Illustration by Siddhant Gupta
Illustration by Siddhant Gupta
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Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is planning a multi-crore refinery and petrochemicals project in the Nanar area of Konkan’s Ratnagiri district that has become a political hot potato. Locals are opposing the project, which requires 15,000 acres of land, much of which is occupied by mango and cashew plantations.

In 2014, the BJP swept the state, but the coastal belt of Konkan remained distant.

ThePrint asks: The Congress-NCP-Sena opposition to Nanar refinery: Will it help BJP or kill its fortunes in Konkan?

Congress performing ‘inherent duty’ to oppose projects like Nanar refinery

Keshav Upadhye
BJP state spokesperson

The question surprises me. It emanates from a deeply-rooted Congress culture in Indian politics in which anything one does has a political motive. It is high time that people in the media and politics understand that the BJP government takes decisions for the country’s larger interest and not for the party’s benefit.

Atal ji always said that power is a means to serve and not the goal. Modi ji says that he is Pradhan Sevak and not a Prime Minister. ‘Nation first’ is our motto. It might sound difficult to believe, but the government is only following a development agenda and that is why people are voting for it.

The Nanar refinery is simply a development project that will galvanise the Konkan economy and it is not for any political mileage. Under the leadership of Modi at the Centre and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in the state, BJP governments have taken many initiatives purely for development. Providing electricity for 18,000 remote small villages across the country will not help secure any vote bank, but the government completed the project only for the sake of Antyodaya.

We supported the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Konkan despite being in the opposition as the prosperity of the region is of utmost importance to us. The obvious reason for bringing the Nanar refinery project to the Konkan region is the accessibility to the sea. The project will generate enormous employment opportunities and help develop the road and rail network in the region. Konkan has the potential to become a major financial centre thanks to its coastline, but to realise this we need projects like Nanar.

The Congress is performing its ‘inherent duty’ of opposing developmental projects, and the Nanar refinery is one of them. Its hatred towards the BJP and the Modi government overpowers its conscience. Its agenda is to simply disrupt the process of development.

Nanar refinery unsuitable for Konkan’s beautiful coastal landscape

Vinayak Raut
Shiv Sena MP, Ratnagiri Sindhudurg constituency

The BJP will suffer a severely adverse impact if it goes forward with the Nanar project. People can see through their tall claims that under the guise of bringing employment and investment worth Rs 3 lakh crore, the government is trying to push a highly-polluting project. It is not suitable for the Konkan region’s beautiful coastal landscape at all. There is the Jaitapur nuclear power plant being planned not far from the Nagar project site. All this will completely change Konkan the way locals know it.

People in Konkan have a rich source of livelihood. What they really want from the government is not avenues for more employment in industries, but aid for self-employment. Instead of pushing industries, the state government should expand its schemes of aiding startups, giving loans to entrepreneurs, self-help groups and so on.

The government is touting that the Nagar project will bring in 1 lakh jobs without realising that the people of Konkan are themselves employment generators. Today, there are about 10,000 Nepali citizens who work in Konkan’s orchards and fishing activities. Of the new 1 lakh jobs, the government is promising, 99,000 will end up going to outsiders who will come to the Konkan and settle there. The local population will be left wanting.

They give the example of Gujarat, but in coastal Mundra too, the same thing has happened. Locals lost their lands to industries, which now employ a majority of outsiders.

BJP’s development plank not going to work with Konkan’s people

Bhaskar Jadhav
NCP MLA from Guhagar, Ratnagiri

The BJP has no presence in the Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts and if it thinks that it has a chance of political gain there, it is not going to happen. In fact, with this project, the BJP is going to lose a lot, politically.

The Jaitapur nuclear power project and the proposed Nanar oil refinery are at an aerial distance of 1.5-2 kilometres from each other. Fortunately, there has been no such precedent until now, but if at all there is an accident tomorrow it will not just drown the Konkan, but destroy places right up to Sangli and Kolhapur in Western Maharashtra.

The BJP’s claim that the project will create employment for 1 lakh people is completely false. The project will provide direct employment to at most 9,000 to 9,500 people.

Implementing both the Jaitapur nuclear power project and the Nagar oil and petrochemical project together is a disastrous idea, and detrimental to the interest of Konkan’s people. Our opposition is not just political. It is to protect the Konkan region, its culture and people’s livelihoods.

The BJP’s supposed development plank is not going to work here. However, as much as the party tries to paint a picture of big-ticket investment and advantage to the region, people can see that this is nothing but a project that will pollute the region.

There has also been tremendous inconsistency in the BJP’s stand. CM Devendra Fadnavis first assured a delegation of local villagers that the government will not go ahead with the project if there is opposition. Soon after that, the Union government signed an agreement for the project.

Nobody across the country believes in the BJP anymore. In such a scenario, we are left wondering if the government is really pushing the project for Konkan’s benefit or simply to benefit a few people close to the BJP.

