Maharashtra proposal to give tribal land to iPhone maker Foxconn sparks protests
Mumbai city news: The land is part of 2,766 hectares acquired in the mid-1960s as part of an ambitious plan for a dairy project to supply 1.25 lakh litres of milk a day to Mumbaimumbai Updated: Jul 10, 2017 14:02 IST
The Maharashtra government is considering handing over tribal land in Palghar, near Mumbai, to the Taiwanese firm Foxconn, which has committed to invest $5 billion in the state, sparking protests.
The land is part of 2,766 hectares acquired in the mid-1960s as part of an ambitious plan for a dairy project to supply 1.25 lakh litres of milk a day to Mumbai. This plan was a non-starter for various reasons and the land was lying unclaimed, with some of the original owners continuing to farm their plots.
Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, has constituted a committee under the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) chief to study how much of this land can be set aside for industries.
State chief secretary Sumit Mullick said, “Yes, there is a proposal to transfer some of the dairy land at Dapchari to MIDC. There was a meeting with the CM and a committee is looking into the modalities.”
A senior state official said, “The MIDC is hoping to get at least 500 hectares. We can offer this land to Foxconn instead of land at Talegaon or Khopoli as we originally promised. The company will also be more interested in this location due to its proximity to Mumbai.”
The MIDC has already shown a portion of the land to Foxconn executives about two months ago, amid protests and demonstrations from local villagers.
Vinod Dumada, a local activist from the Adivasi Ekta Parishad, an NGO in the region, said, “As the dairy project never took off as planned, there was a large portion of land, especially at Vankas village in the Dahanu taluka, where the government never physically took possession of the land. Over the years, tribal families went back to farming the land. They were recently threatened once again when officials came with people from a private foreign company to measure the land.”
The villagers are not willing to trust the state government again. The gram panchayat of Vankas, where MIDC officials recently visited, has passed a resolution opposing industrial development and demanding that the state government either implement the dairy project as planned or return the land parcels to the families they originally belonged to.
Sulbha Suresh Gadag, sarpanch of Vankas village, said, “When the government acquired land for the dairy project our fathers and grandfathers were told that the next three generations will get employment opportunities from this. They could not keep that promise even for one generation. Now industries will only pollute our environment and water bodies and make life worse.”
An official from the state animal husbandry department said, “The meeting with the chief minister in March was to see how much of this land could be given to the industries department. The committee will take stock of land already in use, land under encroachment and litigation, and any requirement for planned projects of the animal husbandry and the dairy department. It will accordingly calculate the area that can be given for industries.”
The Maharashtra government acquired 2,766 hectares in Dahanu and Talasari talukas, now in the Palghar district, in 1960-1966 for a grand ‘Dapchari Dairy Project’ aiming to supply 1.25 lakh litres milk to Mumbai a day. The government wanted to rehabilitate dairy units from Mumbai to Dapchari and other villages in the vicinity and generate jobs for local tribals.
The project, however, failed as dairy units from Mumbai had apprehensions about shifting out and the government could not make the project commercially sustainable.
HT visited the area to find that the gau-shalas, a veterinary college and medical facilities, and other dairy-related infrastructure lying vacant and derelict in the middle of a lush green sprawl.
According to information from the dairy development department, the government bought the land from 1,071 tribal families and three non-tribal families disbursing a total compensation of Rs39.96 lakh. The state rehabilitated the project-affected families on 263 hectares of the total 2,766 hectares it acquired.
An official from the animal husbandry department said the state government was within its rights to transfer land acquired for a specific public purpose for some other public purpose. He said so far the state government has diverted at least 115 hectares of the Palghar land for a rubber research centre, a border check post, electrification, horticulture and fisheries.
“The development of industries in tribal areas of the Palghar district will also be beneficial to the local population as it will generate large-scale employment opportunities and will pave the way for the overall development of the region,” he added.