UNDERCURRENTS IN GUJARAT People’s Agitation against Forced Acquisition
A STATE obsessed with DEVELOPMENT is challenged by humble farmworkers, pastoralists and fisherfolk. What ensues is terrible repression of democratic rights pitched against peopleâ€™s relentless spirit. This report tries to bring together 3 major movements that rocked Gujarat in modern times. Mainstream Media reporting has been haphazard and at times reluctant.
Gujarat becomes the first state in India to pass the SIR ACT in 2009. Analysts say that this move was to acquire land before the new Land Acquisition Bill came into place. The Government is empowered to declare Investment Region or Industrial Area and designate them as Special Investment Region (SIR) Huge tax rebates for wealthy investors. Labour Laws are made flexible. The Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Act 2013 says that a farmer cannot install a borewell in his/her fields without government permission.
CONTROVERSIAL SIR ACT
"States like Maharashtra and Haryana are acquiring land from farmers for the SIRs through their consent while here, the Gujarat government is trying to snatch away the farmers' land by force without paying a single rupee. The method of acquiring 40 per cent land compulsorily free of cost is illegal and we will oppose this law.â€œ Sanat Mehta, Former Finance Minister & Farmers Rights Activist "The state government seems to be in a hurry to acquire the land of the farmers to avoid the central move on land acquisition that calls for taking 80 per cent of land for a project through farmers' consent only. The state government cannot use a 150 year old law to snatch the poor people's land. It is an illegal method.â€œ Y K Alagh, Veteran economist and former union minister
CONTROVERSIAL SIR ACT
Mandal â€“ Becharaji SIR #1
May 14, acquisition for the project is declared in local newspapers.
May 30, the Indian Express article ends on a note of government apathy. The trend continues unabated.
June 18, farmers from 44 villages take out a tractor rally from Vithalpur to Gandhinagar amidst heavy police presence against the Mandal Becharaji SIR Government sought to acquire 51,000 hectares of land, including agricultural and pastoral land in and around 44 villages of Ahmedabad, Surendranagar, and Mehsana districts. 700 acres in Hansalpur is already allotted to Maruti Suzuki against the wishes of landowners. The rally was supported by voluntary organisations, Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat and Azad Vikas Sangathan. Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (associate of ruling party) also supported the farmers.
August 15 Police cancels the permission granted for flag hoisting at the last minute to villagers protesting against the Mandal Becharaji SIR but mounting pressure from a collective peopleâ€™s will forces government authorities to relent.
DHOLERA SIR #2
December 18, village Bawaliari. 250 farmers meet to resist another government attempt at land grab (920 square kilometers, 22 villages) in the Dholera region. Mandvipura, a submerged village also included in governmentâ€™s SIR plan. Many such errors found and discussed with those present by Pradyumansinh Chudasama from Bawaliari village Police tries to stop villagers who gathered to share information about the SIR Act December 28, Police denies permission to youths for a motor-cycle rally in the Dholera SIR resistance.
January 4, 2000 farmers attend the Public Hearing organized by Ahmedabad Collector and Gujarat Pollution Control Board. Government officials fail to answer satisfactorily the issues raised by over 2000 villagers. Scheduled to end at 5 PM, the meeting is abruptly called off at 2 PM by the Collector. No conclusions had been reached.
Feb 9, 1000 people from 22 villages gather to register their opposition to the Dholera SIR & to reiterate their demand for Narmada water for irrigation. 100 people arrested In most parts of Gujarat, section 144 remains in force and huge police deployment marks any public gathering as if citizens pose a threat to the nation
The literal meaning of Maldhari is "owner of animal stockâ€œ The Maldhari have been living in the Banni grasslands for nearly 700 years. Most are unable to count or use money
The Maruti Suzuki Company had been given land in village Hansalpur. In 1954, the then government, had allotted this land to the Maldharis, the Dalits and the Thakores of the village who were landless. This land has also been â€˜givenâ€™ away by the government to Maruti Suzuki Co. This was done without taking the affected families into confidence or initiating any talks with them. Moreover the village wasteland had also been given away to Maruti Co. leaving very little grazing land for the Maldharis of the villages, raising a serious issue of their livelihood and sustenance. Cattle-rearing was rendered extremely difficult for them. Hence, under the leadership of JAAG and Azad Vikas Sangathan, the Maldharis decided to undertake a cattle rally from village Hansalpur to Gandhinagar in October 2013 and to hand over their cattle to the government for their care. The police, bowing to their political masters, denied permission for the rally. Earlier also two JAAG leaders Lalji Desai and Sagar Rabari had been taken into custody after a peaceful flag hoisting done by them on 15th August 2013 and were slapped with police cases.
