Sunday, September 14, 2014

Gujarat govt begins "grabbing" land allocated to Narmada dam oustees 15 yrs ago invoking town planning law

Narmada oustees
By Our Representative
In move without precedence, the Gujarat government has begun to evict Narmada dam oustees, settled in resettlement colonies in the state. One such oustee, Bijalbhai, originally from village Shurpan of Dediapada taluka in Bharuch district, was resettled about 15 years ago at a resettlement site called Dabhoinada in district Vadodara. On September 2, officials of Dabhoi municipality told him to vacate from his plot, survey No 1,434 area, an agricultural land measuring 1.37 acres, allocated to him as part of resettlement entitlement.
A Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) statement quoting the incident, said, the officials came with police force, vacated him from his plot, forcibly took him to the Dabhoi police station, and demolished his hut, which he also used as a small tea shop. “The municipal authorities issued a notice to Bijalbhai bhai on August 12, in the presence of officials from the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), which said there was a court order, and its execution demanded that Bijalbhai should vacate the land”, the NBA said in a statement.
Forwarded by Medha Patkar, top social activist and leader of NBA, the statement said, the municipal authorities has applied the state government’s town planning Act, which required Bijalbhai to part with 40 per cent of his land for town infrastructure development. “When Bijalbhai, a tribal, his family and other villagers protested, the municipal officials threatened other resettlers that the town planning Act would apply on them as well. Bijalbhai was told, if he resisted he would be arrested, so he had better sign up papers handing over the plot”, the statement said.
In fact, according to the statement, Bijalbhai and others showed the title of the agri-plot which was allotted to them in 1999 as part of resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) package. This prompted Patkar and 50 other representatives of resettlement sites and other activists to reach the site to lodge a complaint with the police over forcible eviction threatened upon Bijalbhai. “The police station refused to file a complaint”, the statement complained.
Bijalbhai’s case is not an isolated incident, according to the NBA. “It has been observed that Gujarat has gone all out to vacate as many persons as possible from the plots of land allotted to the adivasi oustees. Since the land prices in and around Dabhoi, as also in other talukas, have escalated many times, original landowners and the state’s statuary agencies are putting pressure on adivasis to return the land”, the statement said, calling it a “conspiracy” against the oustees.
“Earlier, resistance was put up by the people of Dabhoinada resettlement colony under the leadership of Shankarbhai Tadvi and others associated with the NBA. They were sought to be driven away by grabbers of land”, the statement said, adding, “A list of about hundred families resettled in Gujarat, that included some oustees from Madhya Pradesh as well, was prepared and the government authorities conveyed to them that they would have to vacate the plots, though they were their rightful owners for the last 10-15 years”.
It may be noted that the town planning Act is being invoke (click HERE to read) to evict farmers from their land in special investment regions (SIRs) of Gujarat, sought to be promoted as modern townships. The farmers from Ahmedabad district’s Dholera SIR, which is being promoted as one of the 100 smart cities of India, have already received notices to hand over between 40 and 50 per cent of their land under the town planning Act. The matter came up as a major point of contention at the environmental public hearing for Dholera SIR, held on January 3, 2014.

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