Protests during the public hearing on land acquisition for the National Investment and Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ) near Zaheerabad in Telangana's Sangareddy district on Wednesday brought focus on the controversy surrounding the upcoming project.
Tension prevailed at Bardipur village when farmers and other villagers were arrested by the police when they staged protests during the public hearing.
District authorities had organised the meeting with farmers and other residents of 17 villages in Nyalkal and Jharasangham mandals where the NIMZ is proposed to be set up.
However, farmers opposing the project alleged that they were not allowed to participate in the meeting.
Police had set up five check posts on the roads leading to the venue. Protestors were stopped when tried to march towards the venue.
Farmers alleged only those who are in support of the NIMZ were allowed to attend the public hearing.
When District Collector Hanumantha Rao was addressing the meeting, some of the participants interrupted him and started raising slogans against the government. Police took the protestors into custody.
The Collector told the participants that the project will ensure speedy development of the district and assured them that only non-polluting industrial units will be allowed in the NIMZ.
However, there were chaos outside the venue as police used mild force to stop the protestors and arrest them.
"They are calling it public hearing but not allowing public to attend it," said a protestor.
Another farmer squatting on the ground was seen wailing over losing his land. "They are snatching away my mother. What will happen to us if they take away the land which is our only source of our livelihood," he asked. Policemen physically lifted him and whisked him away in a vehicle.
Police had made tight security arrangements for the public hearing, which is considered an important step in moving closer to obtaining an environmental clearance.
In 2015, the Centre's Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion had approved the establishment of the NIMZ near Zaheerabad in accordance with the National Manufacturing Policy, 2011.
Different manufacturing industries will come up at the NIMZ which is proposed to be established over 12,635 acres.
According to the Environmental Impact Assessment/Environmental Management Plan report, the Telangana State Industrial Infrastructure Corporation (TSIIC) has to acquire 9,710 acres of land, of which 7,461 acres is private land.
Famers in 17 villages under Nyalkal and Jharasangam mandals have been opposing the project. Ever since the announcement of the project, they held several protest demonstrations. The project is likely to affect the livelihood of over 5,000 farmers and impact over 10,000 people.
According to the report, the state government officials had planned to conduct a socio-economic survey in three villages, but the residents did not let them do so in two villages as a mark of protest. In the one village where the survey was conducted, 70 per cent of the people had opposed the project.
Pointing out that most of the people in that village are solely dependent on agriculture and allied activities for livelihood, the survey report said changing the area to an industrial zone and subsequent change in land use will affect the livelihood of many. It stressed the need to skill the youth to take up new jobs in the industries.
The report also highlighted the benefits of the project stating that it may contribute to the annual industrial output of Rs 44,000 crore and generate direct and indirect employment for 2.66 lakh people by 2040. It will also enhance local infrastructure, including road and rail network. The NIMZ would focus on automobile, electrical machinery, transport equipment, etc.
Farmers have formed a group 'NIMZ Rythula Poratha Samithi' to lead the protests against forceful land acquisition. The Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and other opposition parties are supporting the group.
Farmers say that the TSIIC is offering a compensation of only Rs 7 to 9 lakh per acre against the market value of Rs 25 lakh per acre. The farmers who staged protests on Wednesday demanded increase in compensation by Rs 20 lakh.
The villagers are also demanding that no polluting industry should come up in the proposed cluster. They say that in the past, polluting industries near their villages created many problems for them.
Scientists for People, a group of retired scientists have recently urged the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to reject Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the NIMZ. Pointing out lapses in the report, the group termed it a cut and paste job.
"Pollution loads presented are fictitious and have no basis. MoEF&CC does not include Food Processing industries under EIA Notification 2006, but the draft EIA report shows that the pollution load from this sector is the highest. Especially sulphur dioxide emissions are maximum," the group stated in the letter, a copy of which was also sent to Telangana Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar.
However, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government is keen to speed up the process for setting up of the NIMZ near Zaheerabad, which is already home to few automobile units.
Industry Minister K.T. Rama Rao recently urged the Centre to allocate Rs 500 crore for the first phase work of the NIMZ.
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