Opponents of Reliance SEZ criticise Centre’s policy Special Correspondent “It does not address the basic opposition to the SEZs ” Our package is the best in the country: Reliance
Samiti dismisses Reliance claims on sale of land
MUMBAI: Organisations protesting against the Reliance Group’s Mumbai (earlier Mahamumbai) Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) in Raigad district are critical of the Union Cabinet’s national policy on Rehabilitation and Resettlement which was approved on Thursday, providing land for land and several benefits to project affected persons.

However, the Reliance Group has said its package announced in February this year is among the best in the country and land was being sold for the project at a brisk pace. The MSEZ said its package contained many more attractive monetary benefits and jobs than the national policy.

People opposing the SEZ are not in favour of either the new national policy or the Reliance’s package. Vaishali Patil of the SEZ Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti told The Hindu that the policy had not addressed the basic opposition to the SEZs. It had been announced with an eye on the elections. She said that even though the Maharashtra government had acquired the land for the project under Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act, farmers had already started filing objections to that.

She dismissed the Reliance’s claim that farmers were selling land to the company “at a brisk pace.” Recently, farmers had obtained information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on the number of sale deeds in the area spread over 45 villages in three talukas of Raigad district. Ms. Patil said that according to that information only six to eight per cent of the farmers had sold land to the company and most of them were from Dadar and Rave villages, which were barren and had problems of salinity.

She said the more serious problem was the number of cases of false sale deeds.

She said land was sold to the company without the owner’s consent and this was on the rise. There was still strong opposition to the project, she added. The MSEZ, which was proposed over an area of 10,000 hectares, was one of the largest in the country.

According to the MSEZ, the project, being developed in Pen, Panvel and Uran talukas in Raigad district, will cause no physical displacement since none of the ‘gaothans’ (villages) are going to be acquired. The MSEZ has already declared that the project-affected people will be given 12.5 per cent developed land, a handsome compensation at market rates and a job after successful completion of training. In addition, it will pay sustenance payment for landless labourers for two years and in addition, upgrade village infrastructure.

The Union government’s policy moots returning 10 per cent of land to the project-affected people whereas the MSEZ package has a provision in which 12.5 per cent developed land would be returned to the affected families. The MSEZ has shown willingness to purchase land under paddy at Rs.10 lakh per acre and unproductive land at Rs.5 lakh per acre in the project area. The land prices offered by the MSEZ are 10 times more than prescribed in the Ready Reckoner of the State government.

According to the MSEZ package, a landowner may opt for employment of one nominated family member. For women, the company will provide suitable vocational training to enable them to set up self-employment ventures. For landless people, provisions have been made for payment of minimum agricultural wages and vocational training to one nominee of each such family. The MSEZ will also spend Rs.90 crore on upgradation of village amenities and facilities.