Since 2007, Adivasis in Dhule district, Maharashtra, protested the diversion of forest land for wind power projects. About 340 hectares of forest land have been diverted for wind energy projects in Sakri taluka, promoted by Suzlon Energy Limited. Since then, the company has been embroiled in a raging controversy, on the issue of forcible land acquisition. Dhule is a part of Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Project, India's most ambitious infrastructure program, aiming to develop new industrial cities as 'Smart Cities' and converging next generation technologies across infrastructure sectors. The local component of the corridor is known as Dhule- Nardana Investment Region (DNIR). It will also become soon one of the largest hubs of Textile, Edible oil, and Power-loom across the state, apart from the already big milk production currently in place. In Dhule, Suzlon is building Asia's largest wind farm with 1,000 MW capacity.
Suzlon was provided with 340 ha of forest land in Sakhri taluka, where land rights of 2000 adivasi was aﬀected by hundreds of wind turbines. Adivasi people claimed they no longer earn enough by farming and must spend part of the year in another states working in sugar-cane fields. The state's Renewable Energy Comprehensive Policy, dated December 8, 2005, controversially allows diversion of forest land for establishment of wind farms, but also claims that "tribals will be suitably compensated and their ownership protected". In a large chunk traditionally used by adivasis, 650 wind mill towers have come up.
With the passing of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006, adivasis in Dhule as in other parts of the country were hopeful that the land they were tilling for years would be regularised in their names. In 1982, the first petition on regularising forest land in the name of adivasis was filed from Dhule by Karan Singh Kokani in the Supreme Court. Later Karan Singh, secretary of the Satyashodhak Gramin Kashtakari Sabha, said that instead of giving adivasis the land, the government has allotted it to a private company. The Satyashodhak Gramin Kashtakari Sabha has been campaigning for the rights of adivasis for the last 40 years and has mobilised widespread protests against the present diversion of forest land. On February 14 2007, the Sabha took out a morcha in Sakri taluka where the land is located and took over the office of the tehsildar till late night. Kishore Dhamale of the Sabha said that after protests by the organisation, the forest department stayed the construction of 15 wind turbines in February as they were on disputed land that was being cultivated by the adivasis. Villagers alleged Suzlon was using muscle power to suppress the adivasi campaign. On July 14, 2007, the Adivasis of Pangan and Mograpada, suddenly found a fleet of more than 40 vehicles entering their village and before they could comprehend what it was they found themselves getting thrashed. The police began thrashing the stray people they found on the roads and putting them into a van. They headed to the spot in Mograpada, about a km away where Suzlon had dug up the first pit for constructing foundation for the tower in the encroached land under Adivasi cultivation. Adivasis had been agitating against it and succeeded in preventing the company to work there. Wondering what the police and the company were up to, some 40 to 50 people collected around the land in question from Mograpada.
Police threw tear gas shells and lathi-charged protesting villagers, injuring many. Adivasis panicked that it was gun fire and ran helter skelter. The police then ran after them and thrashed wounding some 30-40 people, many among them women. 18 people were arrested and detained for three days before they were released on bail. Local villagers claim that the company initially promised the creation of new jobs, power supply, and infrastructure such as health clinics.
However, none of these promises have met till date and the electricity produces is supplying the cities. Further, activists allege huge tracts have been deforested; close to 35,000 trees were cut in a matter of few days. "There were so many trees they took down," says Dharma Sonawane, a villager who resisted the developer's offer of money for land his family had worked for three generations. The project, he adds, "is taking land away from us and we are poor people." The Dhule project is also an example of the wind energy projects that also harvest profits from carbon offsets. In 2008 the Duch consortium Rabobank bought 175,000 tons of carbon offsets to help the company become carbon neutral. However the environmental payoff has been meager in the Dhule project, which produces significantly less renewable power from the windmills than expected by investors and regulators. In part that's because the project has led to a local conflict. The overall project has spawned legal battles, a government investigation into deals involving tribal lands, and a cloud of acrimony and accusations. The Sabha has also been demanding a survey of forest land in the district so that the picture becomes clear about the number of `encroachments'. When the government did not agree, the Sabha decided to conduct its own survey in the affected villages. During the survey they alleged that the forest department attacked their vehicle and also prevented them from meeting the district collector, Bhaskar Munde.
Meanwhile, six people have been arrested on charges of attacking the forest department. Some of the villages over which the 212 hectares is spread, Valvhe, Pangan, Burudkhe and Lagadwad have passed resolutions against the wind power project.
The Maharashtra government announced in 2009 a probe into allegations that Suzlon Energy Ltd had acquired land for its windmill projects from tribals in two districts at very cheap prices and had later sold it in Mumbai to film making celebrities at very exorbitant prices. In June 2015, the government of Maharashtra announced a plan to shift towards so called renewable energy, by significantly increasing the share from RE to 15% over the next 5 years. Talking to reporters, Power Minister Chandrashekar Bawankule said the policy aims at achieving the installed capacity of 7,500 Mw solar energy, 5,000 Mw of wind energy, 1,000 Mw of bagasse based co-generation, 400 Mw small hydro, 200 Mw of industrial waste and 300 Mw of agriculture waste-based products. The current installed capacity of renewable energy is 6,700 Mw. To promote the installation of new renewable projects, focus has been given on easing the business process and reduce the number of clearances.