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Gujarat farmers oppose move to merge villages in SUDA

Residents of over 104 villages in five talukas Olpad, Choryasi, Makrej, Palsana and Mangrol in Surat district, South Gujarat are up in arms against the Gujarat authorities' move to merge their villages in Surat Urban Development Authority (SUDA), which is preparing a master development plan 2035.

The government has proposed an industrial corridor and building townships because these villages are in the periphery of the Diamond city Surat, whose population is likely to touch 11 million by 2035 from 4.5 million as per 2011 census.

However, the villagers, mostly farmers, are angry and fear that they would lose their fertile lands if the villagers are brought under the preview of local urban development authority.

"More than one lakh hectare fertile agriculture land is being sought to be appropriated by the authorities in these 104 villages. This land is highly fertile and irrigated and we take 2-3 crops like paddy, vegetables, sugarcane and banana. These areas are irrigated from canals flowing from Ukai dam," said Jayesh Patel, a local resident and activist of Gujarat Farmers' Society, a farmers union.

Mr Patel claimed that "In these villages, total agriculture production is estimated to be around rs 1700 crore including milk because all farmers have milch animals and supply milk in local Sumul dairy."

The farmers have challenged the government's move in the High Court, which is slatted to take up the petition for hearing on Monday.

"The notification of merging these villages was issued by the state urban development authorities without either consulting the local panchayat members or even elected representatives of the area. It is being opposed by the villagers, who are mostly farmers, because they don’t want to lose their fertile lands for any industrial corridor," said a BJP lawmaker, who refused to be named.

Another top BJP leader from Surat said that the "decision to merge villages was taken by the urban development department in Gandhinagar and is likely to backfire because locals are terribly upset with it."

According to sources, the government wants to create a new industrial corridor outside the city in order to shift existing small industrial units located within the city. "The small and medium industrial units within the city are occupying prime real estate areas in the city, so some politically connected builders in connivance with a section of local politicians and bureaucrats have come up with idea of creating a new industrial corridor by merging these villages," said a senior bureaucrat who earlier served in Surat.

"Under the pretext of decongestion and reducing pollution, the government authorities have proposed to shift industrial units from the city to the newly planned 1-2 km wide and 25 km long industrial corridor near Pinjarat and Tena villages," said Sagar Rabari, an activist with Gujarat Farmers' Society.

Another prime factors, according to the activists and local farmers, is a proposed railway line to connect a new port the Adani group has developed in Hazira, a big industrial cluster near Surat. According to the details, the Adani group wants to connect the port with national highway No 8 and Delhi Mumbai railway line.

Earlier, the Gujarat government had to cancel a special investment region (SIR) which was declared in 36 villages of Olpad and Kamrej taluka after the farmers protested. Subsequently, the Adani group tried develop railway tracks by purchasing lands from the farmers but not many farmers agreed.

"The government's move is aimed at benefitting the Adani group, which is desperately trying to develop railway tracks. The farmers have seen through the ulterior designs of the government's plan," asserted Mr Jayesh Patel, who stressed that earlier also his agitation had forced the government to cancel notification for SIR.

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Printable version | Jun 26, 2022 10:26:37 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Gujarat-farmers-oppose-move-to-merge-villages-in-SUDA/article14403126.ece