SEZ: Sense [of belonging] Eroded Zilla: Colony-islands within a nation-state

Soumitra Bose

Prologue

SEZ. Special Economic Zone. There is a lot of speciality within this Zone -an area that is especially distinct and yes dis-entangled from the tentacles of the REST. The attitude is Seclusion. Secluded Expropriation Zoo – where human beings will be ushered in day in day out to get expropriated of all the juice and elixir and then let out at the end to get replenished from the Other that is the REST. That human body – the packet, will be filled- up to be juiced out again the next day. Quotidian extracting of human labour processed into Capital generation [do not read formation- it is far more technical and restrictive] SEZ- a perfected machine of Global colonization to churn out ready Capital only through Super-profit.

It is Marx and yet much Beyond Marx. The generation of Super-profit here does not precede any kind of Profit through normal market mechanism. It is simply an Enclosure where all kinds of non-market and non-exchange mechanisms will have full reign to bring out the wealth that will never bother, care or mind any market anywhere real or virtual and yet would generate profit- this kind of Super-profit is beyond Marx. Marx conceived of Super-profit as Rent. Marx did also conceive of absolute ground rent, even by stretching the connotation of “ground” to any labour producing space, we still cannot relate to Marx with the logic of our SEZ- here we have a space where the “owner” holds the nominal title of land, labour and yes many a times or, why not, most of the times Capital and still the rentee enjoys the occupation and very funnily extracts rent from the renter. Aha! This is colony-logic. You give, you pay, you own in paper and I own in real terms and I enjoy. The Master [read colony master] extracts labour power, transforms it into Capital, repatriates it, throws away the used parts to be replenished by the renter and then makes the renter pay for the whole transformation process. You own, you replenish, you provide, I take out the Capital, you get only one thing – a metric for your books called GDP. What will the renter do with it? None of rentee’s botheration. This is a Secluded Extraction Zone for him- the rentee. Rentee is the Master here- the owner is the slave. In old age colonies the Master invested the armed forces to subjugate and yes was responsible or (ir)responsible for the governance, administration and to a lot extent the up-keep [ or “up-unkeep”] of the space, here they don’t. They are (ir)responsible for nothing, and yet rewarded the profit- just because they chose to come here and increase the book value. Super-profit, Rent or Super-Rent, Marx or beyond Marx SEZ now is the Zeitgeist of what we all are elated to roll the read carpet for – DEVELOPMENT. A third world now is measured by a number and a volume- SEZ!.

How many SEZs will it take to call a nation-Developed?

The answer my friend is getting archived in the documents! The answer is touted in lectures!

Numbers: Arithmetic of SEZz

The government has now paved the way for immediate notification of formal approval for as many as 54 SEZs. Another 29 SEZs just await clearance from the Law Ministry, while 88 applications are now passing through the stage of verification. Then there are 162 SEZs that have already secured in-principle approval and only formalities remain to be completed. And then there are 350 new applications waiting for approval. Add up all these categories and the total is already close to seven hundred! If the average size of an SEZs is assumed to be 2000 hectares or 5000 acres,[Please note the highest stipulated limit for a single SEZ is 5000 acres and there is no bar if a space is subdivided and sub-divided into many named SEZs placed side by side] seven hundred SEZs would occupy around 1.4 million hectares or 14,000 square kilometres! And this is all prime land – agricultural or otherwise – in the vicinity of India’s major urban centres.

A Great Scheme indeed! Please note the (un)text between the lines:

· A SEZ need be as much contiguous as possible
o For the sake of ease and usability of course
· It needs to be near the metros, highways and beside the best navigable roads
· It needs to be prime agricultural spots as
o Previously used up [ or fouled-up-and-now-abandoned] barren spaces are too cumbersome to handle due to litigations and otherwise.

Well, here again the condition and definition includes an assumption and of course a provision- the best of the infrastructure the OTHER or the hapless provider [ read the native country] can provide. Add up the SEZ area and you will find a sixth of West Bengal, more than a third of the Kerala state- a small(!) price indeed to pay for India to scurry up the development ladder.

· Collateral damage (?) –
Another little price to be paid goes along.

