Nagpur : Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary A.B. Bardhan Saturday reiterated his party's opposition to the government's Special Economic Zone (SEZ) policy, dubbing it a state-sponsored ploy to plunder the country's scarce land resource for capitalists.
"Fast track industrial development happened in India in the earlier decades even when there were no SEZs and there is no reason why it cannot happen now," Bardhan said at a public function here.
Referring to a spate of SEZs coming up in Maharashtra, the Leftist leader whose party supports the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from outside asked whether all the farmland in the state was meant for the Ambanis – referring to the industrialist brothers, Mukesh and Anil Ambani.
Expressing solidarity with the farmers in Shivangaon whose land is under acquisition for the MIHAN (Multi-modal International Hub Airport at Nagpur) project, Bardhan wondered why it could not be shifted some kilometres away from the city.
The cargo hub project, as MIHAN is popularly known, has been taken up in tandem with the multi-product SEZ that is being developed alongside the Sonegaon airport under expansion.
"Don't budge an inch from here unless a fair compensation is offered to you and a proper rehabilitation scheme is in place," Bardhan exhorted the Shivangaon residents who are set to lose both their houses and agricultural land.
The moderately sized Sonegaon airport is set to metamorphose into one of the biggest in the country as a part of the ambitious MIHAN project. While 644 hectares of land in Shivangaon is under acquisition for the airport expansion, over 2,000 hectares have been acquired for the SEZ.
The proposed Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) depot of aviation giant Boeing is a part of the MIHAN-SEZ project, which its executive head R.C. Sinha claims to be the biggest ongoing project in the country.
Though the project did have its share of sporadic protests including the one led by activist Medha Patkar and litigation in its five-year run-up, the land acquisition process did not meet much resistance on ground, as much of the land was either non-agricultural or fallow.
The grumbling against the 'pittance' that the government offered as compensation – Rs.70,000 per acre for the land in the rural area and Rs.200,000-250,000 for that coming within the municipal limits – rose into a roar a couple of months back when Bombay High Court judge J.N. Patel sold his ancestral land near Shivangaon for a whopping Rs.25.5 million an acre.
On June 12, a state government appointed committee headed by urban development department's Principal Secretary Ramanand Tiwari had promised the residents of Shivangaon that they would recommend a higher compensation for the land.