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Farmers in Gujarat begin indefinite fast for Narmada waters, seek cancellation of smart city in Dholera SIR

By Our Representative
A fresh round of farmers’ protests are in the offing in south of Ahmedabad. Angry with the “refusal” of the Gujarat government to withdraw its decision to de-command 28,203 hectare, the farmers 22 villages of Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR) in Ahmedabad district have begun indefinite relay fast to provide them irrigation water from the Narmada canal.
Sitting in front of Dhandhuka regional office of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), the government agency responsible for implementing the Narmada project, the farmers are on fast under banner of Bhal Bachao Samiti. They want the proposed smart city in Dholera SIR cancelled.
A senior farmers’ leader, Sagar Rabari, who has been leading the agitation, has said that the decision to provide Narmada waters to the 22 villages of the Dholera SIR remains suspended for the last 10 years.
There have been several pretexts for not providing water to the region”, says Rabari, whose organization Khedut Samaj – Gujarat has been actively supporting the Bhal Bachao Samiti. “The are unhappy that though the main canal has been made, the government has stopped construction of its distributaries”, he adds.
The pretexts, he says, include the Kalpasar project, a huge sweet water lake in the Gulf of Khambhat in the south of Dholera SIR, an all-weather port off Dholera town touching the Gulf of Khambhat, and now the proposed smart city in Dholera in the SIR.
“The farmers are adamant. They want waters for their agricultural land, come what may. The protests will continue till the Gujarat government does not begin construction of the canal network in the region”, Rabari says.“The whole idea is to divert Narmada waters, meant for irrigating agricultural fields, to industries”, he adds.

Investors wary of Dholera SIR

The protest is happening close on the heels of strong view among Gujarat government officials that it would be more reasonable to drop the plan to have a special investment region, including smart city, in the Dholera area.
State officials have reached the conclusion that, being a flood-prone area, industrial development in Dholera SIR is “not possible” due to infrastructure constraints.
Further, the officials say, the matter has been further complicated due to the Gujarat High Court stay on any land acquisition in Dholera SIR till further orders, following a public interest litigation (PIL) by farmers, questioning the state government's move asking them to vacate 50 per cent of their agricultural land for a Town Planning Scheme.
In such a scenario, a recent report says, the state government appears all set to revive the Mandal-Becharaji SIR, north of Ahmedabad, which was drastically scaled down from 42 villages to just eight, from 502 sq km to just 102 sq km.
Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, according to the report, approved a new draft development plan for Mandal-Bechraji SIR with five town planning schemes has begun, with officials working out a new policy to woo farmers with hefty benefits so there is hardly any opposition this time.
The move close after the state government found that at least two top industries, Maruti-Suzuki and Honda Motors, along with their ancillary units have already come up in the region, with other industries lining up.

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