Thackeray drops cases against Nanar refinery protestors

Mumbai: In yet another jolt to the Bharatiya Janata Party, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray late on Monday withdrew all cases filed against protestors opposing the proposed Rs 3 trillion Nanar oil refinery and petrochemicals complex with Saudi Arabian collaboration in Ratnagiri.

There were multiple cases filed against 23 protestors, including eight women, for taking part in the anti-Nanar protests three years ago, said Konkan Refinery Virodhi Sangharsh Sanghatana (KRVSS) President Ashok Walam.

“They were harassed by these cases with hearings every two-three days, some accused activists are from Mumbai and had to remain away for the court dates regularly, and many lost theirAjobs/livelihood,” Walam told IANS.

After the series of protests, held following the then BJP government’s notification of May 18, 2017, for setting up the multi-trillion dollar complex in the eco-sensitive Ratnagiri, police in Rajapur in Ratnagiri lodged the cases in January 2018, he said.

Following stiff opposition from then ally Shiv Sena and its possible repercussions in the last Lok Sabha elections, then Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tactically cancelled the notification in March 2019.

“He also assured that he would consider the local peoples’ sentiments and not push the project here, later announced an alternative site in Raigad district,” Walam said.

However, after the BJP and allies swept the Lok Sabha polls and the October Assembly polls, Fadnavis did an about-turn and said the project would be implemented in Ratnagiri itself, said Walam.

“Now that the government has changed, it has come to the rescue of the local people who were harassed and tortured by these court cases and withdrawn them. We are very happy with Thackeray Saheb’s decision,” he said.

The project – a joint venture of Saudi Aramco, and Indian’s IOCL, BPCL and HPCL, plus other global investors – envisaged the world’s biggest petrochemicals complex spread over 15,000 acres of land.

This would affect 14 villages in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, and seriously impact the livelihood of around 25,000 farmers and some 5,000 fisherfolk.

The Shiv Sena – now in alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party and Congress – had repeatedly warned the BJP that it would not permit any forcible land acquisition and demanded that the project be shifted to Gujarat or anywhere else.

This is the third jolt by the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi to the BJP coming soon after the stay on the Mumbai Metro 3 car-shed in Mumbai’s Aarey Colony, and reviewing the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project.