People from the Gorai and Uttan villages along with anti-Special Economic Zone (SEZ) activists across the state will be blocking the road towards Gorai on Sunday morning.
This block will kick off a series of protests lined up in five other locations in the state —Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik, Nagpur and Raigad on Monday.
Villagers have been opposing the allotment of about 14,183 acre of Gorai’s coastal stretch to the Essel Group as a tourism and entertainment zone for the past few years. “The bone of contention is that the new SEZ bill was tabled in the monsoon session but remains to cleared by the legislature. The bill is lopsided and is a backdoor mode for bringing in privatisation and isolated zones without being answerable to anyone,” said Ulka Mahajan, member of the Jagtikaran Virodhi Kruti Samiti that is organising the protests.
Villagers see the move as a threat to the fishing community and large-scale destruction of mangroves.
These zones are delineated as duty-free enclaves for trade and operations with developers getting fiscal and regulatory incentives. These zones are self-contained and have their own integrated infrastructure and support services.
According to the new bill, the areas covered under the state SEZ bill will give the developers a tax holiday for 25 years, complete control over governance of the area, complete privatisation of water and electricity supply with the right to determine its rates and no jurisdiction of laws except law and order machinery.
It also gives them stringent powers to appoint the SEZ chairman to head the self-contained zone and not be governed by any local civic body. The central act calls for a development commissioner who is centrally directed.
A committee will govern the state zones with three members from the developer’s side, one from the centre’s development commissioner’s end and one from the state, with no local representation.