Tales of trouble from Nanar: Why locals are opposed to the refinery
The land has belonged to our families for generations, it gives us good yield, and it is our birthright to farm these mango orchards, say villagersUpdated: May 03, 2018 10:27 IST
CASE STUDY 1: ‘Refinery? Over our dead bodies’
Sandesh Desai, 42 and his elder brother Sachin, 51, are among the richest mango farmers in Nanar village. They are set to lose 66 of their 110 acres of land to the proposed refinery.
Sandesh Desai, 42, and his elder brother Sachin, 51, are among the richest mango farmers in Nanar.
“This land has been in our family for nearly 150 years, and today without having the courtesy of conducting a public consultation, we are being told to vacate it,” said a furious Sachin, who received a notice in October.
Every year, the Desai brothers earn about Rs 35 lakh from 10,000 boxes they export to Europe and the US.
“Even if the compensation is crores, we will not vacate our land. We have been born and brought up here, and it is our birthright to farm at these orchards,” says Sandesh. “There was hardly any protest when the Jaitapur nuclear power plant came up but this time, the government is playing with fire. Let them try and build [the refinery], they will find out that it can only happen over our dead bodies.” It’s not just about the trees, Sandesh adds. “The amount of pollution a refinery such as this can generate will not only finish the Nanar mangoes but pollute the Konkan mango belt,” he says.
CASE STUDY 2: This is a family tree for them
At dawn, Yashwant Gurav makes his way to a mango tree 10 metres from his home. He folds his hands, kneels and begins to pray. The 42-year-old mango farmer and temple priest is joined by his wife Shanti, son Sahil, 18, and daughter Karishma, 17. They start each day with a prayer to the 20-ft tree that arches over their home in Sagwe village, Ratnagiri. The tree over 100 years old, Gurav says. It’s the oldest tree in the village.
It is also the family’s main source of income. In a year, the Gurav’s make about Rs 4 lakh selling the 200 boxes of mangoes from the tree.
The tree has helped pay for the children’s education and fuel Karishma’s dreams of becoming a mechanical engineer; Sahil wants to be a mango farmer and expand the family business.
“We grew up under this tree, and learnt how to nurture it. In return, we are gifted with hapus every year. We recently learned how short-lived our dreams could be,” Karishma says.
In May 2017, Gurav received a notice from the state government to vacate his home and land for the proposed refinery.
“We have been self-sufficient all these years but this notice has changed everything for us,” Gurav says. “But we are not weak. Like the roots of this old tree, we will stand firm till the end. We will not let anyone destroy our way of life.”
CASE STUDY 3: ‘Golden Konkan will now burn’
The Pujaris, a joint family of 35, are one of the oldest families of Rameshwar village in Sindhudurg. They own 70 plots of land, on which there are mango orchards and vegetable farms.
Between October and December, the family received 70 notices from the state government, asking them to vacate all plots. “So far, we have not been told how we will be compensated or rehabilitated,” says Suresh Pujari, 57, the eldest of 12 siblings. Sakaram Pujari, 96, their father, has not been told about the notices. “If he knew that what he built was being snatched away from us, it would kill him,” Suresh says.
According to village residents, notices have also been issued to three schools, two temples, 40 homes and several other mango plantations.
His children are worried about their children. “We make a living leasing our land to farmers. My son was due to marry this year,” Suresh says.
Frustrated, he travelled to Rajapur taluka in October to participate in a road-block protest organised by project-affected farmers. “I was lying on the road protesting when the local police began using lathis to stop the protest. I was beaten,” he says.
“Politicians say they will help but no one has come to this village. Sunehra Konkan jalne wala hai (Golden Konkan is going to burn).”