January 18, police lathicharge and arrest protesting Maldharis
Repression continues. Court Hearings are postponed. The Maldharis are considering indefinite hunger strikes to assert their Right to Survival.
Date: March 11; 2014
Hansalpur: Satyagraha for reclaiming the pastureland (gauchar) and agricultural land
The non violent satyagraha of the Maldharis of village Hansalpur (whose land has been allotted to Maruti Suzuki Co. Ltd. by the GoG) is on. About 50 Maldharis, men and women, have been protesting in front of the District Collectorâ€™s office in Ahmedabad since yesterday demanding the return of their lands to them. Yesterday they presented a memorandum to the Collector as well but the Collector was not present to receive it and it was received by the Deputy Collector.
Many prominent civil society leaders like Chunibhai Vaidya, Rajnibhai Dave, Gautam Thakar and Mahesh Pandya also met the agitating Maldharis and extended their support to their struggle. Many farmer leaders of Gujarat also visited them to offer solidarity to their struggle and their support to them.
The Maldharis will continue with their satyagraha tomorrow as well. The matter of the stay order will be decided upon by the Hon. High Court of Gujarat on Thursday, 13 March 2014. Depending on the outcome on Thursday the Maldharis will decide the future course of their programme.
Lalji Desai // Sagar Rabari Jameen Adhikar Aandolan â€“ Gujarat (JAAG)
Jameen Adhikar Andolan â€“ Gujarat (JAAG) A-302, Sharan Residency-1, Near Lohana Chhatralaya, Vasna, Ahmedabad Contact: Lalji Desai 9727589344 Sagar Rabari 9409307693 Date: 12th March 2014 UPDATE Hansalpur: Pastureland (gauchar) and agricultural land allotted to Maruti Suzuki Co. 3 days of dharna come to a close Fast-unto-death to commence from 21 st March 2014 In 1954, the then government, had allotted land (vide survey nos. 1/A/1 block no. 293) admeasuring 83-78-20 ha to the Maldharis, the Dalits and the Thakores of village Hansalpur, Ta. Mandal, Dist. Ahmedabad, who were landless. The same was given for cultivation on a short-term lease. The GoG, on the pretext of giving it to GIDC, then directly sold this land to Maruti Co. Ltd. thus violating the rights of the cultivators/owners. The company was to pay the amount in instalments over 8 years. These owners/cultivators have been fighting against this injustice since 2007, but now the company has started construction of a boundary wall, in protest against which the Maldharis took to the streets in Hansalpur and the police carried out a lathi charge on them. Protesting against this illegal act of construction of the boundary wall the Maldharis brought their agitation to the doorstep of the district Collector and have been sitting on a dharna since the morning of 10th March 2014. This protest ended today at 6 p.m. Their legal suit for a stay order is pending in the High Court and will be heard tomorrow. If the outcome of the court case is not satisfactory and in the absence of a response from the GoG these farmers will go on a fast-untodeath from 21 st March 2014 and will continue to highlight and draw the attention of Gujarat and the rest of India to the anti-farm and anti-people policies of the GoG. Lalji Desai Jameen Adhikar Aandolan â€“ Gujarat (JAAG)
Based on public consent, JAAG has drafted a Charter of Demands.
Jameen Adhikar Andolan – Gujarat (JAAG) CHARTER OF DEMANDS: The situation in Gujarat on the several fronts of livelihoods, land, agriculture, water, common property resources is today more serious than ever before. The reality today in Gujarat is that the big corporate houses are being gifted away large tracts of lands, of their choosing, privately held agricultural lands as well as common property resources of pastureland, wastelands and water bodies. While this is being done, those who are legally entitled to get land from the government, the dalits and the adivasis, are constantly and ruthlessly being denied their due. Prime agricultural land is being diverted to industry and the farmers have no say in deciding their future. The recent stir against the proposed Mandal-Bechraji SIR is one such case of anti-people projects in the garb of ‘development’. It can only bring mass poverty, destruction of whatever is left of rural farming and agriculture and environmental catastrophe. Moreover, the impact of such steps on the lives of women and children in particular – severe malnourishment, adverse health impacts, curtailment of educational opportunities, forced migration, and trafficking – have never been factored into the ‘development’ discourse, keeping them invisible and yet the first victims of ‘development’. All this is happening in the name of so called development. This anti-people understanding of development is leading to ‘jobless growth’ and massive impoverishment, malnourishment and distress suicides. These cannot characterise any society or economy as ‘developed’, but rather would constitute backwardness of the highest order. Indeed, Gujarat’s 11th rank (out of 23) on human development indices is testimony to that. In view of this, we the undersigned, members of civil society and social movements of Gujarat, demand the following: 1. The “Gujarat Special Investment Region Act 2009” is violative of fundamental rights and therefore completely unacceptable to us and should be scrapped altogether. The Gujarat SIR Act 2009 under which the Mandal-Bechraji SIR is being proposed and undertaken does not have any provisions for safeguarding the right to livelihoods, freedom to pursue occupations of their choice or their rights over the common and natural resources of the region like water, forests, pastures and clean air. The Act does not adhere to any fundamental rights, including the right to life and livelihood, their welfare, their rights to safeguard their culture, occupations and ways of life. Constitutionally mandated and elected bodies like the Gram Sabhas and Gram panchayats also do not find the right to represent their grievances. Such legislations would be unconstitutional and undemocratic. Merely the act of the state assembly passing it does not make it constitutionally valid. Hence all actions since the notification of 14/05/2013 are unconstitutional, and to be considered null and void and to be withdrawn forthwith.
