Mumbai: NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Wednesday held a press conference at SoBo's YB Chavan Centre. He spoke about his meeting with Maharashtra minister Uday Samant as well.
"I asked Uday Samant (Maharashtra industries minister) about whether or not force was used on the protesters in Barsu. He told me that govt didn't use force against protesters. He also told me that govt is only doing soil testing there and the land survey has still not started. I told him that government should not be in a hurry and also discuss the issue with the locals," NCP chief Sharad Pawar said protests against the Barsu refinery.
He further said, "We shall wait for outcome of the meeting between government and agitators tomorrow and shall decide our future action upon that."
"If any development project comes to Konkan and is helpful for people there we welcome it," he added.
Pawar met Samant at YB Chavan Centre and discussed about the Barsu refinery project and locals' protest. He had met him on Tuesday morning
NCP chief Sharad Pawar Tuesday morning held talks with Industries Minister Uday Samant and asked him to release individuals arrested.
Maharashtra begins land survey amid protests
The state government of Maharashtra started the process of land survey for setting up one of the largest petrochemical refineries in the country, which led to protests by villagers and activists who fear pollution and damage to the region. The protest took place in Barsu-Solgaon village in Ratnagiri district, resulting in the arrest of 111 people, including women, stated a report in Indian Express.
Protesters arrested for rioting and unlawful assembly
The protesters, including villagers and activists, gathered to stop the government vehicles from entering the proposed site for the survey. However, police deployed around 1,800 personnel to ensure the safety of the survey teams. As the survey teams with police security were entering the survey site, scores of women blocked the road, raising slogans.
The police personnel then used force and detained dozens of protesters and resorted to mild lathi-charge to disperse the crowd and ensure safe passage to the survey teams. The protesters were booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for rioting, unlawful assembly, wrongful restrain, and disobedience to an order lawfully promulgated by a public servant, along with sections of Maharashtra Police Act.
The controversy surrounding the refinery project
The Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (RRPCL) is promoted by three major public sector oil companies, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd, and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd.
It was originally planned in Nanar village of Ratnagiri. However, the Shiv Sena (then undivided) was against the project citing local opposition, after which the Barsu-Solgaon area was finalized as the location.
Environmental activists and villagers of Barsu and Solgaon have been protesting against the refinery project in Konkan region as they fear pollution and damage to the region, which is largely dependent on agriculture and is famous for the cultivation of the Alphonso mango.
Residents have been opposing the multi-billion dollar refinery project for many years fearing that it would adversely affect the fragile biodiversity of the Konkan region and also their livelihood.
Political slugfest over the issue
The protest also sparked a political slugfest in Maharashtra with the Mahavikas Aghadi leaders slamming the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government for using force to suppress dissenting villagers, while Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis blamed the opposition for playing politics over the issue.
The Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and the Shiv Sena (UBT) came in support of the villagers slamming the government for misusing the police machinery to suppress the villagers.
Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar critiqued the arrest of protestors and media gag on telecasting of the proceedings at Barsu-Solgaon. He had said that government must respect public's sentiments.
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