Mumbai (Agencies): In a victory of farmers against big corporate, the Maharashtra government has said Raigad farmers are free to utilize their lands as they deem fit, signaling an end to the Reliance-led Maha Mumbai Special Economic Zone (SEZ).

"The government has taken an important decision to remove the remark on their 7/12 (land record) extracts which so far mentioned that the land was reserved for the SEZ," an official said.

The decision has been taken by Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat "in the interests of farmers" as process of land acquisition for the SEZ wasn't completed in the stipulated period, he added.

The period of two years allotted under the Land Acquisition Act to acquire land for the ambitious project had lapsed in December 2009, but the government had so far made no official announcement on the issue.

This meant the 7/12 (land record) extracts of farmers in the project area, comprising 45 villages in Uran, Pen and Panvel talukas, continued to carry the remark that the land was reserved for the SEZ project, preventing farmers from selling, buying, or transferring their lands.

"Farmers were in a dilemma so far, but now they are free to use their lands as they wish. This will set an example for other SEZs in the country," according to Ulka Mahajan of the SEZ Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti.

The land acquisition procedure for the proposed SEZ project, spread over 35,000 acres in Raigad, was started in May 2006. But, the company managed to acquire only 13 per cent of the land within the stipulated period, as it faced strong opposition from farmers.

In September 2008, the state government conducted a referendum, in which the villagers voted against the project.