· Loss of production (?) –
Oh yes, another minor one – to insignificant to note (sic!)

· Loss of environment and climate (?) –
Grow up! And let us lot spill good breath over serious money matters

· Loss of history, culture, neighbourhood (?) –
Oh! Development is serious and emotion does not have any scope here, let us keep those off for films and novels, that we would enjoy and sell again.

· Loss of livelihood of people (?) –
These poor lazy bums would have died anyway and anyhow, why pamper them and appease them- slaves and peasants are cankerous sores. Let us “civilize” them or “proletarianize” them and make them “responsible” wage earners.

The baggage: what comes along?

SEZs come along with a baggage, or rather packets to make the baggage, of different types, some of exclusions and others inclusions. The attitude of seclusion makes more of exclusions than of inclusions. The inclusions comprise

o Occasional housing for the leaders and officials who would run the show
o In some cases some provisions for these officials to take care of their familial chores like schools and crèches for the kids
o Power house to serve the enclosed zone
o Luxury facilities to be enjoyed by them
o And of course a system to preserve and thrive the corporate culture.

All these of course are only available to a selective few- exclusion here too! The principal Mantra is Exclusion! You exclusion more to thrive here! You reject more than you accept and that is how you belong to the “chosen few”.

Now let us peruse through the exclusions:

o Law of the land:
SEZ will be a space outside the realm of any kind of law of the land. The authority of the SEZ [read the rentee- the occupier] would decide which selected few laws of the land they will comply with and the host others they would not.

o Labour law:
Besides ordinary civil or criminal procedures, labour laws that affect any labour within the country will be summarily suspended. The authority of SEZ will have their own whims, they are even not obliged to lay down their own set of fixed rules or laws, they are free to do anything at any point of time with the labour.

o Labour provisions:
Remunerations and labour provisions and conditions of work do not apply within SEZ. The authorities are free to fix or unfix or even keep variable the minimum wage for the labour and any maximum time they deem fit for the labour to work.

o Labour arbitration:
The employees or the labourers will not necessarily be going through any kind of negotiation in legal formats as within the SEZ law of the land or law of any other country does not apply.
The employees may or may not have any negotiating right or mechanism to talk or deal with the authorities. The authorities will have full freedom in deciding the mores and modes of dealing with the labourers.
And therefore there is no question of a third party arbitration that will in any way be binding upon the authorities.

o Single authority:
While discussing these provisions we must not harbour any illusion that every single SEZ will necessarily have one single regulating or monitoring or managing authority. A SEZ can have multiple enterprises within and each enterprise is absolutely free to decide its mode of operation and modes of acts by themselves without the presence of any third party or intermediary.

The SEZs will as an empirical rule be provided with the maximum RESERVATION and SUBSIDY. The upcoming and “progressive entrepreneurs” will recruit working hands and labourers without any specific guideline to follow and are free to choose anyone they feel like from within the host country and the host society and yet are often very vocal about what they know term as “merit” and doing away with “reservation” but would enjoy all kinds of subsidies and reservations for themselves, let us go through those subsidies that they would enjoy to be provided by the native country:

· Tax Holiday:
The SEZ authorities will be given a long tax holiday, state taxes, state excise and even in some cases even central excise is exempted.

· Free electricity:
The state will provide free electricity or electricity in less than nominal rate for the production system.

· Free water supply:
The state shall provide free water and will allow the authorities to tap as much as free ground water as they feel and wish without any restriction to type or volume.

· Free road infrastructure:
The state or lay down proper road to the facility from the most important metro and other important facility points.

· Free of other regulatory payments:
The state will not impose any taxes that are generally levied on to the enterprises outside the SEZ area.

In addition to these the state or the province will ensure every kind of navigability and support structure so that the work within the SEZ can run with ease and at a growing pace.

The state will be bound to take care of any security concern of the people, mostly the officials of the SEZ, the general “smooth” running of the SEZ and the no disturbance or tough going within or outside the SEZ.

The banks. Financial institutions and service sector institutions nearby the SEZ will be providing service at the speed, time and other service requirements of the SEZ authorities – all these to ensure smooth extraction of profit and repatriation abroad or outside.

