Wednesday, September 13, 2006

SEZ = Special inEquality Zone?

Ashwin sent a few links regarding the Bharat Forge SEZ that is planned about 50 km from Pune in Rajgurunagar. There are plenty or reports about how SEZ's are uprooting and displacing villages, farms, villagers, farmers, tribals and affecting the environment in several ways. The same arguments comes into play again "economimc development", national infrastructure, for the greater common good and many such. There are also several reports about the people living in the proposed SEZs having no say in the whole process---they are the primary affected but not the primary criteria! Looks like this state-private sector combined initiative is going to lead to yet another long and hard battle for the ones at the lower end of pyramid.

Attached below is a report from Rajgurunagar about the Bharat Forge SEZ.


Farmers Struggle against SEZ land Acquisition in Pune district

Date: 12 July 2006



We have cultivated enough to nourish entire country that needs to be continued for future generations too. “Land is our Mother, Self-Reliance, Self-Esteem, our Livelihood, our Identity and Way of life so don’t snatch it,” said by farmers of village Gulani where Struggle against Bharat Forge Special Economic Zone is happening. They have taken firm stand that ‘we will die, but will not give a single biga (local term for half acre land) land to the MIDC SEZ’.

Land is the vital source of livelihood of our country, more than 65 per cent peoples’ livelihood directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture sector. Technological development is dominant on agriculture sector, has been reflected into agricultural land acquisition for the private sectors development. It has proved that in the name of development more marginalisation is the Mantra of present development era. Farmers of the sixteen villages form the Khed taluka of Pune district are opposing forced land acquisition by MIDC for the Bharat Forge- SEZ project. There has been a lot of unrest and struggle against the land acquisition since last three months. This is happening just 60 kilometers away from the Pune city.

The village came to know about the land acquisitions during the month of April and May 2006 when MIDC started conducting its survey. Then villagers from Gulani asked about the details, which the MIDC officials refused to give them. This was followed by the villagers getting united and successfully bringing a halt to the survey work. By that time they had asked information under the ‘Right to Information’ but the response they got was that the information was “confidential”. Eventually they got some information from the Member of Parliament Mr. Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil and ‘Save the land Samiti’.

The Maharashtra government have received 53 applications for setting up of SEZ projects all over the state, of which 27 have received formal approval. In Pune district alone more than seven SEZs have been approved. These are mainly private sectors zones and the developers include Syntel International, Serum Institute, Mahindra Realty, Bharat Forge, City Parks, Raheja Coroporation, Hiranandani and Xansa India, etc.

Private Sector’s Special Economic Zone has been approved by the government in the Pune district for the Bharat Forge limited. Land will be acquired from various villages like Gulani, Wafgaon, Wakalwadi, Warude, Gadakwadi, Chaudharwadi, Chinchbaigaon, Jaulake Budruk, Jarewadi, Kanesar, Pur, Gosasi, Nimgaon, Retwadi, Jaulake Khurd, Dhore Bhamburwadi and Pabal. 7,500 hectares agricultural and non-agricultural land has been identified from these above-mentioned villages.

Majority of the people, in these villages, belong to the Maratha community, other backward and Adivasi (Thakar) community. The most important occupation is farming and allied activities. Their major crops are potato, onion, sorghum, jowar, rice, flowers and pulses. Many youths have initiated their own businesses like poultry, milk collection, pig raring, animal husbandry, floriculture and emu farm. Nevertheless, people’s livelihood is dependent on farming activities, mostly rainfed and irrigated through private wells. They have been demanding water for drinking and irrigation water under the Chaskaman Scheme for a decade now but the government did not stand up to its word. The area has no electricity and falls under under the “dark zone” of the state.

There has been a drinking water scheme which is about 35 crore’s investment but due to the lack of maintenance it is not in use. Infrastructure is available but there is no water in water tank. Come summer and people have to walk several kilometers to fetch the the drinking water. They have to be dependent on tanker water supply, which is always inadequate and irregular. This area is comes under the Bhima River basin and surrounded by small watershed, Dhimbhe Dam, Kukadi and Chaskaman Irrigation scheme. Farmers have raised question that dams have been built up in the name of irrigation but they couldn’t provided water for agriculture. Now the water will go to these coming companies and this obviously seems to them a larger conspiracy against all farmers.

It is in this context that the opposition to the SEZ project has build up and farmers and local people’s representatives have constituted a Khed Taluka Purva Vibhag MIDC Virodhi Kruti Samiti (Anti Land Acquisition Committee from East Khed-Wafgaon and Gulani Village) under the chairmanship of Mr. Rajusheth Jawalekar, Wafgaon. Many people have been involved in this committee like Kisanrao Garde, Sudamrao Karale, Dadasaheb Rode, Sitabai Ranpise, Bhalchandra Rode, Kaluram Pingale, Balasaheb Sutar, Ashok Jare, Santosh Karale etc. All these people are Sarpanch and member of Grampanchayat and Taluka Panchayat. Their larger aim is to stop the land acquisition and cancel the SEZ resolution, which is disturbing their socio-economic and cultural life. Some of the local leaders know that rehabilitation is out of question because there is provision of cash compensation only.

There was not a single consultation with farmers about the land acquisition in these sixteen villagers. Today the farmers simply don’t want to give away their ancestral land for a ‘development’ that has brought them no benefits and will not in the future either. They have ample experience from earlier projects where people have been thrown in different places. If they would get assured irrigation water they will turn this area into an Israeli type of model farm, said farmers. Fellow villagers are now being made consciuos about the land grabbing and implications of these development projects through Gramsabha meetings on a regular basis. The Gramsabha resolutions about their unwillingness to sell their land for SEZ have already been passed. Many youth claimed that this is probably the first time that the village has come together so strongly on an issue.

More than four thousand people participated in a protest (Morcha) against SEZ in a one day mass protest at Rajgurunagar-Khed tahsil office on 11th July, 2006. A memorandum was submitted to tehsildar Vijaya Pangarkar demanding cancellation of the MIDC-SEZ project. They also put forth other demands like water for drinking and irrigation, support to the agriculture-allied activities and support to small business, Completion of the work of drinking water scheme and Gulani percolation tank at the earliest.

The farmers have warned the government officers that they will fight against SEZ unless and until it gets stopped the survey and entire project. “Earlier, we have faced displacement in the name of national interests like Chakan International Airport but henceforth we will not tolerate any displacement”.


Prepared by Sampat Kale, NCAS, Pune


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