Panchayat power

Published: Monday 15 August 1994

-- The people of Sheregaon village in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra heaved a sigh of relief early this month when the Bombay High Court sealed the fate of the Rs-700-crore Sterlite Copper Smelting plant. Delivering its verdict, the High Court bench comprising of 3 judges noted that the panchayat of Sheregaon village (where the plant was coming up) had not acted unduly by objecting to industrial activity in the area under its jurisdiction.

The mega-project had generated solid opposition in the sleepy township because local farmers felt that the plant will affect the mango cultivation and shrimp farming in the area. Enraged at the indifference of Sterlite to the public outcry, a large posse of demonstrators damaged the structures on the construction site in September, '93. The zilla parishad (district council), acting on the plea by the panchayat, halted all construction activity.

Sterlite petitioned to the court against the Sheregaon panchayat and the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corp (MIDC), contending that the panchayat had no right to object to activity in a area which MIDC had sold for industrial purposes. The court, however, held that the stand taken by the panchayat was justified.

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