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JINX OVER MUKESH AMBANI’S MAHA MUMBAI SEZ CONTINUES – FARMERS GEAR UP FOR ANOTHER BATTLE TO SAVE THEIR LAND

sezThe farmers of Raigad had won the legal battle against India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani in the month of July when the Supreme Court virtually signed the death-warrant of the ambitious 11,000-hectare Mumbai SEZ project of the Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Industries Ltd. But the battle for their life for the farmers of Raigad continues. Now the Reliance group has approached the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Congress-led Democratic Front government for a further extension for its multicrore Raigad SEZ project. Nobody had dubbed it a revolution, but something radical happened in Raigad when Mukesh Ambani, not just the richest but also arguably the most powerful Indian industrialist, faced a setback due to ‘people’s power’. In the month of July Reliance Industries promoter Mukesh Ambani’s plans for the Maha Mumbai Special Economic Zone dealt a major blow, when the Supreme Court refused to agree to a plea for squashing the land acquisition process. According to India’s Land Acquisition Act, 1894, land needs to be acquired within three years from the date of the publication of a declaration to acquire property for any proposed project. And if no award is made within that time, the entire process for the acquisition of the land would lapse. The acquisition proceedings for the land in the case of Maha Mumbai SEZ were to have been completed by June 8, but seeing that it was failing to meet the deadline, Reliance sought for a stay on land acquisition to extend the deadline. But the Supreme Court refused to extend the deadline and also rejected the plea for a stay on the land acquisition proceedings. Ulka Mahajan – one of the leaders of the movement against Reliance had spoken to NMTV News post the Supreme Court judgment. 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. Raigad district farmers do not want to part with their ancestral land because it is highly fertile and enjoys a rich cultural heritage. Unlike farmers in other parts of the state, farmers in Raigad are aggressive in nature, ready to give their life for their land. However, now Reliance is looking for new ways to revive its ambitious project. The Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance group has approached the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Congress-led Democratic Front government for a further extension of up to August 7, 2010. Now, it is for the Centre’s board of approval to take a decision. The board has sought information from the state government on the status of the project. In a brief letter, the Mumbai SEZ has claimed that it has taken all possible and effective steps in the given circumstances for early acquisition of land. Further, the letter stated that the Mumbai SEZ has already spent and committed Rs 1,200 crore, of which an amount of Rs 110 crore has been paid to the state government towards the cost of land acquisition and Rs 500 crore to the land owners. Despite desperate attempts on part of Reliance, there little hope for the industrial giant as the farmers in Raigad are in no mood to give away their lands. The way farmers are gearing up for the post election battle for their lands, the question arising is whether after loosing the first legal battle against the farmers, is India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani in for another defeat from people’s power. From Raigad, Zeba Warsia for NMTV News.

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