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Gujarat farmers of historic Bardoli up in arms against government decision to urbanize cash-rich agricultural area

A sugar factory in Bardoli
By Our Representative
Historic Bardoli, where Sardar Patel launched the famous Bardoli Satyagraha in 1928 as part of the civil disobedience movement, turning him into a top leader of the independence movement, is in the throes of a major controversy. Here, the Gujarat government has decided to implement the town planning At on 149 sq km area to further “urbanize” the small township.
Farmers of this highly fertile agricultural region of South Gujarat are up in arms following a recent state notification, which declares that the Act would be applied on their land spread over three 33 villages of Bardoli, Palsana and Mahuva talukas of Surat district. The land, it said, has been set aside for Bardoli Urban Development Authority (BUDA) for urban planning.
Once the Act is implemented in any rural area of Gujarat, the state government is well within its right to acquire up to 40 per cent of agriculture land in the name of “developing” urban infrastructure.
Opposing the move, the state's upcoming farmers' organization, the Khedut Samaj (Gujarat) has called the Gujarat government move violation of the 73rd and 74th amendment of the Constitution of India, under which the development of any area would follow the decision by an authority formed consisting of elected panchayat and municipality representatives.
A statement issued by the leaders of the farmers' body, Jayeshbhai Patel, Bhagubhai Patel, Parimalbhai Patel and Anilbhai Patel, has said, it is particularly strange that the important constitutional amendments have still not been implemented the state government, even though they were promulgated way back, in 1992. “We would launch an agitation in case the notification is not withdrawn”, they have said.
“Especially shocking is that the state government has gone ahead with its decision at a time when a writ petition is pending in the Gujarat High Court. Following the writ petition, the state government has sought time to explain its stand on the two constitutional amendments”, the statement asserts.
“There is little reason for implementing the town planning scheme for the Bardoli town”, the statement says, pointing that the town's population, 51,946 in 2001, has risen to 60,821 in 2011, a 9 per cent rise, which is “negligible”. “For whom is the town planning scheme being implemented? And why?”, the statement wonders.
Pointing out that the move comes close on the heels of the Gujarat government to implement a similar town planning scheme around Surat on a 1,024 sq km area, the statement says, with the area around Bardoli, too now added, the total area of Surat district to go for urbanization would be a whopping 27 per cent.
“South Gujarat accounts for 71 per cent of water available for irrigation in the state”, the statement says, adding, “Instead of setting up a special agricultural zone in the area because of the production of high quality sugarcane, mangoes, bananas and vegetables, the state government appears more interested in industrializing the region.”
“We do not want this area to be usurped by some neighbouring regions notorious in the country as a whole for very high levels of pollution, such as Vapi and Ankaleshwar”, the statement says, adding, “Urbanization of the region would mean end of the region's sugar factories, too, which which depend heavily on sugarcane from the region. It would hit employment badly.”

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