Despite opposition from the locals, the Maharashtra government has diverted 460 hectares of tribal land in Palghar for industrial activity. The land, now set aside for the development of industries, is a part of the 2,766 hectares it had acquired from tribal families in the early 1960s for a dairy project for supplying milk to Mumbai. But as the project never took off, most of the land has remained unutilised.
While the tribal families belonging to hamlets in Palghar’s Dahanu and Talasari talukas, whose lands were acquired, have been opposing industrialisation of the lands, the state’s Dairies Development department, which is in possession of the land, issued orders on November 24, notifying that 460-hectare land was now being handed over to the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation. “The development of industries in the (tribal district) of Palghar will benefit the local population and result in all-round growth of the region,” states the government resolution, signed by Ashok Uike, deputy secretary (Dairy Development).
Sources further confirmed that the MIDC had considered to offer this land to Taiwanese firm Foxconn, which had committed to invest $5 billion in the state. In fact, this May, it had even taken Foxconn executives for a site visit, which was marked by protest and demonstrations from locals. But as the multinational company is yet to firm up its commitment, the government has drawn up an alternative plan for industrial development on the land. With India’s first foreshore port – the Vadhavan port – coming up in Dahanu itself, the proposal is to develop the belt as a cargo and logistics hub, said sources. Another senior official pointed out that the site was located along the alignment of the upcoming Vadodara-Mumbai expressway.
The government has argued that it was within its right to transfer the land that had been acquired for one public purpose for another one. But the move is likely to be opposed by the locals. The gram panchayat of Vankas, which would be the most impacted by the development, has recently adopted a resolution opposing the industrial development. In an indication that the move could spark further protests, Congress’s Palghar district president, Kedar Kale, said: “The government took tribal lands for a nominal compensation, promised employment and jobs in the dairy project. That has not been done.
They have now rubbed salt over the wounds of the affected tribal families by allowing industrial development on the land. The government wants to benefit the business class at the expense of the poor tribals. We (the Congress) won’t let this happen. We will protest against the move.” In the past, the government has allocated a portion of the acquired land for a rubber research centre, a border check post, and projects for electrification, horticulture, and fisheries.
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