Thursday, July 11, 2013

JAAG leaders "satisfied" after their meeting with Gujarat chief minister, who evaded talk on withdrawing SIR Act

Anti-SIR stir... led by rich farmers
By Our Representative
Lalji Desai and Sagar Rabari, main leaders of the Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), have claimed "victory of the people’s movement" against the Mandal-Bechraji special investment region (SIR). A statement issued by them suggests that they were "convinced" by Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who met them in Gandhinagar on Thursday. The meeting came amidst apprehensions among a section of activists fighting against the SIR that the movement would fizzle out, as it is mainly led by rich and propertied land owners, who had limited interest in ensuring that their landed interests were taken care of. Only one demand appeared to have been satisfied, that the Narmada command would not be de-commanded.
After the meeting, the movement seemed to have stood partially withdrawn, even though the main demand of the 44 villages where the Mandal-Becharaji SIR is going to be set up -- withdrawal of the SIR Act -- has not been satisfied. Under the SIR Act, around 50,880 hectares of the 44 villages, along with 26 villages on the periphery and village Hansalpur which was part of the Maruti-Suzuki plant were put under the direct control of the SIR authority, which would have complete sway over the area, and even elected bodies like panchayats had no say in it.
The statement said, the "success" of the farmers has come after "a non-violent movement against the SIR for the last three months", adding, their agitation encompassed "various non-violent methods which included numerous village level meetings, at least three large gatherings, a tractor rally from village Vithlapur to Gandhinagar and several rounds of submissions of memoranda."
It claimed, "At last the Gujarat government became active last evening and started contacting some local leaders to initiate talks with them."
At Thursday’s meeting with the chief minister the leaders reiterated their main demands which included scrapping of the SIR Act; scrapping of the Mandal-Bechraji SIR; and the Narmada areas which were de-commanded to be brought back into the command area; scrapping of the Irrigation and Drainage Bill, 2013. At the same time, they wanted scrapping of the land deal for village Hansalpur with the Maruti-Suzuki.
After the meeting the leaders seemed "satisfied" for having met the chief minister, who told them that by August 15 they would get back with some "positive news" as to the Mandal-Bhechraji SIR. The only demand he conceded to was the area de-commanded from the Narmada command area would be "brought back" into the command area. Even on the Maruti-Suzuki land deal, he just said, the matter was being looked at by the revenue minister, and if a satisfactory outcome was not forthcoming then "he would personally intervene into the matter."
The chief minister also added, according to the statement, that all the matters were not within the purview of the Gujarat government but also involved the Central government and so all angles would have to be considered, but "something positive should be forthcoming." However, the statement did not indicate which were the main issues which according to the chief minister were under the Government of India control.
The statement seemed to reflect dilemma among a section of the JAAG leaders when it said, "On the face of it, it seems that the people’s power has won" It added, "Nothing can be assumed to be final till all matters are resolved and put on paper. This entire development will be related to the people back in the area and discussed with them, and the final decision will be taken after consulting and deliberating with them."

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