Farmers defeat first referendum on an SEZ in India, in Raigad, Maharashtra

Farmers defeat Raigad SEZ referendum

Farmers in Raigad district have defeated Reliance Industries SEZ referendum that the government had organized to know people’s impression about the Reliance Industries’ mega SEZ.

The defeat of referendum means that the Special Economic Zone may not come up at the site where it was originally planned. The yet to be launched SEZ was being described as mother of all SEZ that have come up so far in India.

The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) would have entailed an investment of rupees one lakh crore. Tata’s much hyped Nano car plant at Singur where Tatas have invested Rs 1500 crore so far pales into oblivion.

If reports are believed people were not prepared to hand over their lands to be acquired for the SEZ.

So thousands of people in 22 villages where referendum was held did not turn up to vote and those who voted refused to give up their lands.

Judging by the mood of the farmers in the command area of the Hetwane irrigation dam, it appears that the Reliance group will have its task cut out to acquire land for its multi-crore SEZ project in the Konkan area. Of the 10,000 hectares of land required for one of the biggest SEZs in the country, nearly 3,000 hectares of land lie in 22 villages in the Hetwane dam area.

As the farmers thronged the 23 zilla parishad schools earmarked for the referendum, there was some commotion at the Vashi centre as the competent authority declined to acknowledge the receipt of the opinion. The issue was resolved only after the intervention of Nipun Vinayak, who assured the farmers that a joint acknowledgement would be given at each centre.

This report is from Khabrein

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SEZ referendum : 22 villages turn out to vote

By Shalini Nair

PEN (RAIGAD), SEPT 21: The vast expanse of paddy fields lining the horizon in 22 villages of Pen tehsil in Raigad wore a deserted look on Sunday as an overwhelming majority of villagers poured into the streets to be a part of the landmark referendum on the Maha-Mumbai Special Economic Zone (SEZ). By evening, 6,151 people had taken part in the referendum, the first of its kind in the country and the results of which could swing the fate of several such agitations all over the nation.

“Hee zameen sona ugavate (These fields sprout gold),” said 73-year-old Balkrishna Patil as he tottered to the polling booth clutching a paper marking his protest. “My one acre land, for which today they are offering Rs 10 lakh, has sustained generations before me and will take care of generations to come. Even if they offer Rs 2 crore, I won’t part with it,” he asserts.

The decision to seek people’s votes was taken by the Maharashtra Government in the wake of a local agitation against the Mukesh Ambani promoted RIL’s proposed 10,000 hectare multi-product SEZ. Covering a span of 45 villages in Raigad, it is touted as the largest SEZ in the country. The 22 villages that went in for voting on Sunday are spread out over 2,992 hectares in the command area around the Hetawane dam, villages that are seeking exclusion from the project.

Raigad Collector Nipun Vinayak however differed on the rhetoric. “It is not correct to call it voting. We have recorded 6,151 opinions. These are amongst the 30,057 villagers whom we had served notices earlier . It will take us another 15 days to analyse the data before we can send it to the state government,” he said.

Parvati Narhari Patil (75) from Vashi village was married off when she was in Class VII. But within a year she was left to fend for herself by her husband. Said her 29-year-old nephew Suhas Madvi, “Since then she has been surviving by tilling a half acre land given to her by my father. What will hundreds like her do once their land is taken away? Our homes are located in the fields itself, which means they too will be uprooted even though the company claims otherwise.”

According to Vaishali Patil, a Pen-based social worker, over the last three years only 13 per centof the farmers have sold their land for the proposed SEZ. “Twenty-five years ago, the state Government spent Rs 394 crore on constructing the Hetawane dam. At a time when its benefits have just started reaching the farmers, the Government wants to gift away the fertile land and the dam water to Reliance,” said Patil.

Former High Court judge Justice B G Kolse Patil said, “RIL has spent hundreds of crores on purchasing each acre of land for the Bandra Kurla Complex. Here they are paying a measly Rs 10 lakh per acre for such fertile land. They know tomorrow this land will be prime real estate after the construction of the Sewri-Nhava Sheva sea link.”