By Sagar Rabari* and Pradyumnasinh Chudasma**
Having declared the 22 villages of Dholera area as Special Investment Region (SIR), the Gujarat government is going ahead without taking the people into confidence or redressing their pending issues. The 22 villages included in the SIR fall in the Narmada command area. Till date the state government has been trying to sell the people of Dholera several dreams like Kalpsar, Dholera port, SIR, and now ‘smart city’. None of them have materialised, nor will they ever be.
The state government only wants to snatch our land from us under these pretexts. On the life and death issue of their land, around 100 farmers of the area will set out on a padyatra (footmarch) on October 29 at 10 a.m. from village Bawaliyari and will reach the district collectorate in Ahmedabad on November 3, 2015, where they will hand over their applications and demand speedy redressal.
How is the government cheating us?
- The area was de-commanded from the Narmada commanded area.
- Re-commanded the same after farmers’ protest.
- Promised Narmada water publicly at the Environmental Public Hearing (EPH) in Dholera and on affidavit in the High Court of Gujarat.
- De-commanded the area once again.
- At the EPH of Dholera SIR held in Dholera on January 3, 2014, people had asked about the rights of those farmers that had been given land under the Ceiling Act, Land Tenancy Act and santhani (under land reforms), but this is yet to be made out on their name in revenue record.
- The district collector had publicly assured them that land kacheris would be held in each village to address the pending revenue issues of the people. This is recorded in the minutes of the EPH and the same is also available on video.
- 22 months since the district collector’s promise and not a single land kacheri has been held and the revenue issues are pending as is. The poor farmers will become victims of the administration’s acts of omission and commission.
- Those farmers/ tillers that do not have the land on their name will lose 100 per cent of their land and will not be entitled to a final plot of land after 50 per cent land deduction under land pooling. The government will consider it to be ‘wasteland’ of its ownership and will sell it to the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company at the rate of Rs. 600 per squate metres and the farmers will not get anything.
- The village pasturelands, which do not call on the revenue record as such will, in similar fashion, be termed as ‘wasteland’ of government’s ownership and will sell it to SVP Company at the rate of Rs 600 sq metres, leaving the maldharis without pastures.
- Unregistered water bodies will also be sold to SVP Company at the rate of Rs 600 sq metres creating water scarcity in an already water-scarce region.
Before making any changes in the revenue record of the area, we demand:
- Hold land kacheris in every village and expedite the pending revenue issues and promulgate the entire revenue record of the whole region. This is because we have a strong suspicion that large-scale irregularities have been conducted in land numbering and changes in land ownership have been entered illegally and politicians have carried out a massive scam on this front.
- Declare village grazing/pasture land in accordance with the cattle population in each village.
- Notify all the water bodies of the area.
- Give santhni land to the landless farmers from the village wastelands (as per government policy).
On the final day of the padyatra, i.e. November 3, 2015, all the farmers of this area with pending revenue issues will bring their applications to the district collector’s office in Ahmedabad. They will be joined by their well-wishers and their relatives. They will insist on a time-bound programme from the district collector.
We are very certain that our four-year-old movement, despite being absolutely peaceful and non-violent, will be denied permission for this padyatra. This time too, as before, charges and cases will be filed against us. This time, too, we are certain, that the government will discriminate against us on account of the fact that we are weak, less educated and less organised, while it indulges other organised rebellions by other economically stronger groups who definitely endanger the peace in the state. We fear that our human rights will be severely tested.
But now we will not tolerate government oppression. If the state government stops us from exercising our democratic rights and freedoms, the farmers of the area will tour every village of the state to take the message of state injustice and state-led discrimination against classes. We will turn this injustice into an important political issue in the state.
*Khedut Samaj – Gujarat, **Bhal Bachao Samiti