People’s Struggle against SEZ and MIDC in Sinnar, NASHIK DISTRICT
Sinnar is located near the Dev-River tributary of Godavari river basin, 180 km from Pune and 175 km from Mumbai, on the Sinnar- Shirdi highway. The Maharashtra State Government has been developing industrial infrastructure facilities in the region for the last 15 years, including the Ghoti-Sinnar highway, the Sinnar-Shirdi-Aurangabad express highway, and an airport. However, the government has not developed infrastructure for farmers and villagers, who lack regular electricity, storage facilities, and access to low interest loans. Citizens in the region do not oppose development, but seek an agro-based development in which the state government would provide appropriate support to farmers and those involved in agricultural-based livelihoods.
A few decades ago, the Sinnar block was declared a drought affected area and village leaders attempted watershed development to provide water to local land. Today, villages situated at the bank of Dev River basin have a rich water source. Almost 32 medium dams and canals have been built for the purpose of irrigation. Most of the irrigation is dependent on water from wells, connected through long pipelines which farmers installed. The main crops produced in the region are sugarcane, onion, potato, tomato, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, oil seeds, vegetables, flowers, fruits and pulses. In addition, the region supports a dairy and poultry business, as well as animal husbandry.
Developers for the proposed India Bulls SEZ seek to acquire about 7,500 hectares of land from the fourteen villages of Sinnar block. Government land acquisition for the SEZ does not exclude agricultural or irrigated land, which has prompted farmer opposition to the project. The farmers feel that they have been cheated by government compensation and rehabilitation packages.
Farmers organized a convention on 21 October 2007 at Kedarpur village to oppose forced land acquisition for the India Bulls SEZ. A large number of farmers came together and decided not to give up their land and livelihoods. Prof. N. D. Patil, Prof. Subhash Ware, Vaishali Patil, D.L. Karad, Kishor Dhamale and Prakashbhau Waje extended their support to the struggle.
Later that month, farmers formed an Anti-SEZ Committee and the Gram Sabha passed resolutions stating that they would not permit government acquisition of their land for the India Bulls SEZ. The Anti-SEZ Committee asserted the villagers’ rights to livelihood and cultural identity through farming. Landless
community members also asserted their dependence on local employment.
lands, due to lack of alternative
In December 2007, farmers organised a rally in Sinnar to oppose the SEZ. During the rally, protestors
submitted a demand letter to the circle officer and Tahsildar, demanding an end to the land acquisition process and government provision of water. More than 2000 people from seven villages participated in this protest against land acquisition and displacement.
The Maharashtra State Government ignored the opposition of local citizens and forcibly acquired 1,468
acres of land from Sinnar villages in 2008. The government recently sought to extend this acquisition by issuing section 6 notifications for 1,500 hectares of land in Kedarpur, Khopadi, Shahapur, Gulvanch and Musalgaon. Almost 80% of the villagers on these lands are engaged in agricultural activities and the majority of farmers affected by this land acquisition are women.
Farmers of Khopadi village are particularly distraught over government acquisition of land which citizens have struggled to make fertile over the last 20 years. While villagers in Khopadi were once unable to irrigate a single biga (1/2 acre), they have dug more than 250 wells and now cultivate cash crops. Their wells are 80 to 110 feet deep and the water table is high. Having done ground water recharge work, villagers can now take three crops in a year and earn more than 10-12 lakh per annum. Many villagers in the region are angry with this unjust government action.
Seventy year-old Thakubai Mahadu Gurule dug an 80 feet well during a time of water scarcity, creating her own irrigation facility. Today, she sells crops in Nashik, Pune and Mumbai. Gurule shared her anguish over land acquisition for the India Bulls SEZ: “We don’t want more money, we want to preserve our land for future generations. We are happy with our present condition. We don’t want to stay in a bungalow, our farmhouse is best. Please do not disturb our life cycle. Only money cannot sustain our life. We must have our sustainable livelihood sources.” Ramnath Pandhrinath Gurule added: “The government and their senior ministers had promised not to touch our irrigated land. Why they are not keeping promises? Forced land acquisition] will create only displacement and social disturbance and is not going to sustain our livelihood. The government proposed lands for our resettlement, then the government should give those lands to SEZ, not ours.”
Villagers in the Sinnar block continue to bring their struggle against land a c q u i s i t i o n t o v a r i o u s l e v e l s o f government. While they currently receive little response from officials, protestors hope for a change in leadership after the next elections. Legislation should help farmers restrict land acquisition, but the current government seems to promote corporate development over the needs of citizens. Due to the strong opposition to the SEZ developers government has slowed down the process of land acquisition in Sinnar Block.