Govt halts Videocon bid to acquire land

Govt halts Videocon bid to acquire land

Pune: Maharashtra government has suspended the land acquisition process for a special economic zone (SEZ) being put up by Videocon Industries Ltd on 4,000 acres of land at Wagholi near Pune, state industries minister Ashok Chavan said on Tuesday.

“We have temporarily stayed the land acquisition for the project and will take up the issue for discussion after Diwali," Chavan said.

Venugopal Dhoot, chairman of Videocon Industries, refused to comment on the development.

The government move came in response to a sustained protest by more than 1,000 farmers in the villages where the land is being acquired since April this year.

Videocon entered into a memorandum of understanding with the state government in September last year for the joint development of a multi-product SEZ. It got the government’s approval in January this year.

But the project has been dogged by controversy from the very beginning with farmers alleging that the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corp. (MIDC) had acquired their land by force. The farmers say they are interested in pooling their land, developing it and reaping the benefits of the commercially developed property by leasing it out to corporations.

Pune city is already home to a project where more than 100 farmers pooled their land and commercially developed it to form Magarpatta City, an IT park and residential complex.

Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, who is also a member of the cabinet committee that has drafted the new land acquisition norms for SEZs, on Tuesday told a farmers rally at the site of the acquisition that the project was being stayed. He did not clarify if this would mean that the project is being stayed permanently or if Videocon would be given land in any other part of the state. The protest against the SEZ was led by a legislator from Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party.

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