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Report on Mumbai SEZ referendum delayed

November 22, 2008 12:36 IST

The Maharashtra government is still probing in the dark on how to interpret the data collected through a referendum held a couple of months back to take a decision on the Mumbai SEZ.

The state government on September 21 held the referendum, the first of its kind in the country, in 22 villages in Raigad district to decide the fate of the Mumbai SEZ, promoted by Jai Corp headed by Anand Jain, who is a close associate of Reliance Industry chief Mukesh Ambani.

However, Raigad district collector Nipun Vinayak is yet to finalise the report on the issue.

Around 3,000 hectares of farmland has been notified for acquisition for the SEZ.

However, the state government decided to hold the referendum as these villages fall in the command area of the Hetavane dam and in accordance with the 2006 revised guidelines formed by the central government that irrigated land cannot be acquired for SEZ.

The figures released by the district collector after the referendum revealed that out of around 23,000 eligible voters around 6,300 had participated in the exercise while anti-SEZ activists, who published their version of results, claim 91 per cent of those who cast their vote opposed the SEZ.

Speaking with Business Standard, a senior official from the state government said, many sensitive issues are involved in the interpretation of the data like whether to consider votes cast by those other than the head of a family whose names appear as heirs on the land record, as valid or not, among others.

This apart, the issue of availability of water from the Hetavane dam is also involved.

The irrigation department has been asked to give its report on how many farmers from these 22 villages would actually be benefitted and by when, as water available for irrigation is limited and canals are yet to be completed, he added.

According to irrigation authorities out of 145 thousand million cubic metre water available in Hetavane dam only around 30 TMC is available for irrigation while the rest is reserved for drinking and industrial use.

This water set aside for irrigation is to be shared by 52 villages and not just the 22 villages which are a part of the SEZ.

The Anti-Mumbai SEZ Action Committee spokesperson Vaishali Patil said, "The government is trying all the possible methods to show how only a few people have opposed the SEZ."

"Earlier this week, we had written a letter to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to express our concern on the delay in publishing the report on the referendum. We have not received any answer yet," she added.

This is the reason why the district collector has been asked to interpret the data on three different parameters like how many people from each land account (Karta +heirs) have voted and how they have voted, what is survey number wise break-up (one survey number can include land of many farmers) of the farmers who have said yes or no to the SEZ and how many out of the absolute numbers of people which includes karta and his heirs have said yes or no, she said.

Makarand Gadgil in Mumbai