Social activist Medha Patkar, who has taken up cudgels on behalf of villagers affected by the Lavasa project in Pune, wants the government to ensure people are not forcibly evicted from their land.
Patkar was at a two-day seminar by the National Alliance of People’s Movements at Kharghar Yuva Centre. “The project will benefit many politicians. That’s why various norms have been flouted. We figured this out when we found out that NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule and her husband had a 21 per cent share in the project. Now, they claim they don’t want the shares. The land belongs to the tribals and villagers who reside there. Corporates should not take away their very means of existence,” Patkar said.
Patkar also alleged that locals were being threatened by those responsible for the Lavasa project. “I have met some tribals and locals who have said private security personnel hired by those developing the Lavasa project had threatened locals with harm if they did not give up their land. The government must protect the villagers,” Patkar said.
Some adivasis at the seminar said their land had been forcibly acquired. Kumabai Walekar, an adivasi opposing the project said, “Lavasa authorities suddenly came to my house one day and said I had sold my land to them. I am illiterate, but not stupid. I spent Rs 20,000 to secure 100-year-old documents that said the land belonged to my forefathers.”
Walekar added, “I will not part with my land. It is mine and has been passed down to me by my forefathers.”
Another tribal, Leelabai Margale, claimed she too was threatened.
“A lot of construction work was going on near my land. Trees were cut and the road near my house was dug up so that I would be forced to sell. But I was adamant that I wouldn’t sell. When I said this, the goons told me to leave the land or they would kill my children and me. I am a widow and have no one to fight for me.”
Margale said, “False cases were registered against me by Lavasa authorities. I cannot do anything since even the police are not cooperating. If the law does not support the downtrodden, what is the use of having Indians rule India?”