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Gujarat farmers allege political discrimination in converting land for non-farm work

By Our Representative 

Seeking to “develop” Gujarat by increasing non-farm activities, facts, however, have emerged suggesting that the State government appears to be creating hurdles for converting agricultural land into non-agricultural (NA) land.
A Special Civil Application (SAC) No 3568 of 2023 filed by Sevantibhai Narottambhai Patel and a few others of village Balisana, district Patan against the District Collector, Patan, North Gujarat, has raised the grievance in the High Court alleging “gross discrimination and manifest arbitrariness” in entertaining pleas for conversion to NA.
Filed by senior advocate Anand Yagnik, the SAC raises apprehensions about whether the decision of the district collector, Patan, Supreetsingh Gulati, to turn down the pleas was under pressure from politicians.
According to Yagnik, the pleas, made between February 2022 to April 2022, were rejected by “a very cryptic order of three lines stating that the land in question for which conversion is sought for is likely to become a part of National Highway 6/8 Lane Green Field Expressway between Tharad to Ahmedabad as a part of Bharatmala Project and likely to be acquired under the land acquisition law.”
Petitioner Sevantibhai Narottambhai Patel said, he was “shocked and surprised” when he came to know that after they made their application and few of them were rejected, more than 17 persons, many of them belonging to village Balisana, had also made similar pleas for conversion into NA, but they were allowed by the district collector. 
This, opined Yagnik, is “double standard and gross discrimination.”
The petitioners secured details through RTI which revealed that 77 such pleas have been allowed by the district collector, even though the land was to be finally acquired for the construction of highway. In fact, 35 applications were allowed by the district collector after rejecting the petitioners’ plea.
The farmers when approached said that the conversion order can be obtained if a farmer agrees to pay 20% of the enhanced value to the office of the district collector. Most of the farmers who were allowed NA are either part of the BJP establishment or close to the BJP officer bearers.
The farmers claimed, they have photographs and videos of the 2022 legislative assembly election which show that many of those whose NA pleas were allowed enjoy close proximity with top BJP leaders.

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