Won’t be much opposition to Nanar refinery if Fadnavis govt handles it well

Surendra Jondhale
Political analyst

‘Turning Konkan into California’ is something that has been said by a number of politicians in the past, but the slogan remained shallow. The Congress government always talked about having food processing industries here, but these haven’t really taken root.

The BJP government and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis are now pushing for the Nanar oil refinery project because it is large scale— involving almost Rs 3 lakh crore worth of investment— and they feel it can transform the economic environment of the Konkan, like in Gujarat. The Jamnagar refinery really transformed the region. Fadnavis is assertive about the project because it is in line with the BJP’s development agenda.

The land in the 17 villages earmarked for acquisition is partly fertile and rocky. There are a number of mango orchards, but some are willing to part with their land in return for good compensation.

The parties opposing the project are heavily dependent on the local opposition to it. If the protests get too voluminous, it would be a different thing, but otherwise, if the state government manages to skillfully handle the compensation issue, there won’t be much opposition left.

Second, the relocation of the project-affected people has had an ugly history in Maharashtra. Even today, the people affected by the Koyna dam have not been properly relocated and rehabilitated. The same goes for the people impacted by the Narmada dam project. If the government efficiently handles the rehabilitation issue in case of Nanar, the project will take shape and the BJP will be able to reap its benefits politically.

Since BJP has no vote bank in the area, it is actively pursuing land acquisition and clearances for the refinery

Satyajit Chavan
Coordinator, Konkan Refinery Prakalp Virodhi Sangharsh Sanghatna

The plan to have India’s biggest refinery and petrochemical complex in the Ratnagiri district is undemocratic as the locals were not consulted at all. The government issued a resolution in May 2017 declaring 15,000 acres across 16 villages as industrial land. It seems the government gave prior information of this project to investors across the country who purchased land there in advance but left the locals clueless.

The Konkan village settlements are nearly 400-500 years old and has a distinct culture. People have vast plantations of mangoes, cashews, kokam and coconut in the project-affected areas, and villagers earn a handsome amount from this harvest. With this project, nearly 4,000 households and 20,000 people are directly in danger of losing their roots and livelihood. Around 10,000 fishermen dependent on fishing activity in the Vijaydurg creek are also in fear of losing their livelihood because of the project.

The project-affected area is ecologically fragile with villages around it falling under the eco-sensitive zone. The refinery will cause temperatures to rise and increase pollution. It is difficult to believe the government’s claim of zero pollution after seeing its failure at containing pollution in industrial areas such as Mahad, Roha, Patalganga, and so on.

While Shiv Sena has half-heartedly supported the protests, people are annoyed with the party’s inconsistency and the agitation is largely apolitical. The BJP has no vote bank in this area. It initially tried to get a foothold by showing the benefits of this project to people, but could not convince them. Locals also know that Fadnavis has no role in any possible cancellation of the project and is a mere toy in the hands of the Modi-Shah regime.

For now, it seems the BJP is actively pursuing land acquisition and clearances for the refinery as it has nothing to lose in this region.

Fadnavis govt battling anti-farmer image. Nanar refinery makes it worse

Manasi Phadke
Associate editor, ThePrint

Pushing for the Nanar oil refinery project, touted to bring an investment of Rs 3 lakh crore to Konkan, will be politically detrimental for the BJP in more ways than one.

The BJP-led state government has for the past one year been battling the perception of being an anti-farmer one with there being a wave of farmer protests. Acquiring 15,000 acres of land and wiping out some of Konkan’s famous mango orchards might strengthen this perception.

This also comes at a time when a number of other ambitious projects of the government such as the Mumbai-Nagpur expressway and the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train are facing resistance from farmers for land acquisition.

The Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg region, currently a stronghold of the Shiv Sena with the party having its MP in the constituency and its MLAs in five of the six assembly constituencies that comprise the Lok Sabha seat. The party faced criticism over its inconsistency on the Nanar project, with the original notification for land acquisition issued by the Shiv Sena-led industries department in May last year, but has now expressed its stringent opposition to the proposed refinery.

With this, the Nanar issue widens the rift between saffron allies– the BJP and the Shiv Sena– at a time when the latter has resolved to contest all forthcoming polls independently. The BJP is keen on forging an alliance for the 2019 polls with the opposing Congress and NCP too hammering out an alliance.

The BJP last year allied with Narayan Rane, who wields significant influence in pockets of Konkan, after he quit the Congress, hoping to get a foothold in the region. However, just as the Shiv Sena has been targeted of being inconsistent on the Nanar project, the issue has hurt Rane’s credibility too. Rane opposed the project, but at the same time went to the Rajya Sabha as a National Democratic Alliance (NDA) nominee. His detractors say, his opposition to the project has been more muted ever since he became an MP, and Rane’s benefit to the BJP in Konkan may be tempered.

Compiled by Manasi Phadke, associate editor at ThePrint. 

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