Fighting Injustice in Polepally SEZ

…more than courage it takes WILL to stand up against injustice !

Its Time You Opened Your Eyes!

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This is the response of Sujatha Surepally to the news article ‘SEZ: AP is no Singur’ published in Times of India on September 16th 2008.

Heroic Anti SEZ Struggles of AP

This is in response to Roli Srivastava’s report in your daily titled ‘SEZ: AP is no Singur’ dated 16 September 2008. The article examined Bengal and AP responses to SEZ land acquisitions. It puts forth some assumptions and made questionable conclusions. It simplifies anti-SEZ struggles into two opposing kinds and glorifies Singur while refusing to see other struggles just because they failed to get the sensational popularity that Mamata got in Tata SEZ agitation during past few weeks.

Sadly the other struggles, more lasting and organic but less sensational from media eyes, are ignored in your report. Srivastav assumed that only political parties make struggles worth mentioning and therefore the role of Mamata. Thus, Singur becomes a different model from that of AP. Protests of AP and WB are different in many respects. Singur farmers didn’t question Mamta, nor her silence when the SEZ bill was drafted and when the land was acquired.

Tata Motors in Singur talked of walking out in protest over 645 acres while the Polepally Pharma SEZ (whose promoters also declared to withdraw due to local protest over land) is much larger in extent and about forty farmers have died resisting this land acquisition. But this is not important to media because the SEZ lords here are not celebrities like the Tatas and the protestors are not VIPs as Mamta Benarjee with her debatable political activism

Agreed that anti-SEZ struggles in AP are not glamorous and have no political parties leading them, but the struggles waged are more lasting and related to larger extent of lands. The farmers may not have won the battles. Does that make these struggles less significant and justify to be labeled ‘subservient’?.

Environment in which these protests are located is also important. AP has the largest number of SEZs in the country. AP govt is most criminal, cunning and aggressive with regard to SEZs. It has resorted to all forms of brutal force: threats, arrests, jailed the activists. It imposed 144 section in 14 villages to complete land acquisition for Vadarevu and Nizampatnam Port Industrial Corridor. Devoured 42 farmers in Polepally SEZ. Co-opted political parties, made opposition parties into beneficiaries (like Laxma Reddy the MLA of TRS working as agent of Pharma SEZ in Polepally) and transformed APIIC into a broker to siphon money for political heads.

People without the help of any party leaders are fighting against the SEZs. The state Human Rights Commission and media and other sections are exposing the atrocities of SEZs in AP. Is this less than the Tata-Mamta glamour struggle?

Your report mentioned of the Singur struggle as rich farmer- Mamta combine against the Tatas in small patch of land. In AP the SEZs are targeting the most vulnerable sections. Poorest of the poor and the dalits who were once given government lands during Indira Gandhi regime are now being robbed off by the agent of Sonia madam. AP SEZs are also castiest targeting the weakest of the farmers. One stark example of this criminal nature of excluding the rich sections and dominant castes is Polepally. Entire land acquisition has been careful not to acquire an acre of the upper castes!

Yes! AP isn’t Singur and Nandigram as they ended up in rehabilitation packages.  Nandigram struggle ceased as soon as the project is withdrawn from that place. Both these struggles are not against inhuman, lopsided development ACT called SEZ. Anti SEZ struggles of AP are also different from Singur because they opposed the SEZ and questioned every political party. Polepally farmers made a remarkable history of rejecting all political parties by contesting by-elections in May 2008. They successfully defeated the local MLA who was supporting the SEZ.

Around 1000 acres of land was grabbed by APIIC in 2002 with false promises and projects. First it was in the name of a Green Park, than it became an Industrial Park and finally it took shape of Pharma SEZ that now has a university also. Polepally SEZ Vyathireka Ikya Sanghatana, took up many protest forms. A record of the entire protest may be seen on https://polepally.wordpress.com

Forty two farmers died in this process – jailed and beaten brutally, women became widows and helpless. This is a symbol of the brutal nature of the state in AP. National journals like The Hindu and other magazines published the struggle, local dailies like Eenadu and Vaartha covered the struggles extensively.

Peasants armed with farm implements braved 2000 police in Kakinada on 1 August 2008. People’s resistance in Kakinada ensured they dont lose even a cent land during last two years, although they were threatened, harassed and put in jail. Human Rights Commission found the state government guilty and instructed that no police should enter these villages and the district Collector stopped land acquisition process. 5,000 farmers got high court stay, they are fighting with a ‘do or die’ sprit in Uppada and Kothapally mandals.

AP farmers are not ‘subservient’. They are more valiant to wage these battles for long years without any big party leaders!

AP struggles are not for rehabilitation packages and negotiations and there is no space for brokers. Out of 12,500 acres target, Govt could acquire only 4,850 in last five years. During the last one year, people did not lose a cent of land. These struggle forced the TDP leader Chandra Babu Naidu, NTPP leader Devender Goud and also Chiranjeevi’s party to condemn the SEZs in AP. Peoples struggles in AP have influenced three political parties to declare their stand supporting the anti-SEZ struggles.

Anti SEZ movement is on the rise and is effective in AP. That writing on the wall is missing in your story. They don’t have any of these parties as leaders. Are these not significant achievements of the AP anti SEZ struggles??

Rayagadh and Maharashtra struggle against Reliance giant are different. Recently farmers got revised package from 10 lacks to 20 lacks an acre yet they continue the fight. Thats a struggle against the SEZ Act, not just one project. Your report fails to acknowledge these struggles with bias for sensational news of Mamta-Tata angle. Your report took a limited view of SEZs as engines of employment generation. The long term implications of SEZs and its impact on farmers, nature, human rights violations and food security etc are ignored.

Sujatha Surepally

Head, Department of Sociology,

Kasturba Gandhi College for Women, Secbad.

Read the original Times article here

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Written by dilkibaatein

September 18, 2008 at 1:38 pm

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