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Land acquisition for SEZ stirs up more violence

A day after Posco officials abduction in Orissa, M'rashtra farmers beat up SEZ survey officials, reports S Joshi.
None | By Satyajit Joshi, Pune
UPDATED ON MAY 13, 2007 03:48 AM IST

There’s been more violence over land acquisition for big-ticket industrialisation. On Friday, activists protesting against Posco’s mega project in Orissa took three staffers of the South Korean steel giant hostage. Unknown to most, a similar storm was brewing in Maharashtra.

Angry farmers of Lonikand, on the Pune-Ahmednagar Road, 250 km east of Mumbai, beat up Haveli Tehsildar Sanjiv Deshmukh and officials of Videocon, who were there to conduct a socio-economic survey for a multi-purpose special economic zone (SEZ) proposed by the consumer goods major.

Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) is the land acquisition authority for the 5,000-hectare SEZ, land for which is to be acquired from villages like Vagholi, Kesnand, Bakori and Lonikand. Sources in the district collector’s office said on condition of anonymity that all the land is irrigated and Rs 200 crore has been earmarked for its acquisition.

Witnesses said things took a violent turn when farmers discovered that the 7/12 extract, a land ownership document, bore MIDC’s name. They claimed that the change had been without their knowledge. District Collector Prabhakar Deshmukh told HT that the villagers had been promised last month that land would be acquired only with their consent.

Angry farmers thrashed the tehsildar and Videocon staffers before zilla parishad member Ramdas Dabhade helped them flee. The farmers proceeded to block traffic on the Pune-Ahmednagar Road for over two hours before gathering at the village council office to form an action committee opposing land acquisition. They will meet again on Tuesday to chalk out a detailed action plan.

This was just the latest in a series of protests across the country against land acquisition for SEZs, 234 of which have been approved at last count; 71 of these are in Maharashtra.

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