Reliance SEZ in Haryana sanctioned

it's official. The Reliance special economic zone (sez) project in Haryana is on. On June 5, the Board of Approval of sezs, a government body, gave its nod to the sez, which is to come up in 565 hectares (ha) in Gurgaon and Jhajjar districts of Haryana. Land was acquired by Haryana State Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (hsiidc), a shareholder in the project, five years ago.

Residents have taken to the streets protesting against the project. A group of 100 villagers, mostly women from Garuali Khurd village of Gurgaon, chased away a team of Reliance land surveyors who had come to inspect land for construction of the first phase of the sez. Five villages Khandsa, Narsinghpur, Mohammedpur, Garauli and Harsaru are under the 565 ha, the residents of which are opposing any kind of industrial development in the area.

According to Jay Narain, a resident, land was acquired by hsiidc by the Om Prakash Chautala government for setting up of an industrial township. But no industrial town came up and when the Congress-led Bhupinder Singh Hooda government came to power in 2005, it decided to give the acquired land to Reliance for a sez. "Land was acquired for just Rs 8-9 lakh per acre by the previous government. When the current government gave land to Reliance, it paid farmers another Rs 12-14 lakh. Compared to current land prices in the area, which is going as high as Rs 2 crore per acre, the government's compensation is nothing,' says Narain.

Farmers say Reliance should take their land on lease. "The farmers should remain the owners and if any company wishes to set up any industry here, it must be prepared to sign a lease agreement,' says Captain Satvir Gulia of Jagrut Kisan Manch, a farmers association in Jhajjar. Satpal Singh, the nambardar (village level representative of revenue department) of Badli village in Jhajjar says the land that Reliance is eyeing is one of the most fertile regions in Haryana. "The land here supports at least two crops of wheat and rice in a year. It grows bajra, water melons and some garden vegetables like khakri and tomatoes,' says Singh. "Farmers earn Rs 100,000-150,000 annually from agriculture. Money from leasing land to industries should be able to compensate for our losses,' he adds.

The farmers have warned Reliance of another Nandigram. Clearly, the troubles have only begun.

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