Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray on April 27 said though he had suggested Barsu as an alternative site for the Ratnagiri refinery project proposed to be set up in Nanar, he would have moved ahead with it only after talking to the local residents and taking them into confidence had he remained as the Chief Minister.
The remarks come amid criticism by the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP alliance of the “double standards” of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) on the proposed project.
“While I did give a letter to the Centre [as then Maharashtra CM] suggesting Barsu as an alternative site for the refinery complex initially proposed at Nanar, I never put pressure on the locals,” he said.
Calling the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis Government “insensitive”, Mr. Thackeray said projects which can harm the environment must never be taken forward.
Speaking at the 55th annual general meeting of the Bharatiya Kamgar Sena, the trade union wing of the Shiv Sena (UBT), the 62-year-old leader said he suggested Barsu as an alternative site to Nanar due to opposition from the people. “But my government was toppled or else I would have demanded that the project be explained to the local population. People must be told about employment generation and the benefits of a green refinery,” he said, while questioning the police action on villagers protesting against the project.
Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Vinayak Raut said Mr. Thackeray would visit Barsu in the first week of May and interact with the villagers. He said protesters were being suppressed and even the media was being prevented from covering the protests.
Hitting out at the rival faction, Chief Minister and Shiv Sena leader Ekanth Shinde said under no situation the State Government would start the Barsu refinery project without the consent of the people. He said the State Government had undertaken boring and soil testing procedures, and was not going to start the project immediately.
“Even the Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Expressway project [Hindu Hrudaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg] faced initial opposition from locals, but now the Nagpur-Shirdi stretch has started. All stakeholders will be taken into confidence at Barsu too,” he said.
The refinery project, a joint venture by Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd, was initially planned at Nanar in Ratnagiri district in the Konkan region. Following protests by locals, the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi Government led by Mr. Thackeray suggested Barsu as an alternative site for the multi-billion dollar project.
Locals are staging protests at the proposed site at Barsu claiming that the project would destroy the ecology of the Konkan region.
The Opposition has demanded that the government stop the soil survey work till they find a solution through peaceful means and demanded that the protests are handled with “sensitivity”.
On Wednesday, Industries Minister Uday Samant met NCP chief Sharad Pawar and briefed him on the situation.
Mr. Thackeray asked Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to visit Barsu and explain the details of the refinery to the locals. “The BJP Governments at the Centre and State are anti-labour. They need to be sensitive to the needs and issues of workers,” he said.
Warning the State Government of betraying and topping his government, he said that they would extract revenge and the mashal — the new election symbol of Shiv Sena (UBT) — would wipe out injustice.
He also slammed the government for being “inefficient” in retaining proposed multi-billion dollar industries in the State or getting new projects. He said a discussion took place with a Taiwanese firm for setting up a shoe-making unit, “but now we hear that they have shifted to Tamil Nadu”.