The state government, in a desperate effort to appease farmers before the October 13 assembly polls, cancelled the proposed Videocon Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Wagholi near Pune, a week before the model code of conduct was imposed.
Principal Secretary (Industries) AM Khan confirmed that the government has scrapped land acquisition in Wagholi and nearby villages.
“We will not proceed further in land acquisition because we have decided to de-notify the process (of land acquisition),” he said.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan had announced this in August and it was reported in some sections of the media.
According to Khan, the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) was in the process of getting land for itself.
“Part of this land was earmarked for the proposed SEZ which was a joint venture of MIDC and Videocon,” he added.
The proposed SEZ, which was spread over 1,800 acres of land in four villages of Haveli taluka — Wagholi, Kesnand, Bakori and Lonikand, was located in the home district of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.
Farmers in the belt were opposed to the SEZ and the issue had influenced the NCP’s vote share in the Lok Sabha elections.
Videocon chairman Venugopal Dhoot confirmed that the firm had withdrawn from the Wagholi SEZ.
Dhoot said that a memorandum of understanding between Videocon and the government has been signed for an SEZ on 1,000 acres of land near Saswad in Pune district. He said it would solely be a Videocon venture but added that Wagholi had better infrastructure.
This is the second SEZ to be scrapped.
The land acquisition notification for the Reliance SEZ in Raigad ends on September 28.
Unless the government starts the process afresh the SEZ will not be able to acquire land and the project will die a natural death.
Sources said Chavan had called a special meeting on August 25 on the issue at the insistence of NCP leaders.
The meeting was attended by farmers from affected villages and Dhoot and the decision to scrap the SEZ was taken.
The SEZ, which was largely to be on irrigated land under cultivation, was part of Pawar’s earlier Lok Sabha constituency, Baramati.
Farmers opposed to the SEZ had staged violent protests. Pawar later visited some villages and announced that it was improper to acquire the land without the farmers’ consent.
The state stayed land acquisition for the Videocon SEZ in November 2008.
Shiv Sena leaders, particularly former MLA Gajanan Babar, however, exploited the situation and won the Lok Sabha polls with a huge margin from the Haveli assembly segment.