We are not acquiring a single inch of land of farmers, says official

The Gujarat government is acquiring 920 square km of land, most of it agricultural, of 15,000 farmer families spread across 22 villages for Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR) project.

Farmers have been served notice under the SIR Act, 2009, depriving them of 50 per cent of their land and allotting many of them saline plots where they say nothing can be grown.

‘Whole lot is taken’

“The story is not about taking away half of our land. This is only half-truth. They are taking away the whole lot and then allotting 50 per cent of it in the coastal region,” Pradyumansinh Chudasma, a farmer in the region, told The Hindu.

Chudasma owns 19 acres of fertile land at Bavaliyari but the entire holding is proposed to be taken over, and he has been allotted half of this in two separate plots, located in the coastal region.

Farmers showed documents and maps to substantiate their claims. They also point out that the Bhal region, where Dholera falls, is known for its exportable wheat, which grows with just one watering session as against three in the rest of the State. The area also grows cumin.

‘Based on town planning rules’

The Chief Executive Officer of Dholera SIR Development Authority, K.D. Chandnani, however, denied the farmers’ claims. “We are not acquiring a single inch of land of farmers,” he told this newspaper. The government’s action complied with the Gujarat SIR Act, 2009, which puts the entire SIR area under the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976, for developing infrastructure for the SIR, he said. “And the land allotment to them is based on town planning rules.”

He said compensation could be given as per the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, which mandates the government to pay four times the market rate and insists on assent from the village panchayat.

‘Pooling successful’

“We do agree with the merits of the latest land acquisition law, but land pooling and land readjustment according to town planning schemes have been successful in Gujarat, and the local communities have already expressed their acceptability at various consultations in the past two years,” Mr. Chandnani said.

However, farmers argued that their fertile land would be surrendered to industrialists and real estate developers. The notice, issued under Section 17(2) of the SIR Act, 2009, copies of which are with The Hindu, says they must report to the authorities on a given date and hand over possession of their land, and take the titles for the new land. If they fail to do so, the SIR authorities will have the right to evict them from their land.

“What we get in the name of compensation would be the government rates as of 2011 and they are far below the market value today,” says Ramdevsinh Chudasma, who is losing half of his 80 acres.

Engine for economic resurgence

The Chief Minister’s plan is to develop the Dholera SIR as a global manufacturing and trading hub, an “engine for economic resurgence of the country,” backed by world-class infrastructure, according to the SIR website. Dholera, close to Bhavnagar district in Saurashtra and 100 km from Ahmedabad, was a flourishing port in the 18th century.

The SIR project goals are to double employment potential, triple industrial output and quadruple exports from the region.

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