sez-4The first Maharashtra People’s Audit and Public hearing on SEZ’s process in the state was held in Div village in Pen Taluka of Raigad district. During the proceedings social activists, farmers and leaders demanded scrapping of SEZ Act and denounced the act as violation of the Constitution of India. So determined are the villagers to not part with their ancestral land that they offered instead of the Ambanies purchasing their land, the farmers are instead ready to buy the Ambani Palace in Mumbai. NMTV News traveled to Pen to capture the historic audit and public hearing. The first Maharashtra People’s Audit and Public hearing on SEZ’s process in the state was held in Div village in Pen Taluka of Raigad district. The venue was located in the proposed Maha Mumbai SEZ zone which is stretches and stretches of fertile land of paddy fields and green vegetables. The eminent panel included Prof. Mary Alphons, Principal Nirmala Niketan College of Social Work, Prof. Swapna Banerjee Guha-professor Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Anand Telutumbde – Professor at IIM Ahmedabad, Prof. Trilochan Sastry – Academic Dean IIM Bangalore, E.A.S. Sharma – Retd. Power Secretary to the Government of India and Prabhat Joshi – Senior Journalist and currently Consulting Editor of Jansatta of the Express Group. During the day long proceedings of the public audit and hearing, several issues emerging around large SEZs from eight districts in Maharashtra viz. Raigad, Mumbai, Thane, Nasik, Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Chandrapur were examined. The issues raised included land acquisition, displacement, corruption, environmental impact, employment generation, compensation as well as questions of overall development needs and economic growth. The People’s Audit will seek to examine the impact of the projects against stated objectives, as well as the impact of the law on the people of the area, and the political economy of the country. 80 years old Prof. N. D. Patil stormed like a firebrand youth referred to the threat of SEZ as more dangerous than Tsunami, for all from the farmers in Raigad to tribals in Orissa. Citing Article 39 of the Indian Constitution, he said it was the duty of the government to uphold an economic system, use of natural resources and rights to livelihood in a manner that does not lead to unequal distribution of wealth. But the SEZ Act violates the Indian Constitution, he said. Terming SEZ as Special Exploitation Zone, N D Patil questioned whether the Ambani was making fun of the poverty of farmers by wanting to buy their land. While Mukesh Ambani led SEZ has been planning to give the farmers an offer for their land they can’t refuse, the farmers too had an offer for Ambani. N D Patil informed that farmers in Raigad were willing to buy the Ambani Palace in Mumbai and that the government should allow this. N D Patil reiterated the stance of farmers and said that no farmer will part with his land, no matter what price is offered for it. Aruna Roy informed that the 4-5 pages SEZ Act was passed in parliament in 2 days without ever circulating the copy of the Act to the members in advance to study. The bill to allow 33% reservation for women in State Assemblies and Parliament is pending in parliament for over 7 years. Stating that not more than 2% exports were made from existing SEZs, Aruna Roy alleged that SEZs were land grab mafia operations. Aruna Roy She said that in spite of officials being invited to the public hearing, none turned up, exposing their guilty intent. She added that all the public hearings and audit will be put on the web before it is finally presented to the government in Delhi to demand scrapping of the SEZ Act. She termed the Act as a conspiracy. Aruna Roy warned that if we accept the SEZ Act then the people of India should be ready for more Acts to follow that will deny basic fundamental rights to the citizens. Testimonies by farmers from Raigad, Nasik, Thane, Pune, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Chandrapur and Amravati districts were presented in front of the panelists and activist. Speaking to NMTV News, farmers once again voiced anger against the state for floating a SEZ in Raigad region. A farmer pointed out that earlier their battle for independence was against the whites and now it is against their own people. Denouncing the act as violation of the constitution of India, the farmers said that they will not part with their ancestral lands even if they have to pay for it with their blood. After hearing the activists, the panelists admitted that not only were their belief that SEZ Acts were in violation of the constitution of India confirmed after the public audit and hearing but that the issue was much different from what is being projected by the state. The Maharashtra People’s Audit and Public hearing on SEZ’s farmers in Raigad nit only confirms that the SEZ Act is violation of the Constitution of India but has also established that farmers across the state are in no mood to give away their ancestral lands. And no matter how strongly capitalists like Mukesh Ambani believe that money can buy everything, may be India’s richest man should visit Raigad to see for himself that even today there are ethics, moral values and things that cannot be purchased even if you have all the money in the world. In Raigad with Vishwarath Nayar and Monika Bhosale, Zeba Warsia for NMTV News.


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