By Sagar Rabari*
On December 9, 2015, 104 villages of five talukas, namely Olpad, Choryasi, Kamrej, Palsana, Mangrol of Surat district were included in Surat Urban Development Authority (SUDA). In a press conference on May 7, 2016 a Development Plan (DP)-2035 was announced and notification for the same was published on May 10, 2016. DP-2035 claims that the population of Surat would touch 1.10 crore in 2035; the proposed expansion is nearly three times the present area which accommodates a population of 55 lakhs. Hence the expansion.
The people of the villages and blocks to be affected by the proposed expansion were never consulted. They were, moreover, surprised by the calculations and projections: if population is going to be doubled (as is claimed by the DP since the present population is around 45 lakhs), and the doubled population figures would also include the present residents of the villages, then why three times the present area?
When the plans, maps and land use calculations were studied carefully, it came to light that the DP-2035 has proposed an industrial corridor within it! There is a sleight of hand and murkiness which need to be understood. While SUDA has the authority to plan land use and carry out zoning of the area, how those powers are exercised and who guides the hand that does the planning and mapping is something that is not clear or visible.
People, with their innate common sense, can see and feel the mal-intentioned planning; they feel that it is nothing less than a well-planned land grab. According to the villagers, small industrial units in the present city are spread over almost 800 acres of land (about 324 hectares). The politician-builder-bureaucrat syndicate has its eye on this 800 acre piece of land which is now prime real estate.
So, on the pretext of decongestion and reducing pollution they have proposed to shift these units to the newly planned 1.25-2 km wide and 37 km long industrial corridor, near Pinjarat and Tena villages. About 1,500 hectares (ha) land of Pinjarat village and 800 hectors land of Tena village is going to be taken away from the farmers to relocate small industrial units and industry from the nearby Hazira industrial area. In order to placate the industrial lobby, land of both the villages is now to be taken away from farmers under the provisions of the Town Planning Act to be offered to industry at throwaway prices. Business friendly? Indeed. Ease of doing business? Assured. Farm-friendly? In the interests of agriculture?
So the 800 acres of prime real estate which, after moving the industrial units, would become available to builders-politicians-bureaucrats for real estate projects. The rough calculations at present market rates are something like this:
- 800 acres = 3827200 sq. yard
- Rs. 1,00,000 per sq yard – present market rate of land
- 3827200 x 1,00,000 = Rs 38,27,20,00,000
The amount comes to a staggering approx. Rs. 38,000 crores! Even a novice can understand where this money would go and whose development this is.
As a by-product of this development a realization has dawned on the people of the villages. A bridge on the creek near village Tena is now nearing completion. The people of the village thought that the bridge was being built for them, to cut the travel time from their village to the city. Now with the plan of relocation of the industrial units out in the open, they have realized that the plan was not really for them; while it may help them, it was never for them. It was actually to motivate the industries to relocate to the new area.
There is yet another story doing the rounds among the villagers…
The Adani industrial group has built a port in Hazira and now needs to connect it with national highway no 8 and the Delhi-Mumbai rail line. The Government of Gujarat, always willing to help industries in general and Adani in particular, tried to impose Hazira SIR on farmers of 36 villages of Olpad and Kamrej taluka which was later cancelled due to stiff resistance from the agrarian community enjoying prosperity through rich agriculture and animal husbandry. Failing this, the Adani group tried, unsuccessfully, to get the Gujarat State Fertizilers and Chemicals’ (GSFC’s) rail track on rent/lease. So it then tried to purchase land from the farmers for laying the rail track, but was again unsuccessful. The final game plan, to everyone’s benefit, was thus introduced; the SUDA DP-2035.
This is to highlight how this nexus works against the agrarian community in open and free market economy under pretext of development!
If people are to believed, the Development Plan – 2035 is nothing but a well drafted land scam!
*Secretary, Khedut Samaj – Gujarat