Maval taluka is well on its way to becoming Maharashtra’s equivalent of Nandigram — a hub of anti-land acquisition protests.
But Tuesday’s police firing at Bour village near Kamshet on the Mumbai-Pune expressway, which led to the loss of three lives, came as a shock to police and protestors alike. Neither side expected the protests to go out of hand.
The protests centred a proposed 33-km water supply tunnel from Pavana dam to Pimrpi-Chinchwad, the stronghold of NCP’s deputy CM Ajit Pawar.The farmers oppose not only the diversion of the water, but also the water tunnel project, which they feel, would mean acquisition of their fertile lands. And they have a long-standing resentment against acquisition for any purpose.
Once known for Aambemohor rice, a local specialty, there is hardly any agriculture land left in Maval taluka.
In the pre-Independence era, a massive tract of land along the old Mumbai-Pune highway was acquired by the British to set up defence establishments. The land is still in possession of the defence ministry. Since 1957, the farmers have been asked to surrender their lands for other purposes: the widening of Pawna dam and the Pune-Mumbai road, construction of the expressway, setting up of the Pimpri-Chinchwad New Township Development Authority, Hinjewadi IT park and Talegaon Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation.
Projects like the expansion of Hinjewadi IT park, Chakan airport and an industrial estate are in the pipeline, for which thousands of acres would be needed.
To make matters worse, its proximity to Mumbai and Pune has pushed land prices in Maval to the top slot in the state. Residents of Mumbai and Pune have chosen Maval for a second home. Several posh farmhouses have also come up over the last two decades.
Sources in the realty sector point out that there is no land left in Maval for agriculture.
Those who still have some land left, are opposing acquisition as its price is much higher in the open market compared to the government compensation. Consequently, there have been several protests in the area over the past few years.
A year ago, farmers were up in arms against a Special Economic Zone near Karla for which the government was planning to acquire 2,000 acres. The plan had to be abandoned.
Another acquisition of 5,000 hectares is in the pipeline at nearby Chakan, where farmers are already protesting.
A violent agitation took place in Maan village when government officials went there to acquire land for the Hinjewadi IT park, forcing the government to stop the acquisition process.