Anti-SEZ body claims 95 percent farmers against Raigad project

October 6th, 2008 - 9:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Pen (Maharashtra), Oct 6 (IANS) An overwhelming 95 percent farmer-participants of last month’s ‘referendum’ on the special economic zone (SEZ), being developed in Raigad district, have voted against it, claimed the project’s opponents Monday.”As many as 19,868 farmers out of 23,959 eligible for voting participated in the Sep 21 exercise and 95 percent of them have said an emphatic ‘no’ to the SEZ,” said N.D. Patil, senior leader of Peasants and Workers Party that is opposed to the project.

He also demanded the exclusion of the area of referendum from Asia’s biggest SEZ.

The exercise to gauge the opinion of farmers in the 22 villages of Pen sub-district of Raigad was undertaken by the district administration as their land supposedly falls within the command area of a yet incomplete Hetavane irrigation project, initiated way back in 1981.

A sizeable section of farmers in the sub-district have persistently refused to part with their land, measuring up to 3,417 hectares, and carried out an agitation against the proposed SEZ under the banner of Jagatikaran Virodhi Kriti Samiti (anti-globalisation action committee) which Patil heads.

While the district administration is yet to send its report on the opinion-gauging exercise to the government, the Samiti has come up with the statistics on the basis of authenticated duplicate copies of the ‘referendum’ forms collected from the farmers.

Patil said, while 5,268 farmers could not take part in the vote as their land is under mortgage with various money lending agencies, a little over 4,000 farmers who live at distant places doing sundry jobs also did not turn up.

Deputy Collector S.M. Kurtkoti told IANS that the administration is waiting for a status report on the Hetavane project from the irrigation department, including the proposed reservation of water for irrigation and other purposes.

Mumbai SEZ Ltd, a subsidiary formed by the Reliance Group to develop the SEZ, needs a little over 14,000 hectares in 46 villages of Pen, Panvel and Uran sub-districts of coastal Raigad. Nearly 10,000 hectares of the required land is owned by farmers, 30 percent of whom have so far sold the land to Mumbai SEZ.

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