Corporates like Reliance and the Tata group are seeking to buy up huge tracts of land in the Konkan region to set up power plants and bring about bigger development within easy reach of Mumbai.
But farmers were scornful. “Who says they will be able to generate 200 jobs per acre of land acquired? They will not even be able to employ two for all that land grabbed,” said local farmers’ leader Sunil Naik.
Speakers were mostly ordinary farmers from the region and those who had come from Nashik, Pune, Nagpur and even neighbouring states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which are also facing trouble over land acquisition for SEZs. Eminent persons like professor Trilochan Sastry, academic dean of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, was there to deliver the public verdict against SEZs.
The loudest applause was reserved for Marathi expletives used for the corporates and the government. ‘Shetachi zameen aamcha hakkachi, naahi konachya baapa chi (farm land belongs to us, not to anyone’s father)’ was the day’s slogan.
“This is not just a simple debate about agriculture versus industry,” said Ulka Mahajan, national convenor of the National Alliance for People’s Movement, one of the five non-governmental organisations who organised the public audit.
The data will be collated and the public audit moves to Karnataka in October. Eight more states are going to face the heat in a similar fashion in the coming year.