Who stands to gain?

The Stakeholders of the SEZ operation will be the owners of the means of production. They will produce and sell at their chosen market at their chosen price in their chosen time. These will then have the full freedom to stash the profits wherever and whenever they can. They will definitely be a chosen few to gain. Another big and privileged and yet subsidized and appeased class of billionaires or at least multi-millionaires will be created. Already India is a country with more than 100 top Asian billionaires where almost a billion or so are below the poverty line. We talk in billions now- both I terms of wealth amassed and in terms of numbers who slip down the wealth ladder – a little every minute.

There is another group of people who will never be within those enclosed spaces and yet will ever be benefited by those spaces. They are the realtors and the realty industry hommies. If there is one single boom in a industry it is the construction industry- the suppliers, the builders, the promoters, the middlemen, the musclemen, the mafias and of course the party apparatchiks who make people comply with the SEZ construction.

Marx talked about primitive accumulation of Enclosed spaces in eighteenth century England where Capitalism got its cheap fodders from for the sake of industrialization. Today the entire other-than-SEZ is such a space. The form is different rather just the opposite. The enclosed space is extracting out everything from the vast un-enclosed space for the present day neo-modern accumulation. The essence is the same the point of incidence has been swapped.

We will have enclosed spaces where production process would use the automation developed for a different nation and a different perspective copied and pasted out of context in this native time and space. The Mantra again is high productivity. But here the definition of productivity is very restrictive. Apparently it shows that output per unit of human labour is important but then it goes on to implement the maximum output with minimum factor input in terms of labour cost, this is buttressed and cheesed up by the minimum amount of variable capital input. These SEZs will deploy a very high and disproportionate organic composition of capital or fixed capital and there it will reap the benefit by fast depreciation of the values of the assets in the books and paying no Capital taxes. The factor investment per unit of variable capital, either in terms of increasing the skill of the labourer and/or the betterment of the working condition and of course connected with the no or minimal pay rise, will be put down to the bare minimum. The profit thus obtained is not the one realized from market restructuring or reorganization but simply by de-skilling of the labour power.

Who falls flat to lose?

All others! Yes that is exactly the description!

· The employees
o In terms of real wage and real negative growth
o In terms of de-skilling
o In terms of share of the production process and to the final product
o In terms of job guarantee and tenure
o In terms of loss of planning power for their future because they would not know what is coming next
o In terms of saving and investment plan anarchy increasing because of this uncertainty.
o In terms of social and cultural life
o In terms of leisure time for every worker

· The state:
o In terms of less and less earning as the years pass by
o In terms of providing real wealth and natural wealth
o In terms of decelerating rate of employment growth as these companies will either create job-less growth or job-loss growth
o In terms of a dwindling base of the consumer economy, as less and less people will have access to proper purchasing power.
o In terms of loss of agricultural produce
o In terms of loss of water resource and replenish-able natural storage resource
o In terms of increasing expenditure to employ more and more security personnel who do not add to any value.
o In terms of mal-distribution of the public utilities and distribution system.
o In terms of growing enmity and acrimony in the society between the miniscule beneficiaries and huge mass of deprived ones.
o In terms of less and less amount of amassing of small savings to provide for further investments.

· The common people:
o In terms of dwindling of available natural resources
o In terms of the real wealth getting siphoned to provide for the SEZ.
o In terms of increasing inflationary pressure in the quotidian prices of commodities.
o In terms of shooting up of prices of service products like medical, educational etc.
o In terms of their collective culture and life-style getting shattered through the demonstrative effect.

· The nation-state or the country:
o In terms of loosing sovereignty
o In terms of broken democracy or body politic
o In terms of social and political unity and cultural identity as these SEZs will be culturally, socially and psychologically islands of the metropolitan west inside the native land.

Infrastructure: To whom you belong?

Infrastructure is for all the people. For the whole nation! It is like the common pool from where different people take their need and use it differently. It is provided publicly, with public cost and maintained by the public authorities on behalf of the public. The income if any from any infrastructure facility is to be ploughed back for the public cause.

