THE GORAI - UTTAN BELT COULD BE THE NEXT NANDIGRAM
serene Gorai Uttan belt, the Mumbaikars ideal spot for picnics could be the
next Nandigram in Maharashtra. The lush green
countryside, an abode of over 1.25 lakh Catholic farmers and fishermen, is
caught in the net of the SEZ Act and is in the process of being handed over by
the State Government to Pan India Paryatan Limited (PIPL), the group that owns
Essel World and Water Kingdom, to be developed into a Recreation and Tourism
Special Economic Zone. The locals are beginning to realize the impact this
development is going to have on their lives and are planning to fight tooth and
nail against its implementation.
The editor of Christian
SPOTLIGHT Mr. Gordon DSouza and his colleague
Mr. Walter Murzello spent time with the locals and tried to understand the
implications of this project.
The Uttan-Gorai belt also called Dharavi island
consists of ten villages namely Dongri, Pali, Tarodi, Chowk, Uttan, Gorai,
Manori, Rai, Morva and Murtha.
These are the only villages left in proximity of
Mumbai. Manori, Culvem and Gorai are in Mumbai Municipal Corporation
The population is predominantly Catholic (90%)
and is engaged in agriculture and fishing. A few having strategic locations
have built resorts and cater to picnickers. Gorai has 99% Catholic population.
The beaches and mangroves are extensively used
The Gorai-Uttan SEZ is the second largest in Maharashtra.
The people will lose their homes and
occupations. As per a Government reply to the President of DBBS there is no
plan for rehabilitation.
The culture and language that has taken
thousands of years to develop will be lost in one stroke.
The residents will lose their means of
The shrine of Our Lady of Vailankani at Bhatte
Bunder, which was built recently with a cost of over a crore of rupees, would
be under threat.
If the people lose their homes the present
churches in each of the villages would be reduced to monuments.
How can Kolis be rehabilitated away from the
sea. It would herald the end of Koli and Kunbi Samaj. The over one thousand
year old culture of the locals would be wiped out with the execution of this
Is the community being
made a soft target because they normally dont retaliate? 90% of the population
is Catholic and the community in this area will disintegrate if the Government
hands over this beautiful virgin land to the developers.
Is this a return to
the feudal system where the people in the lower rung are treated like dirt
while the business class gets preferential treatment to get richer?
There is bound to be resistance and the police
could use force to evict the locals and this may lead to a Nandigram like
situation which is likened to the Jalianwala Baug massacre or the shooting at Tiananmen Square. Efforts should be made to prevent the
WHAT THE LOCALS
Over 10,000 objections to the Government Notification were filed by the locals through the recently
formed organisation Dharavi Beth (island) Bachav Samiti (DBBS).
Participated in various Protest Meetings and
Rallies in places like Penn etc in Maharashtra.
A Protest Rally was organized at Gorai Church
grounds where Fr. Francis de Britto, Adv. Vivek Pandit of Shrammik Mukti
Andolan and Ulka Mahajan of NEPM addressed the gathering.
As part of the State Yatra a Protest Rally was
organized at Uttan on Jan. 4, 2007 that drew very large crowds.
Planned a Rasta Roko at Bhoot Bangla, Uttan on
23rd March 2007 the death anniversary of Shahid Bhagat Singh.
Participated in the All Maharashtra Protest
Rally organized by the Jagati Karan Virodhi Kruti Samiti at Azad Maidan on
April 5, 2007. The locals organized 45 bus loads of people from the villages
for the Rally.
WHAT WE CAN DO:
has now become a human rights issue. The National Human Rights Council has
served a notice to the Centre over displacement of farmers due to land
acquisition. The Calcutta High Court Bar Association has decided to file a PIL
on Nandigram. According to their team members a number of women were raped by
policemen and others.
There is a need to increase awareness about the
Uttan-Gorai belt situation in the public so that they can put pressure on the
Approach International Human Rights
Organisations to intervene in the matter.
There are differing opinions amongst Parish
Priests of Churches on the island. It is important to get all of them to
support the Protest Movement.
Organise Protest meetings in other parts of the
Put up posters in every parish, make
announcements and undertake signature campaigns to support the cause of the
Put pressure on the Government through letters
to the Chief Minister and the local MLAs
The locals demand to know if religious bodies of
other religions would sit as mute
spectators if the lives and properties of their community were in danger.
The locals so far have depended on funds from their
own pockets. They are in need of both monetary and moral support. Fund
collection drives to support the efforts of the DBBS could be organised.
