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Maharashtra Congress develops cold feet over SEZs

the Congress in Maharashtra wants Centre to take a fresh look at the land allotment policy for SEZs, reports Dharmendra Jore.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2007 01:37 IST

Worried over the impact it will have on its chances of winning the municipal and Zilla Parishad elections, the Congress in Maharashtra wants Centre to take a fresh look at the land allotment policy for Special Economic Zones (SEZ).

The Congress does not want the government to unnecessarily invite people's wrath over the allotment of land in rural area, especially farmland, to the SEZs coming up in the state. It has conveyed its concerns to the party's Central leadership which in turn has incorporated them in an interim report compiled by senior leader Veerappa Moily-led panel.

The panel has warned the Union Government over SEZ policy which it says may cost the party votes as its implementation was likely to displace lakhs of people across the country, create more regional imbalance and cause social conflicts.

The State Congress has expressed similar feelings as the Union has sanctioned 75 SEZs to be set up in various parts of Maharashtra. The public outcry over land acquisition for the Reliance-promoted Mahamumbai SEZ in Raigad district has created a flutter in the party.

Led by the left leaders, the farmers in Mumbai have launched a series of protests against Reliance SEZ and two neighbouring power plants proposed to be set up by Reliance Energy (Anil Ambani group) and Tata Power Company.

The SEZs in country's 16 states would require around 1,23,552 acres (50,000 hectares) of land. Most of these states are facing anti-SEZ protests and Maharashtra is no exception.

"The Congress feels that the Raigad may soon witness a Nandigram and Singur-like protests. The party wants the high command to save the embarrassment," said a senior State Congress functionary. "We want development to be given a human face," he added.

A section of Congressmen led by Cooperation and Rehabilitation Minister Patangrao Kadam had been more vocal with the party bosses. Even Kadam had locked horns with Revenue Minister Narayan Rane over land acquisition in Raigad. He wanted Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to stop acquisition in view of growing unrest among the villagers whose land has been notified for acquisition.

State Congress spokesman Hussain Dalwai said his party was in favour of farmers though it wanted development. "Our president Sonia Gandhi has made it clear that fertile farm land should not be used for the SEZs. Even Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has issued orders that there should not be any ambiguity while acquiring land for the SEZs," he said.

State Congress chief Prabha Rau was busy campaigning for the civic polls and could not be contacted for reaction.

First Published: Jan 23, 2007 01:37 IST