Even in terms of capital’s need public investment reduces unit level private investment. With highly developed infrastructure the private enterprises would rush anyway to invest. The huge cost of acquiring new business, that of communication, that of maintenance, that of travel, that of distribution, that of maintaining the supply chain and that of the ease and mobility of the work force are taken care by advanced infrastructure. This cost is huge and if the onus is taken away any investor would rush to reap the profits with only concentrating on the capital and variable cost.

The reason why SEZ needs prime motorable places near to metros is to avail of all the facilities a society can offer and thereby to mitigate the risk of production by fixing he uncertainties. Had the government invested in infrastructure development and subsidized their build up we would have seen a flood of private investors with their new concepts and they would not mind paying the work force a little extra something with a guaranteed job tenure with a steady increment to ward off the inflationary pressure. Our government is doing exactly the opposite. It is the tail that wags the dog here ! The government should have geared up the infrastructure and then let in the investors in the terms laid down by the government and now we see that the government is interested in preparing infrastructure to serve the capitalists by serving under the terms laid down by the capitalists. This is the destiny of mediocrity, of not comprehending the rules of society and even the market and that of economy and the algebra of Capital formation. When you fail to understand the science you drop out and become a mafia. The rule is true in individual real life and in the society or governance as well.

Development: thy name is Displacement: thy soul is eaten.

Every such development brings along Displacement. Displacement from the livelihood, from the history, from the surroundings, from the culture, from the human civilization! It creates a massive roving band of refugees- the people become a permanent refugee. A nation or society does not remain that of the domiciles but turn into one of refugees. They do not belong, they do not owe, they do not own, they drift! Drifting becomes the part and parcel of life in globalization. Oldies lament with “family values”, people lose their social values. Values are never created, as they do not stay to be registered or take root- they drift. Values drift because society drifts; society drifts because people drift collectively. One is not known, as one is never identified. One is not characterised; one is simply a number. A number is dispensable and therefore is not distinguished: a number is simply disposable. When a living and creating thing becomes a number, one becomes substitutable – a Robot. A number is the biggest anathema to creation and to life. A drifter is anti-artiste, he does not produce, if at all there is some thing there is anti-creation, anti-artefact, anti-product that actually annihilates previously produced artefacts. The basic piled up knowledge pool that accumulated to create are eaten up, diminished, and marginalized by anti-artefacts and anti-produces. One such anti-artefact is the weapons of mass destruction, that of mass-delusion, that of mass-deception, that of mass-depression and thereby mass-defection, mass-non-compliance leading to mass-anarchy. Drifters form the bedrock of mass-anarchy, not of any education, nor of any value, nor of any promise, nor of any plan.

Development mobilizes towards incessant mobility. People get mobile, they do not settle, not belong, not love, not share, not sacrifice for any cause or dream, they simply fight to survive, snatch to grow and kill to live for the next moment. It does not DEVELOP; Displacement inhibits Development! Civilization thrived on settlements, on taking roots and on creating histories and societies. Displacement nullifies, annihilates, and decimates all those. A roving band of charmers do charm the kids out of their abodes and invariably leads them to deep sea or hell fire… Our highly “mobile” value system does not promise or assure; it immobilizes any journey, any progress. The nomadic communities did not upgrade or change they remained nomadic, they actually remained in their un-remained state of no progress, no change, no development no paradigm shift. The fallacy of this drifting is the dialectic logic of immobility- the immobility of no change of nothing new- the same old.. same old.. drift and drift and drift your way along achieving nothing to show, to say, to boast, to be proud of, to be remembered. SEZ is the track of doom, of immobility, of dark unchanged hell! One gives birth to lifeless, value less disposable structures and bodies with no memory. Displacement is memocide in its finest and thus SEZ is civilization-cide. If there is any meaning of INQUILAB ZINDABAD, then after the physical demise and immortality of Neruda – it means now Change is the only changing thing, only certainty at the same time and only meaningful phenomenon. SEZ tries to halt this change through its facade of over-change – behind the facade is its nemesis – opposite called death— if INQUILAB ZINDABAD has to stay SEZ goes!…that is the mantra re-established in the centenary of the most famous war cry by Bhagat Singh!!!

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