Farmers of four villages in Sanand taluka in Gujarat are up in arms against so-called vibrant government of Modi after it issued a notification to acquire 5,062 acres of land to set up an industrial park next to the Nano project. Five thousand families stand to lose their land in the process. More than 3,500 original land records have gone "missing" from government custody in Sanand, which has turned into a real estate hotspot with the Tatas setting up the Nano plant there. Revenue officials admit that no effort has been taken to find these records or fix responsibility.
The notification was issued to the Sanand mamlatdar and the four village panchayats of Hirapur, Charal, Bol and Siyawada on December 4. K D Upadhyay, deputy secretary, revenue department, who issued the notification, said, "Yes, we've cleared the proposal sent by the district collector to acquire the land. And we've already published it in a gazette on November 18 this year."
However, the villagers refuse to abide by the decision. Around 500 farmers of the four villages led by Karamsinh V Patel met at Hirapur village on Sunday night to oppose the government's decision.
A letter opposing the deal signed by all the farmers was later submitted to the GIDC Land Acquisition Unit at Fadia Chambers on Ashram Road.
Govindji Thakor, sarpanch of Charal village, said, "Under no circumstance we will part with our land, even if the government gives us Rs 25 lakh or Rs 50 lakh for one bigha. Land is our mother. We will give up our lives, but not our land. Most of us are illiterate farmers who have witnessed the sorry state of farmers who gave away their land for the GIDC Changodar project."
Karamsinh Patel said, "We won't give an inch of land even if the government shoots us or lathicharges us. We will beat up any official coming to admeasure our land. If need be we will break their bones."
We are setting up a farmers association and will present our case to the collector, DSP and the GIDC, Patel said.
'We will not part with our land, even if the government gives us Rs 25 lakh or Rs 50 lakh for one bigha' says Govindji Thakor, sarpanch Charal village Farmer Jagabhai Govardhan, 51, of Hirapur village said, "I have 50 bighas of land. I grow rice, wheat and jowar. My joint family of 50 persons is dependent on the earnings from the farm. We know nothing except farming. We don't want to sell our land and impoverish ourselves. I won't give any portion of my land."
Another farmer, Zalabhai Govabhai Patel, from the same village has 300 bighas of land. Patel says, "My extended family of 250 people depends on earnings from our land. No one in our family is educated and we will not give our land at any cost."
Meanwhile, the government also plans to acquire another 2,000 acres in three more surrounding villages. This would up the total area for the industrial park to 7,000 acres.
The farmers have alleged that the Nano plant's boundary wall has been extended beyond the prescribed limit, which has resulted in the 30-metre road coming up outside the plant cutting into parts of their agricultural land.
mamlatdar Sudhir Patel told, "Yes, we had received complaints from the farmers after which I visited the site, I've seen the farmers' position and believe the GIDC will compensate those who've lost parts of their land. The roadwork has cut through two farmers' land."
Cattle too affected
'My joint family of 50 persons is dependent on earnings from the farm. We know nothing except farming.' – Jagabhai Govardhan, farmer of Hirapur village Khoda and Bol villages are the most affected by the Nano project coming up in Sanand. The cattle and youth of these villages are at the receiving end.
Mahipatsinh Khumansinh Vaghela, a farmer, said, "The authorities did not even inform me about parts of my land being taken over. It was only after 50 people came with bulldozers and dug up my land, that I raised an objection on why they were encroaching upon my land."
To this a case was filed against Vaghela at the Sanand police station for putting a spanner in government work, he said. "I had paid Rs 2,500 for a survey of my land on an urgent basis. However, even after 15 days no one came to admeasure the land. I met the Ahmedabad district collector over the issue and have faith that I will get justice," he said.
Mukeshsinh Vaghela, a leader of Khoda village, said, "With the Nano project coming up, we have had to face quite a few problems. Forty farmers, who had to walk 50 metres to their farms, have now to take a circular route of 3 km to their farms."
Hari Vaghela, the officer in charge of land records (talati) in Sanand, revealed this in his reply to an RTI application. According to the reply, records from No. 1 to 3036 and from No 5046 to 5564 have gone "missing". Vaghela said the records were sent to the mamlatdar's office and were never returned. Regarding the plight of cattle, Vaghela said that around 1,000 cattle used to get ample fodder during the monsoon. After all the grazing lands have been cleared, they have been at a loss. "The agricultural university used to get 50 lakh kilos of dry grass from this land... This has stopped completely," he said.
Nilesh Navasinh, a B Com graduate, but unemployed, had pinned his hopes on a job at the Nano site. "But until now we have got no jobs. Even jobs for labourers are not forthcoming," he said.
Bahadursinh, a farmer, said, "Our ancestors had donated the land to a trust for using the land during famine to settle cattle and create feed for them there. We are saddened that the land is no more of use to us now."
Hari Vaghela, the officer in charge of land records (talati) in Sanand, revealed this in his reply to an RTI application. According to the reply, records from No. 1 to 3036 and from No 5046 to 5564 have gone "missing". Vaghela said the records were sent to the mamlatdar's office and were never returned.
But mamlatdar Sudhir Patel denied this. "I have verified it, the talati has no evidence to prove that the records were sent to mamlatdar's office and were not received back by him. Records of rights documents are part of the talati office and they are responsible for it," he said.
With both the talati and mamlatdar passing the buck, the land owners are in trouble. Pankaj Vaghela, a member of Ahmedabad District Panchayat staying in Godhavi village, said: "The records are necessary to prove our right over a piece of land. With these documents missing many people who want to establish their right on their land won't be able to file even a civil suit. Many small land owners have been left helpless by this mess up" he adds.
RTI activist Harinesh Pandya said the 'record of rights' documents fall under Category 'A' which have to be preserved by the Revenue Department forever. "If for some reason the records have been destroyed, they have to be regenerated or restored. If these documents have gone missing, the Revenue Department has to fix the responsibility on the officer concerned," he explained, calling it a "very serious lapse".
Senior lawyer Vinod Brahmbhatt said a criminal complaint can be filed against revenue officers under Section 201 and 217 of the IPC for missing records.
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