Buoyed by the imminent scrapping of Reliance Industries-promoted Mumbai special economic zone, aggrieved farmers and activists are now gunning for seven other proposed SEZs in Maharashtra.
Anti-SEZ groups will soon agitate to demand denotification of the fertile land earmarked for projects in the Konkan, western Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha.
The activists got a shot in the arm on Friday when their four-year struggle forced the government to denotify 16,900 acres of land meant to be acquired for the Mumbai SEZ in the coastal Raigad district.
Protesters will now intensify agitation against multi-purpose SEZs in the Lonavala-Karla (Mahindra and Mahindra), Wagholi near Pune, Aurangabad (Videocon), Sinnar near Nashik (India Bulls), Amravati, Bhadravati (in Vidarbha) and Nanded. Barring the last three zones, fertile land holdings in the range of 2000 to 6000 acres have been notified.
Ulka Mahajan, convener of the Forum Against Globalisation, told Hindustan Times that the protesters would not only demand scrapping of SEZs but also seek change in the state’s water policy that gives industry first preference over agricultural needs.
Maharashtra has the highest number of SEZs in the country – 61 are already notified, 108 formally approved and 39 given in-principle approval. SEZ that are planned on the government land are making progress while others are bogged down by land acquisition.
“SEZs in the state will come up in the vicinity of the 55 water sources (dams) that are primarily meant for providing drinking purpose and irrigating farms,” said Mahajan, adding that the state government has already promulgated an ordinance to this effect.
Mahajan counted the struggles against the 5700 acre Gorai SEZ as the farmers’ success. The size of this SEZ has been cut down to 110 hectares. Last September, the state government returned 583 hectares of horticulture land that was notified for Bharat Forge SEZ in Khed near Pune.
Mahajan objected to the state’s new strategy of including some the proposed SEZs in the ambitious New Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor.
State industry officials refused to comment on record.