Five days after the Maharashtra government said it would return land meant for the Raigad special economic zone (SEZ) to the farmers, promoters of the project have said they will go ahead with the project.
“It will have no impact on our project. We will set up the SEZ within the available land,” two key people associated with the Raigad SEZ project told the Hindustan Times on Wednesday.
Approved in 2005, the 35,000-acre project is a joint initiative of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries and Jai Corp. The promoters claim to have nearly 4,500 acres of land for an international trade, commerce, service and tourism SEZ.
The state government had, on February 18, decided to denotify 16,900 acres to be acquired for the SEZ. It means the original owners – mostly farmers who had opposed the land acquisition – will get back their land.
Officials associated with the project played down the state’s move saying it was a part of ‘processes and procedures’. “If the government had to denotify the land they should have done it two years ago. In any case, land acquisition stopped in 2009,” an official told HT.
State revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat said the government had no problem if the promoters wanted to buy more land and develop the SEZ.
One of the officials linked to the Reliance SEZ indicated that the promoters might negotiate with the landowners to purchase land directly from them.
Thorat said the government had only decided to denotify the land that was earmarked for the SEZ but was not bought by the promoters. “There was no movement for more than two years so the process has lapsed. They are free to do whatever they [the promoters of the SEZ] want to on their own. The government has nothing to do with it,” Thorat said.
The government was in the process of acquiring 20,600 acres in Raigad. The process was stalled after residents of 45 villages in Pen, Uran and Panvel talukas voted against it in a referendum in September 2008. Owners of 3,700 acres of land had willingly sold their land to the project’s promoters by this time.
The state had decided not to initiate compulsory land acquisition after the 2007 Nandigram episode. Fourteen farmers were killed in Nandigram in West Bengal when the police cracked down on those protesting against land acquisition for an SEZ. One of the officials linked to the Reliance SEZ indicated that the promoters might negotiate with the landowners to purchase land directly from them.