Lady who took on industry Goliath, and won, looks at encore!

Rahul Wadke
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Ulka Mahajan
Ulka Mahajan

Goliath, the giant Philistine warrior was brought down by David with a mere stone. The biblical version describes Goliath as falling on his face after he was struck by a stone that sank into his forehead. Recently in Maharashtra, a similar skirmish has taken place. Only, here the protagonist is a woman.

Ulka Mahajan, convenor of the NGO Sarvahara Jan Andolan, took on the mighty tycoons and managed to get the 10,000-hectare Maha Mumbai Special Economic Zones cancelled in 2011. Incidentally, one of the promoters of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) was Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd.

Once again, Mahajan is getting ready to undertake a similar battle. Only this time, it is against the new industrial policy of Maharashtra and the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project. She alleges that special provisions have been made in the policy for the latter.

Opposition parties and civil rights activists are increasingly seeing the new policy as a ploy of the real estate lobby to acquire agricultural land for residential, commercial and industrial use.

In 2006, Mahajan was of the opinion that the Maha Mumbai SEZ was an attempt to acquire farmers’ land around Mumbai and convert it into residential colonies. She, along with other smaller parties like the Peasants and Workers Party, launched a protracted agitation, leading to the termination of the SEZ in February 2011.

Speaking to Business Line, Mahajan said the provision of integrated industrial areas in the new policy, disclosed to media persons on Thursday, is a similar attempt to grab land through the backdoor, under the garb of development.

“The supporters of DMIC corridor are claming that 18 lakh new jobs would be created, but what about the 20 lakh farmers who would be displaced because of the project,” Mahajan asks.

She went on to add that in the case of the Maha Mumbai SEZ, farmers were forced to give up their land. “In some cases”, she alleged, “they were only given one choice — sell the land to the SEZ developers. The same is bound to happen in the DMIC project. Therefore, our NGO is opposing it”, she said.

The Maharashtra Government is talking about additional land requirement for industrialisation. However, the Government’s own outfit, the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, has huge tracts of land, which is lying vacant, “Why not use that for industrial development? Instead, the State Government, along with builders, continue to eye prime land near cities,” she added.

(This article was published on January 4, 2013)
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