Raigad villagers participate in referendum on Reliance project

September 21st, 2008 - 6:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Pen/Mumbai, Sep 21 (IANS) Thousands of villagers around Pen area in Maharashtra’s Raigad district Sunday took part in a referendum to decide the fate of Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Group’s proposed Special Economic Zone (SEZ).District Collector Vinayak Nipun and Superintendent of Police Pradeep Digavkar were present to monitor the referendum - the country’s first on an industrial project - even as a huge security blanket covered Pen, around 150 km from Mumbai, a police official told IANS.

Residents of 22 villagers who will be affected by the Reliance Group’s mega-project came out in substantial numbers to give their verdict on the SEZ.

During the referendum, a small group of people at one village opposed to the project and raised anti-Reliance and anti-government slogans.

Around 10,000 farmers from these villages are reluctant to part with 3,415 hectares of land for the project, touted to be Asia’s largest.

Through the referendum, the district administration is ascertaining their views and recording their statements, which will be forwarded to the state government.

The villagers’ sentiments shall be taken into consideration before deciding whether the proposed Rs.400-billion (Rs.40,000-crore) project can come up in that region or not.

A district official said the outcome of Sunday’s referendum may be available only by early October.

The Reliance SEZ is slated to come up over 10,000 hectares in Pen, Uran and Panvel sub-districts of Raigad. However, the group has faced stiff resistance from the people of Pen, necessitating the referendum.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena executive president Udhav Thackeray has offered to secure a better financial deal for farmers willing to sell their land for the SEZ.

He made the offer to a delegation of villagers that called on him in Mumbai two days ago and conveyed the sentiments of the local population regarding the SEZ.

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