As Narendra Modi was spotted hugging Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is on a visit to India, the future of Saudi Aramco-backed Nanar refinery project looks uncertain. Maharashtra’s Environment Minister, Ramdas Kadam, on Wednesday announced the cancellation of land acquisition for the refinery project in the coastal Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra.
Maharashtra government officials have said that the multi-crore project has not been scrapped, but will be relocated elsewhere. The government, in a move directed towards appeasing coalition partner Shiv Sena, has claimed that the land acquisition notification on Ratnagiri would be withdrawn as the government has already started looking for alternative land for the refinery project which needs an area of approximately 14,000 acres.
Locals in the region have been waging a struggle over the land acquisition for a number of projects. Speaking to Newsclick, Satyajit Chavan, working with the locals, said, “Our struggle has been on for the past two years, as over 95 per cent of the landholders are against the land acquisition process of the government. We have been demanding a stay on the land acquisition process. Our struggle has been taken into cognisance by the Shiv Sena, ahead of elections. The party maintains a stronghold in the region.”
He added, “We are not backing down until we get the gazette notification, scrapping the acquisition process, in our hands. All we want is to be left alone with our villages and our livelihoods. We do not want to be relocated.”
In April last year, Saudi Aramco, which is one of the largest crude oil producers in the world, had signed a partnership with the Indian PSUs to build a $44-billion refinery and petrochemical project at Nanar village in the coastal Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. The Devendra Fadnavis government has, in the past, given a leeway to the corporates over the interest of the farmers and the local tribals. This approach of the government is likely be met with further agitations from not just the Nanar region, but other areas as well.
Also read: Farmers from Konkan Region March to Mumbai to Oppose Refinery Project