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Farmer-the most endangered species

Farmers wont buy Relience SEZ deal

Posted by Ramoo on March 14, 2007

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/PoliticsN…

GIRISH KUBER

TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, 2007 02:37:37 AM]

PEN: The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance group’s relief and rehabilitation package for those affected by the Maha Mumbai SEZ near Mumbai doesn’t seem to have evoked much response. According to government sources, land transactions have not shown any significant pick-up since the announcement of the package. The company also admits that it has acquired just around 200 acres.
Compare this with the total land requirement of 35,000 acres (13,000 hectares), of which 10,000 acres would come as part of the Cidco-promoted Navi Mumbai SEZ. The rest, 25,000 acres, are being acquired for the Maha Mumbai SEZ. To speed up land procurement, the company had announced a relief and rehabilitation package on February 19. The package offers three options. First, the company will allocate 12.5% of the original land holding as developed land to the legal landholder. The second option is a one-time payment of Rs 10 lakh per acre of land. The third option is a payment of Rs 5,000 a month for the lifetime. The package also offers employment to a member of the family, to be nominated by the landowner.
As late as Monday the Reliance arm, Mumbai Integrated SEZ, claimed that farmers have welcomed the package and are queuing up to offer their land. However, after visiting a dozen villages (of the 45 villages identified for the twin SEZs)), ET learnt that the ground reality was quite different. “We will not surrender even an inch of our land,” said Suvarna Sakharam Patil, Sarpanch of Sarade village.
She is upset over two reasons. One, the company was eyeing her prime farm land. Second, the price Reliance paying is a pittance. When pointed out that RIL is offering as much as Rs 10 lakh per acre, she shot back: “What’s the big deal? Cidco was offering Rs 5 crore for the same piece of land. RIL offer is nothing compared to that.” Septuagenarian Balkrishna Tukaram Mhatre of Koroli village, raised another point. “Why should we give our land so that someone can trade it? RIL will resell our land at a premium. We will not let this happen,” he said.
He ridiculed the company’s employment offer. “They are promising job to only one in the family. As of now, my whole family, including all the sons, their wives and kids, are making a living out of the land. We earn enough to feed all. What will happen to the family if only one is assured a job, that too with a salary of Rs 5,000 a month,” he asked.
Mr Mhatre also came down heavily on Maharashtra government’s, what he calls, “dubious role” in the whole affair. “Why should the state have a soft corner for one company? The Maharashtra government should walk out of this. We will deal directly with the company.”
Tukaram Gharat from Dhakati Jui village also wants the government to keep out of the affair. “The government says our land is non-cultivable. If that is the case the region should have faced a serious agrarian crisis like Vidarbha where thousands of farmers have committed suicides. Where is the crisis in our region? On the contrary, we are sitting on one of the most fertile stretches of land in the state. We will not let this land slip out of our hand,” he said.
When contacted, state government officials refused to go on record on the tricky issue. However, an official from the state revenue department said on conditions of anonymity that no significant land transaction has been recorded by the department after the announcement of the relief and rehabilitation package. The revenue department is the central depository of all land records in the state.
The RIL spokesperson, however, disagreed. “The response to our package has been encouraging,” he said. According to him, the company has acquired nearly 200 acres of land since February 19, the day it announced the package. “The March 11 Zilla Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections somewhat slowed down the process. We expect things to speed up after March 15,” he said.

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