Monday, January 20, 2014

Gujarat govt plans to take away 50% of land from Dholera SIR farmers, claims it's "not land acquisition"

Dholera SIR: 50% of farmers' land up for "acquisition" 
By Our Representative
There is flutter among farmers of the Dholera special investment region (SIR). Farmers across 22 villages, with a rural populace of around 60,000 in the south of Ahmedabad, have been served notices citing the Gujarat SIR Act, 2009, depriving them of 50 per cent of their land they have been owning it for generations. Ishwarbhai Bhavabhai, who owns 22,663 sq metres of land in Ambli village in Dhandhuka taluka, has been told he has been allocated a different piece of land instead of the one he owns which will be 11,331 sq metres. Bhivabhai Bhawabhai of the same village, who owns 26,912 sq metres of land, has been told he has been similarly allocated 13,456 sq metres of land.
The notice, copies of which are with Counterview, warns the farmers that they must report to the authorities on a given date and hand over the possession of their land, and instead take the title of the new piece, which is half of the original. If they fail to do it, the Dholera SIR authorities reserve the right to evict them from their original piece land. The land, the notice says, has been taken away, under Section 17(2) of the Gujarat SIR Act, 2009, which puts the entire SIR area under the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976 for developing roads for the SIR.
The issue of 50 per cent deduction of land came up at the environmental public hearing (EPH) for Dholera SIR, which took place on January 3, 2014, where farmers raised clarification. The Gujarat government officials told them that in the “Development Plan and Draft Town Plan” for Dholera, there wouldn’t be any deduction of land only for “notified rivers, ponds and water bodies”, but “with a view to provide world class infrastructure and premium civic amenities in Dholera SIR, a policy decision has been taken on 50 per cent deduction of land”.
KD Chandnani, CEO, Dholera SIR Development Authority, said, “Under the Town Planning Scheme, after deduction of land up to 50 per cent, land will be allotted to the original land owner in a geometric shape, and with all the infrastructure facilities, in the form of a final plot. Compensation for the deducted land will be paid as per the jantri April 2011.” Jantri is the government assessment of the value of land, and the rate being applied as compensation is several times less than the market value the farmers can get in case they sale away their land on their own today.
While pointing out that “since no land acquisition is involved”, and “there is no question of rehabilitation/ resettlement”, Chandnani in a written reply said, “This area shall be developed under the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976. Farmers can cultivate their land till they wish to do so. Village buffer zones have been provided for the preservation, integration, and comprehensive development of the existing village settlements. All constitutional and land rights are being retained. Under the Town Planning Scheme, after deduction of land up to 50 per cent, it will be allotted to the original land owner with all the infrastructure facilities in the form of a final plot.”
Trying to assuage cattle breeders, Chandnani says, “Grazing and forest land has been retained in SIR. All the livelihood rights are retained.” Regarding farmers’ apprehension that the Narmada waters will no more reach them, he insists, “Narmada Nigam has decided to provide canal in this area. Development of Industrial Township is not proposed on 100% land of Dholera SIR, but only 17 per cent of the total area is proposed as Industrial Zone, in the Development Plan. Neither land acquisition nor resettlement is involved, as gamtal will be retained.”
Chandani, in fact, rules out any compensation of the type envisaged in the new land acquisition Act, 2013, which would force the government pay four times the market rate and a nod from the village panchayat for acqusition. He says, “While we do recognize the merits in the new land acquisition Act, 2013, land pooling and land readjustment as per Town Plan (TP) schemes is demonstrated to be successful in Gujarat and the local communities have already expressed their acceptability on this, during the various consultations undertaken in the past two years.”

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