Farmers in India against Saudi Arabia's $44 billion refineryStaff Writer | May 21, 2018
At the International Energy Forum in Delhi in April, the world’s top oil producer Saudi Aramco inked a preliminary deal to partner with a consortium of Indian players to build a $44 billion refinery and petrochemical project in Maharashtra.
Asia The huge project
Thousands of farmers oppose the refinery and are refusing to surrender land, fearing it could damage a region famed for its Alphonso mangoes, vast cashew plantations and fishing hamlets that boast bountiful catches of seafood.
“We earn enough to fulfil our needs and we do not want to surrender our land for a class refinery at any cost,” says Sandesh Desai, standing amid his fruit-laden mango orchard in Nanar, a village in Ratnagiri district, some 400 kilometres South of Mumbai.
Land acquisition has always been a contentious issue in rural India, where a majority of the population depends on farming for their livelihood. In 2008, for example, Tata Motors had to shelve plans for a car factory in West Bengal after facing widespread protests from farmers.
And while Prime Minister Narendra Modi has tried to ease land acquisition rules to jumpstart delayed projects worth tens of billions of dollars, the government has faced resistance to amending populist laws enacted by his predecessors.
Like Desai, a majority of the farmers from 14 villages around Ratnagiri that need to be relocated for the refinery project firmly oppose the plan, a state government official told Reuters.
Opposition politicians and even a local ally of Modi’s Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) support the farmer movement, complicating matters further for the government ahead of state and general elections in 2019.
The state government, which is responsible for acquiring the land for the project, has so far failed to secure even one acre of the roughly 15,000 acres needed for the refinery, Maharashtra industries minister Subhash Desai said. ■