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Anti-SEZ protests are far from natural: CM

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh also alleged that the local politicians were misleading the people, reports Dharmendra Jore.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2007 21:31 IST

A day after the villagers in Raigad vented their anger against land acquisition for Special Economic Zones (SEZ), Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh came out in defence of the SEZs.

Talking to the Hindustan Times, he dismissed the agitations as "staged and far from natural".

He also alleged that the local politicians were misleading the people. And in the same breath he insisted that his government would not allow any kind of forceful land acquisition.

A parliamentary panel led by former union minister Kanshiram Rana visited Raigad district where 13,711 hectares of land is being acquired by the SEZ developers on Friday. The panel had to face angry villagers who raised doubts over the entire exercise. Raigad, a picturesque district neighbouring Mumbai is witnessing angry protests as India's largest conglomeration of SEZs including Maha Mumbai SEZ promoted by Reliance Industries Limited is planned there.

Deshmukh also defended the administration which is being accused of aiding private developers in acquiring land.

Q: Do the anti-SEZ protests worry you as it mean a big hindrance in the state's development?
A: Not at all. I must say that the protests were far from natural. What these protestors are portraying is not factual. Every thing seems stage-managed. In fact, it is the particular style of local leadership. They tend to blow every issue out of proportion. The Parliamentary Committee was here to recommend right measures to the Centre.

Q: Have you satisfied the affected people on the question of rehabilitation?
A: Yeah. That's my real worry. The ongoing protests are sidelining the real issue. The protestors must place before authorities their proper rehabilitation demands. Let me tell you that we are committed to fulfil their demands. The discussion should revolve around the land prices acceptable and the rehab package.

Q: You say there are no forceful acquisitions but the ground reality is different. Your administration there is accused of joining hands with SEZ developers in forceful acquisition.
A: That's not true. Our role in land acquisition is very limited. But then we cannot stop the land transfers done willingly by respective landowners. We have set up a special committee under the Rehabilitation Minister Patangrao Kadam to look into every detail of the issue. And now we are waiting for the Centre's rehabilitation policy. We will adopt some measures from it. We will not tolerate any kind of arm-twisting by the developers. We have enough legal provisions to deal with their highhandedness.

Q: Are you not defending the state machinery?
A: What I'm saying is that the government is all for proper rehabilitation because it's the project affected people's constitutional right. And I'm sure that it (rehabilitation) will happen one day as every process will be not be done without their consent.

First Published: Feb 17, 2007 21:31 IST