Mumbai, Feb 20 (): Anti SEZ activists across the nation are happy with the decision of the Maharashtra Government to scrap the Mukesh Ambani-led Raigadh Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project, touted as the country’s biggest SEZ .
Ambani in partnership with Anand Jain, needed over 20,000 acres for the Raigadh Maha-Mumbai SEZ. Three villages in the Raigadh district were targeted. Farmers in Pen, Panvel and Uran taluks had to forego their land for monetary compensation. But villagers who owned all this land put up massive resistance. The state conducted a one of its kind referendum in 2008, the majority voted against it.
In the end the project acquired only 13 per cent of the land, which now has to be handed back. Activists call it a victory for citizens’ movements.
In 2003, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd had submitted a proposal for setting up a multi-product SEZ in Raigad across 14,000 hectares of Maharashtra land (an area the size of Chandigarh) in 45 villages in Pen, Panvel and Uran tehsils. An investment of Rs 40,000 crore and jobs for 20 lakh people were promised. Since June 2005, when the government gave its approval for the project, only 13 percent of the desired land has been acquired by Reliance despite six years of negotiations with farmers.
The Supreme Court had already awarded Reliance two extensions to complete their negotiations. But last month, things began to shift in favour of the farmers. There is a legal stipulation that companies must acquire land within two years of getting a project approved. On June 5, the Supreme Court refused to give Reliance any more time to complete their negotiation.
With over 300 SEZs already functional and over 560 approved (the number of SEZs in India outstrips the number anywhere else in the world), the struggles against land acquisition continue around the country.