Thursday, April 26, 2007

Nandigram effect on Raigard project

CM stays land acquisitions for Raigad SEZ
Deshmukh Has Issued Instructions To The District
Collector To Halt All Deals Immediately
Prafulla Marpakwar | TNN

Mumbai: After a delay of more than a month, chief
minister Vilasrao Deshmukh on Wednesday stayed all
land acquisitions for the Mukesh Ambani-led multicrore
SEZ project in the Uran-Pen-Panvel belt in coastal
Raigad district.

Though Deshmukh was not available for comment, a
senior Congress minister confirmed that the chief
minister had issued instructions to the Raigad
collector, saying pending the centre's decision on
size of the SEZs and procedure for land acquisition,
the ongoing land acquisition process should be
immediately stopped. "We are awaiting instructions
from the centre,'' the Congress minister told TOI.

On March 23, Deshmukh had assured the legislative
council that there would be no forcible acquisition of
land for the SEZ. A day later, the chief minister had
declared that even if the land acquisition was in
progress, the district collector would not pass the
final award for transfer of land from the farmer to
the SEZ.

On April 5, a high-level empowered group of
ministers (EGoM) decided that at no stage would the
government intervene in acquisition of land. They also
fixed a cap of 5,000 hectares for a SEZ.

Significantly, Deshmukh's assurance, followed by
the decision of the EGoM, prompted Raigad collector D
S Zagde to write to the forest secretary. In his
letter dated April 11, Zagde submitted that the
assurance given on the floor of the House and the
decision of the EGoM had led to confusion at the
ground level as there were no clear instructions.

Simultaneously, an MPCC committee led by senior
Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam too had cautioned
against making any hasty move in view of the
discontent among the local farmers. The farmers had
made it clear that they were against the project
irrespective of the compensation package.

Deshmukh's decision to stay the land acquisition
proceedings and the recommendation of the EGoM are
being viewed as a major setback to the Reliance SEZ
project, which had planned to acquire 9,103 hectares
of land in 45 villages of Raigad district.

Presently, the land acquisition process is in
different stages and, as per the provisions of the
Land Acquisition Act, if a notification under section
6 (intention to acquire land) is not issued before May
30, 2007, then the entire process will be declared
null and void. If that happens, the whole process will
have to be launched afresh.

Industries department officials say it's a piquant
situation. "Reliance has proposed to acquire more than
9,000 hectares. Will they agree to the proposal if
they are now asked to scale it down to 5,000?.
Further, if the government refuses to acquire the
land, who will undertake that work? Without government
support, it will not be possible to acquire land from
private parties,'' the official added.

In addition, even if the centre amends rules, it
remains to be seen if it will have retrospective


March 23: Deshmukh assures legislative council
that there will be no forcible acquisition of land for
the SEZ

April 5: High-level group empowered group of
ministers decides that at no stage will the government
intervene in the land deals. They also fix a cap of
5,000 hectares for a SEZ. Mukesh Ambani-led SEZ
project had proposed to acquire 9,103 hectares

Simultaneously, MPCC committee led by Sanjay
Nirupam cautions against any hasty move in view of the
discontent among local farmers

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