Thousands of farmers living in the Special Investment Region (SIR), Dholera, are again showing signs of unrest following fresh eviction notices served on them to vacate their agricultural plots. Sent under the SIR Act, the notices require the farmers to part with 50% of land.
Enraged farmers, accompanied by women and children, on Tuesday staged a protest at the Town Planning office of the Dholera region, where the Gujarat government is planning a smart city as part of the sprawling Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).
The SIR Act, allows the state government to apply provisions of the Town Planning Act, which allows it to acquire 50% of agricultural land for setting up urban facilities in an area where a proposal for town planning scheme has been floated.
In all, the Gujarat government has approved six Town Planning schemes on a 902 sq km Dholera SIR, which includes a smart city. In the latest round, farmers of Town Planning scheme No 1 were sent notices, creating flutter across the region.
The notices were served following reports that Dholera SIR was given environmental clearance to go ahead with setting up smart city and industries in the region.
A farmers’ delegation, which met the Town Planning officer, wondered how he could issue notices to the farmers despite a stay order passed by the Gujarat High Court on December 10, 2015.
Said Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG) secretary Sagar Rabari, who has been fighting for Dholera farmers’ land rights, the Town Planning officer “flustered” and “had no proper answer to give to the farmers”, though “came down to meet them and assured them that their feelings would be communicated to the government.”
Calling the notices “contempt of court”, Rabari said in a statement, the Gujarat High Court order had asked the Gujarat government to maintain status quo in a case filed by several farmers (suit No 227/2014) seeking cancellation of SIR in the Dholera region.
The farmers had sought court intervention over earlier notices served to them in 2014 to part with 50% of land for urban infrastructure. Calling the notices “unconstitutional”, the farmers’ plea wondered how such notices could be served without gram sabha nod.
Rabari accused the Gujarat government of working as agent of big private companies seeking to evict “unarmed farmers”, adding, “Government officials, with the tacit approval of their political masters, are resorting to harassment of farmers despite the High Court stay order.”
“This shows how far the government is prepared to go in order to oppress the farmers, to push them to desperation so that cheap land, labour and water can be made available to the corporate”, he added.
Wondering whether the government is the middleman of the companies and corporate houses, Rabari wondered in his statement as why was the government, “sold to free-market logic, not facilitating a dialogue between the farmers and the corporate sector.”
“The situation is getting tenser with each passing day and very soon the time may come when it may become difficult for the administration to contain the farmers’ anger”, Rabari warned, adding, “People are only demanding that the government wind up its Dholera SIR Authority office and provide Narmada water for irrigation.