Farmers in Raigad have finally succeeded in getting the state government to almost scrap the Reliance-promoted Mumbai Special Economic Zone (SEZ) that was to be India’s biggest.
State revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat, on Friday, said the government would denotify the land earmarked for the SEZ.
According to a government resolution issued by his department, 16,900 acres of land meant to be acquired or being acquired for the SEZ would be denotified. This means the original owners – mostly farmers who opposed the land acquisition – will get their land back. The government was in the process of acquiring 20,600 acres. Owners of 3,700 acres had willingly sold their land. The other 16,900 acres were being acquired despite opposition from farmers.
The government had begun the acquisition process in 2006. Under the provisions of the land acquisition law, the land was to be acquired within three years. But, only 10% of it was acquired and the process was hampered by a strong agitation by farmers. In September 2008, the government was forced to conduct a one-of-its-kind referendum in which 96% of the farmers voted against land acquisition.
Following the Nandigram agitation in 2008, the state government chose not to forcibly acquire the land and instead asked the promoters to convince the farmers by way of negotiation. At the same time, it did not withdraw the notification that specified which land was to be acquired for the SEZ. The acquisition process expired in September 2009 and the government let the procedure die a natural death.
“The promoters could not acquire more land. Hence, there was no point keeping the area notified. We thought it would be best to let the farmers have back their land,” Thorat told HT.