Page last updated at 13:03 GMT, Monday, 6 October 2008 14:03 UK

Indian special zone 'is rejected'

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

Worker in the field of a proposed SEZ

Over 90% of farmers in the western Indian state of Maharashtra have rejected a proposed Special Economic Zone (SEZ), activists say.

The farmers were taking part in a consultation exercise organised by the state government.

The votes were cast last month when people in 22 villages were asked their views on SEZs.

Inspired by similar zones established in China, the tax-free enclaves are seen as a way to promote trade.

The villages stand to lose a total of 5,700 acres of land to make way for an SEZ proposed by Reliance Industries.

Called MahaMumbai SEZ (Great Mumbai SEZ), it is planned to spread over 45 villages and over 20,000 acres of land.

While opponents of the zones say that the consultation process has resulted in a huge rejection, government officials say that their report is still being worked on and they cannot confirm any outcome at present.

The consultation process in action in Maharashtra
It has been one of the largest consultations ever held in Maharashtra

Farmers from 22 villages, most of them rice farmers, oppose the SEZ because they say it would do away with their crops at a time when a near-complete dam would ensure high quality irrigation and more produce.

The farmers also complain that the financial compensation they have been offered for land which will be compulsorily purchased is much less than the current market rate.

Activists claim the government is deliberately delaying the announcement of the results of the vote which were expected to be released within 15 days of it taking place.

The Forum Against Globalisation group says that out of 6,199 forms cast on the day of the vote, 5,866 opposed the SEZ.

When the vote was first announced there were reports that the state government would halt the process of land acquisition if the majority of voters rejected the SEZ.

However it was later "clarified" that the process was only an opinion-gathering exercise and the outcome was not mandatory.

Forum Against Globalisation spokesman Ulka Mahajan said that it was "clear on the day of voting that farmers do not want to give up their land".

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