Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gujarat farmers' anti-land acquisition organization announces cattle rally to Gandhinagar on Jan 18

By Our Representative
Fresh trouble is starting to brew for the Mandal-Bechraji special investment region (SIR) of North Gujarat, which was scaled down by the Gujarat government recently under pressure of a powerful agitation launched by the farmers under the leadership of Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG). The Gujarat government’s refusal to provide alternative land to the farmers who lost their land against the area acquired by it for the Maruti-Suzuki plant in the SIR is all set to blow into a major point of contention between it and JAAG.
“About 699 acres of land was acquired by the Gujarat government for setting up the Maruti-Suzuki plant in the SIR. Of this, about 300 acres belonged to about 200 farmers. The Gujarat government had promised to provide land to these farmers at the place of their choice. However, they are now backtracking from their promise. Most of these are small farmers, who were given land under the land reforms phase”, JAAG’s Sagar Rabari told Counterview, adding, "These farmers have also lost their common village land which was meant for the cattle, rendering the farmers dependent on animal husbandry without any means of livelihood."
“The farmers have demanded that either they should be given back their land, handed over to Maruti-Suzuki plant against their wishes, or they should be given land just opposite of the plant. They do not wish to take land at any other place. They also oppose handing over of grazing land for the cattle to Maruti-Suzuki. As the state government is refusing to oblige, these farmers, who belong to Hansalpur village, where the plant is coming up, have decided to kickstart an agitation once again”, Rabari said.
The state government, say sources close to the development, is refusing to oblige because most of the area opposite the plant demanded by the farmers was "bought over" by one of the senior-most ministers of the Narendra Modi Cabinet, known to be extremely close to the Gujarat chief minister for several decades. “The land acquisition was carried out despite farmers’ disapproval of the plant. Now, the farmers cannot be cheated by handing over to them any type of land against their wishes”, the JAAG leader said.
The agitation against Mandal-Bechraji SIR had forced the state government to denotify the SIR from 36 villages out of 44, where it was originally planned. Now, the SIR is being planned only in eight of the villages. JAAG has claimed, instead of stopping any type of land acquisition without farmers’ consent, the state government has begun doing it from the backdoor – through the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC).
“It is refusing to heed to the provisions of the new land acquisition Act, which makes it mandatory for the government to take the consent of 80 per cent of the villagers”, JAAG sources said, adding, “Nor is the Act’s new provision that the farmers be paid four times the price of the land is being followed. It should provide land to those farmers who do not want cash compensation, but even this is not happening.”
Meanwhile, in a statement, JAAG said, “In the eight villages, where the SIR will now be implemented, the state government has nothing to ensure that the farmers’ land is not triggered, as it had promised. Without cancelling the SIR, the GIDC has started acquiring land there.”
Pointing out that the “land issue of the residents of village Hansalpur has remained as is, without the administration paying any heed to it”, JAAG said, to press for their demand to cancel any type of land acquisition, the farmers will start a cattle rally from Hansalpur villae to Gandhinagar on January 18. “The rally was planned earlier but was postponed based on the assurances received from the administration that they would look into the matter and come back to them with a positive response.”
“It has been a long time now and the government has not responded to the farmers/pastoralists”, JAAG said, adding, “The farmers/pastoralists have now lost their patience. They are now going to set off from Hansalpur on the morning of January 18 2014 at 9am with 500 cattle heads for Gandhinagar where they will hand over their cattle to the government and the administration, because they do not have any land to feed the cattle. The area which was meant for the cattle, the common village land, has been acquired by the state government for Maruti-Suzuki.”

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