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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Mumbai: Villagers seeking rehabilitation for 34 years call off protest, give govt time to respond

Deputy Commissioner of Police said, “We had a meeting with the villagers and we discussed their issues. We told them that we are positive that their concerns will be examined by the district administration. The villagers, including many women, attended the meeting.”

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Mumbai |
Updated: January 21, 2021 10:01:39 am
Local residents from villages near Vadhavan in Dahanu came together at the proposed site of the Vadhavan port in December 2020 to protest against a survey being carried out by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. (File Photo)

Villagers who had called a “channel bandh” at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai on Thursday, decided to defer their protest after discussions with the police and the district administration on Wednesday evening.

JNPT project affected persons (PAPs) from the Sheva village in Uran had called for the protest that was widely supported by the fishing community.

The PAPs from Sheva, who have been living in transit camps at Hunuman Koliwada in Uran for the last 34 years, have not been rehabilitated according to the rules, they allege. They said that 256 families from the village – 86 agricultural and 170 non-agricultural – were displaced from Sheva when the JNPT purchased the land in 1985.

“We had decided to block the channel near the JNPT on Thursday but after discussions with the police and district administration, we decided to postpone our protest. We will wait for 35 days to see how the government responds to our demands and then decide the date of our protest. The protest has only been deferred, not cancelled,” said Ramesh Koli of the Gramsudharna Mandal Hanuman Koliwada (GMHK).

Deputy Commissioner of Police Shivraj Patil said, “We had a meeting with the villagers and we discussed their issues. We told them that we are positive that their concerns will be examined by the district administration. The villagers, including many women, attended the meeting. They have now called off the protest.”

Koli said they have the support of fishermen from Arnala to Vadhavan in Dahanu, where villagers have been protesting the construction of the upcoming port. Among several reasons like environmental damage, the Vadhavan Bandar Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti had also cited the example of Sheva PAPs who are yet to be rehabilitated.

“We had decided to take our boats and block the channel. We were going to sit in our boats indefinitely. Its has been 35 years and we are still waiting to be rehabilitated. We don’t have proper homes, livelihood and our children cannot get good education,” said Koli.

In a letter to the Navi Mumbai Police commissioner on January 20, GMHK had stated that PAPs from Sheva were to be rehabilitated on 17 hectare in Boripakhadi village. However, of the 17 hecatre, only 2 hectare was utilised for rehabilitation.

The letter added that the 17 hecatre land purchased by JNPT at Rs 12,37,000 in 1985 had been destroyed and in the last 34 years, due to tidal surges, is now covered with mangroves.

JNPT Deputy Chairman Umesh Chandra Wagh had on January 13 written to state Secretary (Relief and Rehabilitation) Kishore Raje Nimbalkar, stating that the during the construction of the port between 1984 to 1989, the JNPT had paid the entire cost of rehabilitating the villagers from Sheva to the state government.

“It is pertinent to mention here that it is the duty of the state government to take a clear and legitimate view of resettlement of villagers as JNPT has already fulfilled its commitment,” the letter added.

The letter further said that JNPT, in addition to paying the cost of the land and rehabilitation, had also offered to share the burden of the second rehabilitation by parting with 6 hectare of its land. “If the villagers are insisting on 17 hecatre as envisaged in the original proposal, then it is the state government that has to provide them the suitable land. JNPT had already received the approval of Rs 5.6 crore from the Ministry of Shipping towards second rehabilitation of village Hanuman Koliwada, which will be given to the state government immediately.”

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