Villagers swarm Barsu's sada areas in scorching heat to protest refinery

Over 3,000 people reach Barsu sada to stop survey of the project site.

Credit : Indie Journal


More than 3,000 people have flooded the sadas (laterite plateaus) in Barsu village in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district amid scorching heat and intimidation from the state as the government is setting up to conduct surveys of the land there for the proposed refinery project in the area. At the same time, a day after detentions and externment of local leaders associated with the people’s movement, police force has now swamped the villages in Rajapur taluka, around the proposed sites.

While the drilling for the survey did not take place on Monday, the protesters have decided to stand their ground and continue to protest on the sads until May 31. The Tehsil Office as well as the Magistrate office, Rajapur have issued the externment and section 144 orders around the proposed project sites till May 31.

“People from the villages that are going to be affected by the projects like Barsu, Shivane, Dhopeshwar, Goval, Devache Gothane, etc. gathered on the sada areas in large numbers since morning. The police came to the sada earlier, but left later as the drilling was not carried out today. We have heard that the survey might begin tomorrow. We will be here in large numbers tomorrow as well,” Naresh Sud, a protester and resident of Dhopeshwar said.

Farmers waited on the sada all day long despite the months of April and May being crucial for several important crops in Konkan region like Mango, Cashew, Beetle Nuts, etc. While villagers from the Barsu-Solgaon Panchakroshi (surroundings) made it to the protest site today, activists say that many people from other villages could not make it as many roads leading to the project sites and villages were barricaded. Meanwhile, locals also said that several police vehicles were constantly making rounds of the villages.



“Around 50-60 police vehicles including vans, State Transport buses have been making rounds of all the villages in a bid to intimidate villagers. New externment notices have been issued to villagers, the villagers are being asked to leave their own villages, talukas,” says Deepak Joshi, activist and resident of Goval.

Meanwhile, sources said that three more activists associated with the movement, Vaibhav Kolvankar, Swapnil Sogam and Amit Nevarekar were arrested today. However, the information could not be independently verified by Indie Journal.

Activists Satyajit Chavan and Mangesh Chavan who were arrested on Saturday were sent to judicial custody today. This morning, Satyajit sent out a note to his fellow protesters asking them to continue a peaceful protest.

This survey mainly constitutes soil testing, which needs to be carried out by drilling a bore into the ground at the proposed areas. This will be followed by a long procedure that would include more assessments and acquisition processes.

“This seems to be their last chance at conducting the survey and taking the work ahead before the next elections. They cannot postpone this work to monsoon as it rains well in the Konkan region at least till October and the bores are no good for soil testing during monsoon because of groundwater recharge. They will barely have any time to complete the survey and the rest of the requirements after October. Hence they seem very desperate at the moment,” an activist associated with the movement said on condition of anonymity.



The scorching heat of summer is making things more challenging for the protesters. Activists present on the ground say that today the maximum temperature in the afternoon was easily above 35 degrees Celsius. The open area on the plateau does not make it any easy to handle the heat.

“Two of the protesting women could not bear the heat and fainted today. We had to take them to the hospital. However, with road blockages enforced for the protesters, it was difficult for us to take them on our own. The media personnel present on the spot stepped up and transported the women in their own vehicles,” Joshi said.

While most people protesting today were from the Barsu-Solgaon surroundings, the protesters are expecting that more people from other parts of Konkan might join them on Tuesday when the drilling is suspected to be starting.

“The people are not going to leave the sada tonight as well. A few women are going back home for the night, they will return in the morning. The rest of us will be staying here through the night. We will not move and we will not let the government conduct the survey,” Sud asserts.