his NRI friends and multi-nationals by striking down all labour friendly and farmer friendly laws one by one. What Modi is trying to do is bring his Gujarat SEZ Model to the entire country.


There is an urgent need for all trade unions, farmers’ organizations and human rights organizations to come forward and defeat this sinister design of Modi Government which wants to further impoverish the labourers and farmers of this country.


October 2, 2014

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