The impact of special economic zones in India

A case study of Polepally SEZ
The impact of special economic zones in India

This case study provides an overview of the national-level controversy in India surrounding special economic zones (SEZs), before turning to a detailed account of the acquisition process and impacts of one SEZ in Polepally, Andhra Pradesh. Based on an extensive field survey, the study reveals how evictions were not based on informed consent, but forced; that they involved an apparently illegal acquisition of lands assigned to marginalised communities under previous land reforms, under the false pretext that they were “alienated” from the beneficiaries of the reforms; and that compensation for land, even at “market value”, was inadequate to mitigate far-reaching negative economic impacts and the paucity of alternative employment sources. The loss of land has had further, uncompensated social and health impacts on marginalised groups, including food insecurity and suicides. The case of Polepally provides lessons for how we approach instances where governments respond to increasing commercial pressures on land resources by acting as agents for commercial and outside interests.