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Dholera 'inundated': Gujarat govt tries selling low lying area as top smart city site

Counterview Desk
Even as the Dholera Special Investment Region Regional Development Authority (DSIRDA) of the Gujarat government was busy organising a junket for Gujarat-based journalists for the area sought to be sold as an ideal special investment region (SIR) for industrialists, well-known farmers' activist Sagar Rabari has wondered why no investor has so far agreed to put in money in an area situated in Ahmedabad district along the Gulf of Khambhat.
Rabari said in a statement that not only is the area low lying, filled with monsoon waters at several spots, farmers of the Dholera region have been protesting against the SIR Act, which they say is "anti-constitional". There have been reports  that the government seeks to take away 50% of their land in the name of infrastructure development, violating the 2013 land acquisition law that requires farmers' nod and compensation equal to four times the market rate.
The statement by Rabari, who heads the Khedut Ekta Manch, comes amidst recent flooding of Dholera region because of heavy rains, preceded by renewed Government of India efforts to promote  Dholera SIR, with authorities claiming they are in a take-off mode, are ready to allot land for industrial projects, and are in talks with multiple companies keen to invest there.
Many, according to them, are "finalising plans", with announcements expected "soon". The claims have been made though six years ago similar efforts flopped, when three large infrastructure investors decided to withdraw.
The state government was not just forced to push the Rs 40,000-crore infrastructure project by Mumbai-based Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) on the back burner, a similar fate awaited two other major companies, one of Hotmail promoter Sabeer Bhatia's Nanoworks Developers Gujarat, the local entity of Bhatia's US-based company, and Greater Dholera Infracon Pvt Ltd (Kolkata), as these investors decided not to put money in land.

Rabari's statement:

The land selected for the Dholera smart city and the international airport is low lying, which emerged from the sea centuries ago. The gap between the sea level and the land level here is very small.Whenever there is heavy rainfall in the upstream and high tide in the Gulf of Khambhat, the sea does not accept rain water, so the entire area gets inundated for days.
If the authorities want to build smart city or airport here, land filling is a must, and in such a big area, this is not physically possible or economically viable. In case of a tsunami, because of its low level, a big disaster is possible, hence it is preferable to avoid such risk.
Having emerged from the ocean, there may not be sold soil or rock available to build strong foundation for building infrastructure. However, the entire area is not barren or saline, as the government claims, thanks mainly due to long periods of inundation during monsoon.
During winter, farmers grow world famous wheat known as bhaliya or chasiya ghau without any irrigation, cumin, gram and the very useful fodder juwar. And during periods of scarce of rainfall or absence of inundation, farmers grow thr local variety cotton known as deshi kapas. Farmers here do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, they use own seeds, so theirs is actually “organic” agriculture.
This is one of the major reasons why there is not a single case of farmer’s suicide is registered in this area because of indebtedness. Also, farmers do not want to part with their agricultural land here because it is profitable to do farming. Only a few political activists or the people who have invested to gain big bucks are trying to suggest that agriculture here is not viable, hence industrialization of the area is the only option.
The smart city authorities should explain as to why the investors who signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) during the Vibrant Gujarat investors' summits such as HCC and Sabeer Bhatia backed out.
The SIR Act, 2009, under which the project is sought to be implemented by the government, is itself anti-constitutional. The Gujarat High Court has ordered maintenance of status quo. If the High Court or the Supreme Court nullifies the anti-constitution Act, who will bear the cost already invested in the project?
The authorities should explain to the people as to whose hard earned tax money has been spent here, or the investors (if any are still there, though according to our knowledge, as none wants to invest here). In this project, people’s money has been spent in order to attract favoured companies, and this is being showcased as development. Meanwhile, farmers are being deprived of their wealth.
We demand that the government should declare this area as “Organic Zone” if it wishes to enrich people at all. It should to ensure that farmers get market and value addition to their organic produce and their younger generation gets employment opportunity. It should shed its wrong direction, and must return to the true path of development.

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