[Reader-list] SociologySeminar at SAU: Dr Preeti Sampat

Diya Mehra diyamehra at hotmail.com
Sun Feb 22 09:04:25 CST 2015

The Department of Sociology, South Asian University cordially
invite you to a seminar: 


Terrains of Legality, Contested Arenas of the State: The Making of the Special
Economic Zones Act 2005

by Dr. Preeti Sampat, Delhi School of Economics

Wednesday, 25 February 2015, Wednesday, 2.30 pm, FSI
Hall, South Asian University, Akbar Bhawan, Chanakyapuri,New Delhi 

Abstract: The Special Economic
Zones Bill 2005 was approved by both houses of the Parliament of India in two
days, with little discussion and zero dissent. By August 2007, a whopping 366
SEZs were formally approved by the Government of India. In marked contrast,
within two years of enactment, resistance against land acquisition for SEZs
erupted across the country from peasants’ and citizens’ groups. State and
central governments responded to resistance variously with violent repression,
tactical reversal, negotiation and deference. In the ensuing furor, the
Government of Goa cancelled all 15 approved SEZs in the state, and
unprecedentedly revoked the state SEZ policy. As SEZs became political ‘hot
potatoes,’ the year 2011 saw a near freeze in investor enthusiasm. Requests for
‘withdrawals’ of approved SEZs grew. By April 2014, the number of approved SEZs
reduced to 576, and SEZs were increasingly portrayed as ‘failures’ and victims
of an ‘unstable policy environment’ by industry representatives and in the
media. The central government’s 2007 decision to disallow forcible land
acquisition for SEZs was a serious blow to medium and large SEZs. The
introduction of the Minimum Alternate Tax by the Ministry of Finance in 2011,
deepened the sense of injury.

Using ethnographic and archival
materials, my work analyzes the law-making process of SEZs in India, and their
failed trajectory of implementation in Goa. The formal law-making process has
involved several Ministries—predominantly Commerce and Finance—at loggerheads
with each other. 'Soft law' settings, by which I refer to industry-bureaucrat
conclaves and recommendations by industry, played a significant role. Protests
in SEZ areas influenced political 'course-correction.' Beyond the pale of
evidence but shadowing formal and soft law circuits, rumors and gossip point to
Ministerial rivalries and high-level corruption as major extra-legal forces shaping
the law. The exclusions and compulsions of these circuits have determined the
legal trajectory of SEZs with ‘revisions’ and ‘reversals.’ In this dynamic
contest of power, legality is unsettled, and ‘the state’ emerges as an arena of
competing ideologies and interests, influenced in turn by historical legacies
and immediate political contingencies.

Sampat is an anthropologist working on rights to land and resources in relation
to infrastructure creation and urbanization in India. Her doctoral work is a
legal ethnography of the Special Economic Zones Act 2005 that traces the law's
policy genesis and evolution at the national level, and failure in
implementation in Goa. Her current research examines emergent land and resource
struggles along the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor. 		 	   		  

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