After the 1971 war with Pakistan, former Navy chief Admiral L Ramdas was awarded a Vir Chakra and six acres of land by the government in the Alibag area of Maharashtra. He retired in 1993 after holding the top post in Navy for three years.
A good 14 years after his retirement, Admiral Ramdas has again answered the call of duty. This time he is commanding the efforts of villagers spread over 22 villages in Alibag.
The new enemy, as Ramdas calls them, are the "central government and the state government who have become the biggest and the most dishonest brokers of our land."
In Alibag, the Maharashtra government wants to acquire more than 5000 acres of land - home to 50,000 villagers - to set up a multi-product `special economic zone' (SEZ) where MNCs are likely to have high stakes.
Ramdas's stake maybe small, the same 6 acres of land that the government had bestowed on him for bravery, but his involvement with the farmers' agitation seems absolute.
"It is a green and very fertile belt. The farmers grow lot of paddy, fruits and vegetables, much of which is sold in Mumbai. The area also grows the popular alphonso mango.
But the authorities are attempting to convert the green belt to industrial belt,'' Ramdas said on Thursday. He added that earlier the slogan was `garibi hatao' (remove poverty) but now it has become `garibo ko hatao' (remove the poor).
Ramdas was in the Capital the last two days to take part in a two-day national-level conference on `Corporate Land Grab' organised by ecologist and activist Dr Vandana Shiva's Navdanya.
The conference brought together farmers and activists participating in anti-SEZ movements from Dadri (UP), Gurgaon, Raigad (Maharashtra), Barnala (Punjab), Singur and Nandigram (WB) and Kalinganagar and Kashipur (Orissa).
Shiva said that the SEZ is based on a deliberate assumption that small farmers cannot produce food grains.
"But we have been in the field for many years and know that small farmers contribute a lot to food security. In this time of global warming, the SEZ model also talks about energy intensification. SEZ is based on the false pretense of development,'' she said.