THE SEZ PLANS:
On Sept. 29, 2006 the Chief Minister together with the
Industries Minister and Tourism Ministers, Chief Secretary and other senior
officials had a meeting with the Pan India Paryatan group and have given the
following consent after seeing the plans which were presented through a Video
CD. (Copy of the minutes of the meeting is available with Christian
5740 hectares (14178 acres) of land comprising 10 villages be allotted to Pan
India Paryatan Limited for development into a Recreation and Tourism Zone.
of this land i.e. 8606 acres would be Government land which is in possession of
MMRDA. They would transfer it to the MTDC which would further transfer the same
to the nodal agency PIP Ltd.
of the land i.e. 5672 acres would come from private owners who mostly comprise
of farmers and fishermen.
coastal stretch 2 km in width from the line of High tide and into the sea and
around 18 km long from Manori to Chowk would be handed over to PIPL.
MTDC is authorized to give notices for acquiring lands.
would be used to acquire lands and prices wouldnt be as per Government
Notice as per Government Gazette dated 30th Nov. 2006 was published
in various newspapers asking members of the public for suggestions and objections
against plans under consideration within 60 days.
10,000 objections were filed by the locals through the recently formed
organisation Dharavi Beth (island) Bachav Samiti (DBBS).
What SEZ promises
support the Recreation and Tourism Development the thrust would be on building
Transport Facilities, Elevated Bridges, Waterways, Bandra to Manori Freeway,
General Purpose Vehicles etc. The PIPL will invest Rs. 500 crores in developing
the zone that promises to be Disneyland and Hollywood rolled into one. By locating the
venture in a SEZ, Essel can avail of 100 % income tax exemption for the first
five years and 50 % in the next five years. It will also enable to import
equipment and machinery free of duty.
Gorai SEZ proposed on 1000 hectares in the coastal regulatory zone was approved
within 72 hours when several state and central government agencies have given a
contrary recommendation. The gap between the date of application (March 14,
2006) and the date of approval (March 17, 2006) is only three days.
there are only 393 SEZs but the central government has approved as many as 467
SEZs till date in 6-7 months.
BAD EXPERIENCE WITH PIPL
residents of Gorai already have a longstanding bad experience with PIPL the
developers of Essel World since 1986.
- Essel World till recently
were using water and electricity meant for the village.
- They have not kept up their
promise of employing locals. They have done so only for menial jobs.
- First Essel World was built
on 60 acres of land on the leeward side of Gorai and then the PIPL acquired
700 acres of mangroves in 1997 and has steadily caused enough damage to
it. The mangroves are the breeding ground for fish and protect against
- In 1998 JCBs were used at
night to build the bundh. The
church bells were rung and parishioners of Gorai and Culvem assembled to
stop the illicit activity. The Bundhs
stops the free flow of water through the mangroves causing its slow
- In 1998 on the recommendation
of Fr. Francis de Britto of Vasai the Gorai Bachav Sangharsh Samiti was
- In 1990 Subash Chandra Goyal
CEO of PIPL promised a school and dispensary for the locals but the
promise was not kept.
- To protest against the damage
to the nets of the fishermen, on July 8, 2001 boats were used by the
locals to block the Essel World ferries carting people from the Marve and Gorai docks to the Essel World.
- The mangroves have been
mysteriously damaged due to chemicals in the past. The Bombay
Environmental Action Group (BEAG) stepped in. There was uproar over the
environmental damage especially after the aftermath of the tsunami.
- The Gorai Machimar Samiti won
a long standing case in the High Court regarding the bundh. The Court ordered inlets to be made in the bundh for free flow of tidal
waters. However the PIPL has appealed against the order in the Supreme
Court and the matter stands as status quo.
- The PIPL through its repeated
complaints to the police had succeeded in getting Peter Godinho, a leading
activist of the village, externed. However the Samiti succeeded in
revoking the DCPs order by successfully appealing against it in the
Bombay High Court.
Sonia Gandhi and President Abdul Kalam have said that no farmland should be
used for SEZ. Yet there is no formal promulgation on the same and business
houses are availing of services of
brokers and are using coercive means to get the lands.
SPOTLIGHT is grateful to the President
of the DBBS Mr. Joseph Gonsalves who is also a Municipal Corporator from Uttan
Pali, the Secretary of DBBS Ms. Lourdes
DSouza who is also a social activist from Gorai, Mr. Noel Kinny the President
of the Gorai Machchimar Samiti and Mr. Paulu Colaso the Vice President of GMS.
The above mentioned details have been compiled after extensive interviews with
them. Fr. Anselm Gonsalves- Parish Priest of Holy Magi Church, Gorai was very
cooperative in giving us his inputs.
No. 93242 63555 / 26163555