A recent development could mark the end of Reliance Industries CMD Mukesh Ambani’s dream to build India’s biggest Special Economic Zone in Raigad known as Mumbai SEZ. It is learnt that Reliance Industries has withdrawn its review petition before the Supreme Court that sought to expedite land acquisition for its Maha Mumbai SEZ. We met one of the social activists of the movement Ulka Mahajan on this very significant development for our weekend exclusive today. Can you win a grassroots level agitation for your land against a person whose is worth a whopping Rs 196,000 Crore, not once but twice? Yes, you can! It is learnt that Reliance Industries has withdrawn its review petition before the Supreme Court that sought to expedite land acquisition for its Maha Mumbai SEZ. For the second time in a row of a long-drawn struggle, farmers of Raigad seems to have won again in the battle for their life against India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani. Maha Mumbai SEZ’s decision to pull out its petition comes in the wake of the SEZ Board of Approval refusing the company a further time extension for the land acquisition. The BoA recently directed the company to approach the Maharashtra government to begin the entire process afresh after it failed to mop up enough land within the stipulated timeframe. In June 2009, the Supreme Court order refused Reliance plea to stay a Bombay High Court. The High Court had declined to give any directive to state authorities to speed up land acquisition for the 10,000-hectare. This came as a big setback for Ambani-promoted SEZ. Reliance had pleaded that if the entire acquisition proceedings lapsed, it would cause grave financial loss to Reliance who had already invested Rs 600 crore in the project noted. Ulka Mahajan remarked that this is a democracy and the state should understand that in a country where 80% are dependant on agriculture sector, the state cannot work in the interest of the remaining 20%. The land that Reliance wants is in and around the Pen, Panvel and Uran areas is the most fertile land in the district and is very close to Mumbai. The Maha Mumbai SEZ brought to the forefront how agriculture sector is endangered with such projects, farmer suicides and droughts, which can be fought and won only if farmers are united. Another winning factor of the Raigad movement has been that they have won against Reliance not once but twice that too by following the principles of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence movement. She says that their victory will deter other capitalists vying fertile farmer lands for commercial exploitation. She pointed out how China has learnt from its mistakes of developing SEZs and is now converting the SEZs into agricultural lands again. The victory against Reliance will motivate farmers across country that they too can win against all odds and challenges like Raigad farmers did. It’s not a hidden fact anymore. SEZ are not Special Economic Zones but Special Exploitation Zones. Earlier freedom fighters fought against the British for freedom. Now farmers across the nation, including Raigad are fighting a battle against their own people – a battle for their land, their life, their existence. And despite Reliance retracting its footsteps for the time being, Ulka Majahan says that the battle has not ended. Nobody is calling it a revolution, but something radical has happened in Raigad. Mukesh Ambani, the most powerful Indian industrialist, has faced a setback not once but twice. And if Reliance is not giving up already, they should think better. For farmers in Raigad are more determined and united than ever to once again prove to India’s richest man that even with all the money that Mukesh Ambani has, he cannot battle against “the people’s power” in a democracy. With Managing Editor Zeba Warsia, Sana Warsia for NMTV News.
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