The Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh, has made it very clear that the State has no plans on going back on its policy regarding Special Economic Zones (SEZ).
Speaking in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, Deshmukh said that SEZ are the only way ahead for Maharashtra.
"Currently, everybody is dependent on agriculture for employment," Deshmukh told the House. "Industries and SEZ, especially in information technology and automobile sectors, can create large scale employment and so these should be encouraged."
Deshmukh made this statement in response to a discussion among legislators on the lack of facilities in Konkan.It assumes significance in the wake of the state Congress' moves to send a panel to Raigad district where farmers are protesting against land acquisition for SEZs. The Congress leaders are worried over a negative reaction from farmers on the lines of Nandigram in West Bengal.
Deshmukh also added that he understood the reason for protests against SEZ. "It is a question of people’s livelihood but this is the only way ahead if Maharashtra wants to progress," he said.
In order to support such job-creating industrial growth in Konkan, the CM announced that the government would provide financial assistance to industries in the region that have been declared sick by the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction.
Tourism, which is a growing industry in the region, would also get a boost through the Rs 250 crore the region will receive towards coastal tourism between the years 2006-2007 and 2009-2010.
Deshmukh also made a number of assurances regarding other developmental plans for Konkan. He informed the House that the State has made a request to the Governor for special arrangements to be made to clear the irrigation backlog in Konkan and Khandesh. He also added that the State would consider plans to lift water from rivers in Konkan and use it for irrigation. The government has also permitted generation of electricity from sea waves in phases, he informed the House.
To give a boost to Konkan’s agriculture, the State will adopt a separate policy for coconut and beetelnut__two of Konkan’s major crops. “We have given a loan of Rs one crore to the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee at Ratnagiri to assist mango-growers sell their produce" he explained.
One-third of the members from the Legislative Council are from Konkan. Thes elegislators, including Gurunath Kulkarni, Vinod Tawde and Bhaskar Jadhav, listed the various problems Konkan has been facing and demanded that the State pay attention towards developing the region.