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After a lull, JAAG warns: Remove Maruti-Suzuki project or maldharis will flood Gandhinagar with cattle

By Our Representative
In a unique move, as a mark of their protest, in October third week the maldhari cattle breeders of North Gujarat will be flooding Gandhinagar with their cattle after traversing 80 kilomtres starting at Hansalpur, the spot where the Maruti-Suzuki has proposed to set up its second and a more modern plant of the country. In a statement issued on behalf of the maldharis, Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG) leaders Laljibhai Desai and Sagar Rabari have said, the maldharis’ rally – accompanied by their cattle – will start on October 23 morning at Hansalpur and will reach Gandhinagar on October 25.
JAAG has been in forefront of the protests that rocked the state in from June to August 2013 against the Bhechraji-Mandal special investment region (SIR), with fear raging wide among farmers that their lands across tens of villages will be taken away for industrial use. After the Gujarat government declared in mid-August that it has decided to withdraw SIR from 36 of the 42 villages where the SIR was to be implemented, there was a certain lull in JAAG’s movement.
While JAAG leaders said their demand for ousting Maruti-Suzuki from the region had not been met, hence their movement would continue, little seemed to be happening on the ground. Another of JAAG’s demand was that the SIR Act – which allows complete powers of land acquisition to a notified authority – was also not met. However, with maldharis finding that their grazing land might shrink, JAAG has again become active. Maruti-Suzuki plant remains part of the SIR region of the eight villages.
The JAAG statement said, “The Maruti Suzuki company has been given land in village Hansalpur, which falls in the proposed Mandal-bechraji special investment region (SIR). Part of that land was the village grazing land. The village has a cattle population of at least 600, which provide livelihood of people living in the region, including farmers, maldharis and others.”
Pointing towards indiscriminate manner in which grazing land was handed over to Maruti-Suzuki, the statement said, “When there is not enough grazing land / pastoral land for the existing cattle, allowing Maruti-Suzuki to set up its manufacturing plant will displace and throw out of employ thousands of maldharis.”
In September 2012, the Gujarat government allotted 647 acres of grazing land in Hansalpur to Maruti-Suzuki for their plant. Another 200 acres, near Vithalapur, 25 km from Hansalpur, was allotted to the company to house its employees. Following this, the view has gone strong among farmers and maldharis that the land has been given for a song, especially because Maruti-Suzuki will merely need to pay in installments over eight years.
Saying that handing over of such huge tracts of land to the company has created problems for the maldharis, the statement said, the issue was brought to the notice of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi with JAAG representatives on July 10, 2013. “The chief minister had assured them that state revenue minister Anandiben Patel would be looking at the issue, and if an amicable solution is not found he would intervene”, it added.
Regretting that till date the chief minister has not returned back and the issue has remains unresolved, JAAG said, this has prompted the maldharis to decide to bring their cattle rally to Gandhinagar for handing them over to the government’s care. “They will traverse a distance of 80 km. The route they will take is village Hansalpur, village Vithlapur, village Dekavada, Kadi town, Budasan town, village Chhatral, Kalol town, Shertha village, and Gandhinagar. They will start on October 23 morning and reach Gandhinagar on October 25 afternoon.”

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