50,000 FARMERS CHALLENGE MAHARASHTRA GOVERNMENT,CORPORATES AGAINST SEZ NEAR MUMBAI

Over 50,000 farmers from the Pen-Panvel tehsils of Raigad district in Maharashtra, near Mumbai, called for the do away with the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) by the Government of India, in a massive rally on September 21 (Thursday) and condemned the nexus between the corporate company reliance and the Maharashtra government. On the same day, over 25 trade unions in Pune area opposed the 'anti-farmer and anti-labour SEZ policy and projects. " It is pure and simple land-grab by the rich corporate powers, builders and real estate owners in the name of export and economic activity'.

The rally from Kharghar near Panvel to Konkan Bhavan in CBD-Belapur was organized by various farmers' organizations in Raigad district, including the Peasants and Workers' Party, Pen Panchkroshi Shetkari Bachao Parishad, Anti-SEZ People's Struggle Committee of Maharashtra and others. The unprecedented rally, held in the neighbourhood of the 'financial capital of India', in which the farmers gave a warning in no uncertain terms against usurping their lands. They opposed the acquisition of their lands, and the tax concessions of billions of rupees and winding of the laws of land for the sake of corporate powers. Comrade Sitaram Yechury, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), listed down the ill-effects and demanded 'rethinking' of the SEZ Act on various counts. However, the farmers and other villagers rejected outright the SEZ and its politically strong corporate-promoter, the Reliance Company of Mukesh Ambani. Ambani brothers are darling of Government and the ruling elites in India, including the Ministers, Chief Ministers and even the Prime Minister along with all the political parties of this country are eager to placate the corporate czar. No wonder the Ambanis are offered 25,000 acres in Haryana, 3000 acres in Uttar Pradesh, about 1,000 hectares in W. Bengal and about 12,000 hectares in Maharashtra.

In the rally the people poured their scorn on the Reliance company in choicest abusive words and demanded throwing out the Company from area. The villagers ire was not without reason, as had to undergo the continuous attempts to divide their villages, incite dissensions, feuds in the communities and thus disturb the harmonious relations within the area by the paid agents of the Reliance company, to make the people to give away the land. It was evident that despite the attempts by the agents of the company, the people were steadfast in their resolve and were not afraid to come out to speak.

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In Akurdi, an industrial suburb near Pune, over 25 trade unions held a day-long meeting to protest against the SEZ and demanded to the state government and the corporate giants to stop all the activities of land acquisition or setting up of their units. The workers came heavily down upon the non-application of labour laws in the SEZ areas. " It is the contempt of the Indian Sovereignty, Indian laws and rights of farmers and workers along with the large land-grant by the government for the corporates. It is the extension of the neo-liberal Globalization' contended the senior leader of Communist Party of India (CPI) Mr. Govindrao Pansare. Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation Employees' Union, Bajaj Auto Employees' Union, CITU, AITUC and TUCC along with various trade unions of various industrial units supported the resistance to the SEZs.

Meanwhile, various representatives of people's organizations and prominent persons janded out a memorandum to the Union Ministry of Industries and demanded *repeal of the SEZ Act "in the light of the undemocratic nature of its conceptualisation, adoption and severe implications it has on marginalised groups." They alleged that *the SEZ policy tilted heavily in favour of corporate houses by providing tax holidays, minimum environmental regulations and no labour laws.

*The delegation included Rajendra Sachar of People's Union of Covil Liberties, noted journalist, Kuldip Nayar, jurist Prashant Bhushan, Rajendra Ravi of NAPM, Rifat Mumtaz of National Centre of Advocacy Studies, Kanchi Kohli of Kalpavriksha and others.*

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Reflecting similar views, CPI national executive adopted a resolution demanding a halt to the creation of SEZs, re-examination of the SEZ Act and amendments to the Land Acquisition Act. "These fenced off tax exempt and labour laws exempt enclaves will be deemed foreign territory for our own citizenry and only the dictates of the SEZ foreign authority will apply," the resolution said. "This is veritable loot sanctioned by the government," the CPI said.

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*Sanjay Sangvai Sampat Kale
Ulka Mahajan*
*SEZ VIRODHI SANGHARSHA SAMITI (**MAHARASHTRA**)*

Contacts: Sanjay Sangvai (9890025479), Ulka Mahajan (9868232478)

Suniti S.R.(020-25241404);Sampat Kale (9423202202)

*Press Release/ **September 22, 2006***

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