Andhra villagers clash with police over land acquisition for SEZ

December 23rd, 2008 - 11:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Dec 23 (IANS) Villagers protesting against Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Andhra Pradesh Tuesday clashed with the police as authorities allegedly tried to forcibly acquire their lands.The clashes took place in six villages of East Godavari district in coastal Andhra Pradesh. A war-like situation prevailed in the villages as protesters, including several farmers, fought pitched battles with the police.

The villages of Tondangi and Kuttapalli mandals witnessed tense situation since early morning as officials with the support of the police tried to acquire the lands for Kakinada SEZ. Local people resisted their attempts, leading to clashes.

The protesters erected roadblocks in at least two villages to prevent police officials from entering their villages to provide security to the civil authorities engaged in land acquisition, eye-witnesses said.

A large number of policemen were mobilised by the authorities since early morning for the land acquisition. The villagers, including women, squatted on the road to resist acquisition of tehir lands.

The villagers also removed the stones and pillars fencing erected by officials for SEZ. Raising slogans against the government, they refused to part with their lands. “We will sacrifice our lives but will not leave our land. This is our home and our livelihood,” said a farmer.

The villagers had last year foiled a similar attempt by the authorities to forcibly acquire their lands for the SEZ. Some farmers had also approached the state Human Rights Commission, which had directed the state government not to use coercive methods to acquire the lands.

Some farmers also filed petitions in the high court, questioning the procedure of land acquisition.

The SEZ is spread over 10,000 acres of land across 12 villages. The SEZ, which is coming up five km away from the deep water port, will also have Rs.60 billion refinery of Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC). Under the first phase, Kakinada SEZ Private Limited, a special purpose vehicle formed for the project, plans to acquire 4,146 acres of land.

This is the second incident where villagers have resisted the attempts to acquire their lands for an SEZ. A similar protest was witnessed in Polepalli in Mahabubnagar district recently as villagers refused to part with their lands for pharma SEZ.

Following the controversies over Polepalli SEZ and the coastal corridor, the Congress government had announced it would not acquire even an inch of land without the consent of the local people.

The largest number of SEZs are coming up in Andhra Pradesh. Out of 250 SEZ notified in the entire country, 56 are being established in Andhra Pradesh.

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