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By Dr. Sanjay Chaturvedi, LLB, PhD.

Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan scraped the SEZ in Pune just before the assembly elections. The main reason being farmers were opposing the the SEZ. The SEZ was to be developed by Videocon Group in association with Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC). On August 25, 2009 Chavan said that the title to the land, identified for acquisition, would be returned to farmer.

The move was to please the farmers who were angry with the Congress-NCP government for taking away their land to develop industries. Farmers of four villages in Pune district voted the NCP Member of Parliament Vilas Lande from their constituency (Shirur) in the Parliamentary elections earlier this year. Videocon have been given alternative land in Saswad Taluka in Pune district.

The state government had proposed Videocon Sez in early 2007 on 1821 hectares in villages Wagholi, Kesnand, Bakori and Lonikhan. Farmers opposed the SEZ from the outset. They agitated at the collector’s office and attacked employees of Videocon. The protest forced the government to stay the proposed SEZ in November 2007.

Over 200 SEZs have been proposed in the state of which 44 are in Pune districts. The cancellation of Wagholi SEZ had set in motion demand to scrap SEZs in other areas too. Farmers of 45 villages in Raigad have demanded scrapping of Reliance SEZ in their area. Only 13 lakhs was offered for an acre of land by Relaince were as the going rate was 100 times more, sources said.

MIHAN Sez in Nagpur also seen social unrest while government of Maharashtra tried to save skins by offering developed land that is 12.5 per cent of the land acquired. It also offered them cash compensation and TDR can be sold without stamp duty.

The government amended the Project Affected Persons Rehabilitation Act, 1999, through an ordinance to make cash compensation and TDR possible. There is a sense of victory among families affected by the Mihan SEZ which was earlier known as the Nagpur Cargo Hub. The families are unhappy though; the government order does not provide land within the SEZ. The affected families have declared their will settle for nothing less than 12.5 per cent developed land within the SEZ and will not vacate their villages till this demand is granted by the government.

Like Videocon, Reliance and MIHAN, private SEZ declared by state government elsewhere in the country, land issues are killing the concept of SEZ. Or Hidden agenda of SEZ to grab prime land for residential purposes or for real estate development is known to farmers and they want their shares in the development.