By Sagar Rabari*
By a notification dated 09/12/2015, 104 villages of Olpad, Choryasi, Kamrej, Palsana, Mangrol talukas of Surat district were declared as having been inducted into Surat Urban Development Authority (SUDA). In a press conference held on 07/05/2016, the Development Plan 2035 of SUDA was announced and on 10/05/2016 a notification was issued to this effect. There are large-scale changes effected even to the 95 villages taken into SUDA in 1983. Thus, farmers of the 199 villages spread over 1024 kms.2 (102400 ha.) know how devastating the effects of ‘development’ can be. When the extremely fertile area of 1024 kms.2 (102400 ha.) of 199 villages (95 earlier and present 104) on the left and right banks of the Ukai and Kakrapar irrigation schemes, reaping rich yields of sugarcane, bananas, cotton, papaya and vegetables, is about to become victim of the government’s ‘development’ policy, the Khedut Samaj-Gujarat (KS-G) condemns it in the strongest terms and demands the immediate cancellation of the entire development plan.
KS-G further gives its reasons for opposing the merger of 199 villages into SUDA:
- The Indian Parliament has added sections 243ZD and 243ZE to the Constitution through constitutional amendment. As per these amendments, the development plan of the area is to be developed by a development authority comprising the Chairpersons of the village panchayats, elected members of the taluka and district panchayats (Mayor, if it is a Municipality or Corporation).
The role of the officers / bureaucrats is to offer technical assistance only; the development plans have to be sanctioned by the development authority. The state government cannot impose its vision/version of development from above. Exactly the opposite is happening here and hence the development plan must be cancelled forthwith.
- The above amendment has not been implemented till date by the Government of Gujarat. KS-G and other organisations have petitioned the Hon’ble High Court of Gujarat in this regard (petition no. 1480/2016 and 1480/2016) to direct the Government of Gujarat to implement this amendment. The GoG has sought time from the HC in order to implement the amendment. When the matter is yet sub-judice and the government is yet to act on its undertaking, such a unilateral announcement is tantamount to contempt of the Constitution, the Court and indeed of the people.
- The entire process – from the notification to the present announcement of the plans – is totally non-inclusive and non-participatory. The elected members and heads of the panchayats (village, taluka and district) have not been consulted ever. The government has made unilateral decisions and announcements and the administration is doing the bidding of the government. KS-G condemns this undemocratic dispensation of the government in the strongest terms.
- The present notification has been issued under the provisions of the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976. As per the provisions of this Act, 20% of the land of the farmers is to be deducted. However, we have learnt that around 35% of the land is to be deducted in this development plan. Why should the farmers part with their priceless assets for development plans which are useless for them?
- The final plots, when allotted, are situated far from the original plots. The agricultural assets on the original plots – canal, wells, farm ponds, __, cannot be shifted to the new plots and getting them anew is financially not possible. This inevitably pushes farmers out of agriculture. Such development only adds to the numbers of jobless and unemployed. That is why we say: We are not anti-development; development is anti-us.
- By virtue of being included in SUDA we will be unable to access credit, subsidies and other motivational grants while the increased burden of property taxes, electricity bills etc. will increase which is unacceptable to us.
- The villages of this area fall in the area of Sumul Dairy. The people of the villages supply thousands of litres of milk daily to the Sumul and Choryasi dairies. The proposed development plan will destroy the cattle-rearing industry of the area and the supplementary income from dairying will cease, which is unacceptable to us.
- The people of the area and the cooperative sector are intimately connected. Available data indicates that this region yields a combined production worth Rs. 1741,50,28,228/- (approximately One thousand seven hundred fourty one crores) – Rs. 1227,78,56,000 sugar, Rs. 252,91,00,210 milk, Rs. 171,05,72,009 paddy, and Rs. 89,75,00,000 vegetables. The proposed development thus endangers the very existence of the cooperative sector of the region which is completely unacceptable to us and as such we demand the immediate cancellation of the entire development plan. Besides, the sugar factories of Kamrej, Sayan, Chalthan, Maroli, Pandvai, Vataria, Kotha and Bardoli which get the raw material from this area also face grim prospects for their survival if the development plan is allowed to materialise. Hence the KS-G opposes this development plan.
The KS-G demands that the above-mentioned reasons be carefully thought over and that the Development Plan 2035 be cancelled in its entirety. Besides, it is not as if plans once announced cannot be rethought or changed. Section 66(J) of the GTPUDA, 1976 gives the Government of Gujarat the authority to do so. Being opposed to the entire development plan proposed by the GoG, we demand that the notification for the 104 villages to be merged into SUDA be immediately cancelled.
The leaders of KS-G further state that the Gujarat Drainage and Irrigation Act 2013, SIR Act 2009, 7.5% automatic increase in irrigation, not helping farmers affected by natural phenomena like droughts or floods, pending electricity connections to farmers, decommanding of Narmada command area and diversion of Narmada water, as also water from other irrigation schemes, from irrigation to industry and GIDC, not giving remunerative prices to farmers for their produce, and, ensuring that farmers do not receive seeds, fertilizers, pesticides in time – all reflect a systematic onslaught on farmers and agriculture in order to take away their lands on one pretext or another. Where that is not possible it is being done via urban planning and urban development. We also oppose this anti-village and anti-farmer mindset of the government. The KS-G demands that the entire proposal of SUDA 2035 be cancelled within the next 15 days.
*Khedut Samaj – Gujarat