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Based on "assurance" from Ahmedabad collector, JAAG decides to postpone cattle rally to Gandhinagar

By Our Representative
The Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG) has decided to “postpone” its scheduled “cattle rally” from Hansalpur village in North Gujarat to the state Capital in Gandhinagar based an “assurance” from the district collector, Ahmedabad, to “look into” various demands of the maldharis, who were protesting against the Maruti-Suzuki Company’s acquisition of huge tracts of land in the area. A JAAG statement signed by its leaders Lalji Desai and Sagar Rabari said, “The collector has assured the villagers that he would represent maldharis’ and other communities’ demands to the appropriate authorities.”
Planned for October 23, the statement said, as the district collector has told them that there would be a “positive outcome” at the meeting with the maldharis at Hansalpur, a decision was taken to “postpone” their cattle rally and await the government’s decision. “If the outcome is not to their satisfaction, then the maldharis will hold the cattle rally afresh at a later date”, the statement declared, claiming, “The announcement of the rally stirred the administration, and the collector of Ahmedabad district was deputed to meet the maldharis of Hansalpur.”
JAAG said, the maldharis and other villagers of Hansalpur put forward following demands before the district collector:
· Transfer the titles of the lands given to the Dalits, Maldharis and Thakores in 1954 to their name.
· Implement the Gujarat state rule and norm for maintaining the ratio of grazing land to the cattle population of the village and allot adequate land for grazing purpose.
· The land given to Maruti Suzuki Company should be processed under the new Right to Fair Compensation &Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act, 2013 since it is going to be applied post-facto from 2013.
· The residential houses and other buildings on survey No 293 and others should not be disrobed and they should be handed over to the title holders after due process.
· There should be dedicated roads and paths leading to the agricultural fields and grazing lands for the maldharis’ safe passage.
· The government must allocate village common (gamtal) land with the provision for the next 25 years.
Giving details of the controversy around land acquisition by Maruti Suzuki, including reasons why the maldharis should be given a grazing land in proportion to the cattle population, JAAG statement said, “In 1954, the then government had allotted this land to the maldharis, the Dalits and the thakores of the village who were landless. This land has now been given away by the Gujarat government to the Maruti Suzuki Company. This was done without taking the affected families into confidence or initiating any talks with them.”
Suggesting that this was pointed out to the district collector in no uncertain terms, the statement regretted that it wasn’t just the land that belonged to the deprived sections of the population that was given away. “The village wasteland was also been handed over to Maruti Suzuki, leaving very little grazing land for the maldharis of the villages, raising a serious issue of their livelihood and sustenance,” the JAAG statement complained.
“As a result, cattle-rearing was rendered extremely difficult for them. Hence, under the leadership of JAAG and Azad Vikas Sangathan, the maldharis decided to undertake a cattle rally from village Hansalpur to Gandhinagar in October 23, and to hand over their cattle to the government for their care. They were to start on the October 23 morning and reach Gandhinagar on October 26”, the statement said.
According to activists associated with the maldharis and other communities protesting against Maruti-Suzuki’s land acquisition, if their demand is met this would be the second big victory of the rural folk of the area. Previously, in August, following several months protest, the Gujarat government was forced to reduce the size of the special investment region (SIR) planned in the Mandal-Bhechraji area of North Gujarat. This was described by JAAG, which leads the struggle, as “partial victory”, as two other demands – asking Maruti-Suzuki to withdraw from the area and cancel the SIR Act – were “not met.”
Ever since state government decision to reduce to size of the SIR to just eight villages out of 42 which were to be affected because of land acquisition, there was a lull in JAAG movement. However, things began to acquire heat once again as it became clear to the rural folk that they were forced to hand over their land, which was their main source of livelihood.

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