The state government's decision to take back 191 acres from Lavasa Corporation Ltd. has come a major victory for Medha Patkar's National Alliance for People's Movement (NAPM).
According to an order by a sub-divisional magistrate on September 8, the hill city has to return the land to 13 tribal families as it had been acquired with fraudulent means.
For the last five years, NAPM and the tribals have been fighting to get the land deal of Lavasa struck down. In 2011, ten tribal families had approached the authorities, demanding return of their land. While two of them got relief, the other complaints were rejected on technical grounds.
Undeterred, the protesters submitted more documents to buttress their claim, prompting the government rule in their favour.
Suniti SR, an activist with NAPM, said it was just the beginning. "Lavasa has contravened much legal process including environmental clearances. Water and land do not belong to Lavasa. We will now fight for those, after this landmark success."
Vishwambhar Chaudhary, another activist who is opposed to the project, said they plan to approach the chief minister with a request to set up a commission to probe into the land deals done by the hill city. "It is now proved that land was acquired with forgery and bogus documents."
Lavasa, owned by Ajit Gulabchand-led Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd, said that all land deals were legal, but they won't go in for an appeal. The PR agency, representing Lavasa, said: "In any case being unbuildable hilly areas, these lands are neither under development nor earmarked for any future development in the Lavasa's planning proposal /Development plan. Loss of these lands therefore is not going to affect the Lavasa;s immediate or future development."
The order passed by Sub-Divisional Magistrate Subhash Borkar says that the state now owns the land and it will be transferred to the tribals.