In our continuing concern with the strange times that seem to have befallen our cities, lets not lose sight of the historic battle underway in the countryside. In the first instance of its kind, the referendum on the Maha-Mumbai Special Economic Zone being set up by Reliance has unambiguously returned the verdict of the farmers of Raigad- no SEZ in Pen! As Sanhati notes, the Tata’s 1500 crore investment in Singur sounds like loose change when compared to the one lakh crore that Reliance is planning to sink into 10,000 hectares. 22 villages in the Pen Tehsil voted against the acquisition of their lands at the paltry sum of 10 lakhs per acre. Unsurprisingly, Reliance Industries Limited has said the referendum is “not genuine”:
“Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has said the outcome of the Maharashtra government referendum on Mukesh Ambani-promoted Raigad Special Economic Zone (SEZ) cannot be seen going against the SEZ since the ballot was cast by “so-called farmers” and not the genuine landowners.” He didn’t of course clarify what this cryptic statement means. A “so-called farmer” we presume is a farmer who is so-called because he or she is a farmer?
Reliance has now gone to court saying that the state government has no authority to hold the referendum without permission from the Center because the MOU was signed with the Center. Exactly how Reliance can move the court on center-state relations is unclear to me.
“According to sources, the petition said that the state government could not announce a referendum without the Centre’s consent as the SEZ had received an approval in principal from the central government and the area had been demarcated as an SEZ.” Such is the arrogance of the corporates and so convinced are they that the political process exists solely to facilitate them that Reliance expressed surprise at the decesion by a state government to actually consult people on whether they wished to be dispossed of their land. Reliance wished they had been informed before the government took this “radical” step.
“However, thats small consolation for Reliance, which expressed surprise over the state governments sudden decision. Though Mumbai SEZ Pvt Ltds spokesperson declined to comment, sources close to the company said the state government should have informed the company before taking such a decision.”
We’ll keep that in mind next time Mukesh – consult Reliance so that inconvinient things like democratic process don’t get in the way of the “brass-band of capital”. And Chief Secretary Johnny Joseph was quick to assure industry that this was a “special case” in case anyone get the wrong impression that this anamalous state of affairs where farmers might actually be given the right to determine their own destinies might become the de riguer way of doing business. Still, sadly Mr Ambani, it seems in an election year, one lakh crore is not nearly enough to cushion the government’s backside from the potential fallout of what happens to the royal gaddi when people are kicked off their land without consent. Singur and Nandigram are too painfully close to ignore.