About 22 villages in Raigad district participated in an opinion poll on whether they are willing to part with their land for a proposed SEZ being set up by Reliance Industries.
Wary of a Singur-like agitation, the Maharashtra government called for a public vote in half the villages earmarked for the SEZ. (Watch)
Though Reliance went to court against the vote, the state went ahead with the poll, which was largely peaceful and the anti-SEZ group claims 90 per cent of the votes are in their favour.
Voting was a chance for land owners like 82-year-old Jankibai Mhatre to give her opinion in this first-of-its-kind opinion poll that could set a precedent for other special economic zones in the country.
Financial constraints have forced Jankubai to sell a part of her two-acre land to Reliance's proposed SEZ. But she is now ready to defy any more acquisitions.
"I don't want to give my land. I don't want the SEZ," she said.
Twenty-two villages that account for a third of the total area of the proposed SEZ, are participating in this unique exercise conducted by the state government to declare if they want the SEZ or not.
These villages fall in the catchment area of the Hetwane irrigation dam and the land here is fertile.
The reason why this region has seen strong anti-SEZ protests to pressurise the government from land acquisitions.
For the 28,000 people of these villages, this is a chance to clarify their stance.
"We want the SEZ but we want the right price for our land," said a villager.
Of the 45 villages, a little over 10 per cent land has been actually acquired by Reliance Industries in the last two-and-a-half years a process that has been largely marred by protests.
An election like exercise that has no final result. All these opinions will become part of a report that will be tabulated and analysed by the state government. But in the beginning, as of now, begins the analysis that the state government can take the final call.