Reliance and the SEZ Referendum

Following the first-of its-kind referendum to ascertain the views of farmers on acquisition of land for the Reliance group-promoted Mumbai SEZ, its officials submitted a statement on behalf of 4,282 account holders, saying they were prepared to give their plots for the multicrore project in Raigad district.According to reports, the company has already signed an agreement for acquisition of land from a section of farmers in the Hetwane dam area. So far, it has acquired 1,100 hectares of land of the 10,000 hectares required for the project.Raigad collector Nipun Vinayak confirmed that Mumbai-SEZ project officials had submitted the relevant papers in his office. “They have submitted the papers pertaining to 4,282 account holders, involving nearly 400 hectares of land. Currently, we are analysing the submissions made by the farmers. Once the exercise is over, we will submit the report within a fortnight,’’ Vinayak said.Responding to the directives of chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Vinayak had set up 23 centres in 22 villages in the command area of Hetwane dam to ascertain whether the farmers were willing to part with their land or not for the SEZ project. The land in the command area measures nearly 3,000 hectares.Anti-SEZ leader N D Patil had claimed that most of the farmers were against the SEZ, while the Reliance group had claimed that there was absolutely no legal validity to the referendum process.The Reliance group has already filed a writ petition before the high court, challenging the collector’s decision to hold the referendum.In related developments, while the Raigad zilla parishad on Tuesday passed a resolution demanding that the SEZ project be scrapped. Residents of 23 villages in Uran tehsil, too, have demanded a referendum. Reliance has proposed to acquire 10,000 hectares of land in 45 villages. Reliance has claimed that its relief and rehabilitation package is the best in the country. At a special meeting of the Raigad zilla parishad, presided over by president Nilima Patil, a resolution to demand scrapping the SEZ was unanimously passed. After initial hesitation, leader of opposition Vaikunthseth Patil, son of minister of state for public works Raviseth Patil, also supported the resolution. “We are expecting the Raigad collector’s report as early as possible. There will be no politics and we will abide by his recommendations,’’ a senior government official said.

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