Angry farmer threat to Reliance ethane plans

Vol 20, PW 10 (09 Feb 17) People & Policy

Reliance stands accused of avoiding compensation to Surat farmers for crops damaged or lost when it lays a 486-km ethane pipeline.

Reliance will defend itself against these charges on February 27 in the Gujarat High Court after 15 farmers filed a 130-page petition on January 20 challenging RoU clearance for the pipeline running from Dahej to Nagothane. This pipeline is meant to transport ethane imports from the US for use as feedstock for Reliance petrochemical complexes at Dahej, Nagothane and Hazira.

After accepting the petition on January 27, justices Harsha Devani and AS Supehia issued 'show cause' notices demanding to know why Reliance should not be prosecuted. Also called to account were Reliance Gas Pipelines and local government official HR Kalaiya who issued the RoU.

Equally liable is the oil ministry over its September 24, 2015 decision to transfer an old RoU dating from 2001 to Reliance, originally granted to ONGC and Indian Petrochemicals. Farmers are angry Reliance hasn't consulted them.

"We don't know what happened behind closed doors," reads the petition. "We learned of the (ministry's) notification only after farmers started receiving notices in May 2016 from (authorised official) Kalaiya." Of particular concern is that Kalaiya allowed Reliance to only compensate farmers for land but not lost crops.

"Farmers are suffering and paying for private industries," claims the petition. "Laying multiple pipelines on agricultural land adversely affects productivity."

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