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Monday, September 18, 2006

Farmers protest against India RIL SEZ

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The SEZ saga has a new twist everyday. Today, farmers from three districts in Maharashtra have rejected a proposal to give away their land for Reliance Industries' proposed Special Economic Zone, reports CNBC-TV18.

In Pen, Maharashtra, 140 kilometres from Mumbai, an open house between the Maharashtra government and 200 farmers has taken an unexpected turn. Farmers from 15 villages in Raigad are protesting against giving up their land for Reliance's 75,000 acre Maha SEZ project.

A farmer says, "We don't want to sell our land, our families will be uprooted."

Another farmer says, "This is our birth place, our livelihood has come from this land, we will not sell it, even if we get lots of money for it."

Farmers claim that in May, Reliance had offered them Rs 4 lakh an acre, industrial training, living expenses for three years and 12.5% of their land back after development. But they are not satisfied.

A farmer says, "People here are against selling their land inspite of Reliance saying that they will give back 12.5% of the land and will give us jobs."

The farmers claim that the Maharashtra Government has now stepped in to buy the land on behalf of Reliance. Although the government has not made a monetary offer yet, farmers fear the state will invoke Section Six of the Land Acquisition Act. This gives it power to acquire the land by merely notifying farmers.

Today was the first day the Maharashtra government called for views of farmers whose land was to be acquired for the SEZ, but the answer was an overwhelming no! It is now to be seen whether the SEZ will progress as planned as farmers refuse to accept any package or compensation.

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