Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Put up boards barring Gujarat officials seeking to enter villages in Dholera SIR area: JAAG to farmers

Dholera region today
By Our Representative
The Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), which is seeking to emerge as the apex body of people’s groups wanting to fight against the “anti-farmer” land acquisition policies in dozen-odd special investment regions (SIRs) of Gujarat, has decided to replicate the “successful”, “tried” and “time-tested” actions used against Mandal-Bechraji SIR in North Gujarat elsewhere, too. In a statement issued in Ahmedabad, JAAG said, which forced down the state government to scale down the Mandal-Bechraji SIR’s area from 44 to 36 villages, said, it will agitate against the Dholera SIR, being planned on 900 sq km area in Ahmedabad district off Gulf of Khambhat, in the same intensive way as it did in the North Gujarat SIR.
The programme of action it worked out at a recent meeting include passing a resolution in each of the Gram Panchayats, Gram Sabhas and the cooperative societies in the villages affected by the Dholera SIR; putting up boards at the entrance of each of the villages declaring the entire village’s opposition to the SIR and asking the authorities to not enter the village for any work related to the SIR; a motor-cycle rally through all the SIR-affected villages; affidavit by every landowner, landless labourer and pastoralist residing in the village to make an affidavit opposing the SIR; and a rally, if necessary, to Gandhinagar to submit them to the authorities.
A statement titled “Dholera SIR: Illusions being shattered”, signed by JAAG leader Sagar Rabari, said, “We have been hearing many things in connection with the Dholera SIR – that the farmers have already sold their lands, that agriculture is no longer affordable, that no one wants to pursue agriculture as an occupation, and so on and so forth. But when you meet them in the village, sit with them in the village square (choro) and talk to them with a sensitive ear then the real picture begins to emerge.”
JAAG’s statement comes amidst reports of “regret” (click HERE to read) being expressed among the rich farmers of Mandal-Bechraji SIR of the 36 villages, which were taken out of the SIR, for being part of the anti-SIR stir. They reportedly felt “cheated”, as their land prices fell drastically following the government decision to scale down the SIR. However, the land prices of the eight villages which continued to remain within the SIR reached a new height, reaching higher than that of the Sanand region where the Nano car has set up plant near. “They took part only to ensure a higher price of their land”, a senior activist complained.
Despite this, JAAG sounded bold, “A meeting was held in village Bawaliyari on December 22, 2013 to clarify issues regarding the Dholera SIR and they learnt many things which they had never heard from their political leaders of government officials. Their curiosity increased. Inquiries and phone calls from them were now unstoppable. Hence, a meeting at village Sodhi was organized. About 200 leaders of the Koli community from 12 villages gathered in Sodhi. The meeting was also attended by secretary of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj Jayesh Patel, Rameshbhai Patel and Koli leader from Navsari Davendrabhai”.
In an effort to suggest that in Dholera opposition to the SIR will pick up, JAAG said, “Jayeshbhai Patel explained the SIR Act, and in many place read out portions from the Act to make things clear. The people were truly shocked but the real shock was in store for us. One farmer had, at the environmental public hearing (EPH) of Dholera SIR on January 3, asked the Ahmedabad district collector: ‘With whose permission have you come here to develop us? Who has asked you to ‘develop’ us?’ These same people today told us: ‘We will die but we will not part with our land’.”
JAAG claimed, “We informed the SIR authorities, in writing, that we do not want the SIR but what they have reported to their higher ups is not known to us. Now if the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) gives it a go-ahead then we will fight it out. We warned them that all efforts to divide them on caste lines may be made, rumours of all kinds may be floated, political pressures may be brought to bear on you, false cases against you may be filed, arrests may be made, you may have to go to jail or face police atrocities. Now tell us, do you still want to save your lands? The farmers were unanimous – we will bear it all but we will save our lands.”
The statement asserted, “The meeting with the leaders also brought forth some of the issues, which more or less, is true everywhere. (a) The government officials and/or local leaders of the ruling party, in order to further their short-term gains, have given half-baked or entirely false information to the rural people; (b) caste-based divisions are entrenched in the villages resulting in a severe lack of mutual trust; and (c) there is a severe dearth of leaders who give correct information and represent the interests of the stakeholders in Gujarat (including in the state Assembly).”
This is the reason why, the statement said, “legislations like the SIR Act and the Irrigation and Drainage Act get enacted, and the Narmada command area gets de-commanded. People are kept in the dark about these major developments and so not a word of protest is heard, naturally. Only ‘the growth story of Gujarat’ can be heard everywhere. Nonetheless, there is a ray of hope and it is this that whenever the truth is told to the people, and they are made to understand the issue, they show a readiness to fight for the right cause.”

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