2. Stop de-commanding of the Narmada command areas. The people of Gujarat have been promised Narmada dam waters for the last 50 years. The farmers have waited patiently for the Narmada waters, which promise to make agriculture more attractive to farmers. Now when the entire infrastructure which will bring water to the fields is in place, the Government of Gujarat has come with a project which takes away their water and gives it to industry. This is unacceptable to us. We call upon the Government of Gujarat to stop de-commanding of the Narmada command areas with immediate effect. 3. The Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Act 2013 is a draconian piece of legislation and severely violates fundamental rights and needs to be withdrawn immediately. The Gujarat Irrigation and Drainage Act 2013 is a draconian piece of legislation. According to the Act a farmer cannot install a borewell in his/her fields without government permission. The farmers will now need a licence to draw water from canals and the amount of water that can be drawn by a farmer will be decided by the government. Even the price of water used in the fields for irrigation will be fixed and government officials have been authorised to file cases against farmers who break the law. The farmers will now need to declare the details of wells and ponds in their fields. This would make farming and agriculture, already suffering from anti-farm sector policies, a herculean task and would deter farmers from pursuing agriculture. This ought to be scrapped forthwith. 4. Declare a moratorium on GIDC’s land acquisition. Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), has a huge land bank, developed over the years through acquisition of land from farmers ostensibly for ‘public purpose’. Much of this land is currently unutilised, as has been pointed out by the CAG reports. Despite this, GIDC has continued to acquire land in several areas. Most often it resorts to veiled threats under which farmers are made to part with their land. These lands are then transferred to industrial houses for SEZs and SIRs which is illegal as it constitutes a change of purpose. GIDC’s data on land ought to be first put in the public domain for scrutiny. Till such time we demand a complete moratorium of GIDC’s land acquisition. 5. The Government of Gujarat needs to come out with an Agriculture Policy. Agriculture as a sector has been neglected and no proactive policy measures, such as are made for industry, have been taken for agriculture. The Government of Gujarat needs to come out with policy measures for promotion and sustenance of agriculture (as against agri-business or agro-industrial policy) as the primary economic sector even today. 6. The Government of Gujarat needs to come out with a comprehensive policy on the use, access to and maintenance of Common Property Resources (CPRs). The Common Property Resources (CPRs) – forests, water bodies, pasture lands, wastelands, coasts, are crucial to the survival and well being of several communities in Gujarat. It provides primary and secondary sources of livelihoods to millions of landless families and communities. These have to be maintained and augmented (quantum and quality) in order for these people to survive. The rights of people over these resources (as against ‘government ownership) should form the bedrock of this policy.
7. The Government of Gujarat needs to unambiguously demonstrate its will to give land to Adivasis and to landless Dalits under the provisions of the Forest Rights Act and Land Ceiling Act respectively. The Government of Gujaratâ€™s anti-people stance is most notably demonstrated in its utmost reluctance to give land to Adivasis and landless Dalits under the provisions of the Forest Rights Act and Land Ceiling Act respectively. Even when it claims on paper to have given the land, the actual possession of the land is never being enjoyed by the Dalits or Adivasis. The state machinery has not intervened on their side to ensure that possession of land actually materialises on the ground. We call upon the Government of Gujarat to take immediate steps to implement these Acts in their right spirit. 8. Declare a moratorium on sale of common property resources. Forests, pasture land (gauchar), wastelands (padtar), sea coasts are common property resources (against the convoluted understanding in government circles that it is of government ownership) on which many marginalised communities subsist, apart from them being absolutely necessary to maintain ecological balance. The coasts, now heavily privatised, are the sole means of subsistence for fisherfolk who depend on them for their livelihoods. The gauchars are especially important to the maldhari community and other nomadic and pastoralist communities whose sole means of livelihood, cattle rearing and breeding, depends on gauchars. We call upon the Government of Gujarat to announce a complete ban on sale of all common property resources. Rather, we urge the government to invest resources to increase the quantum and quality of the common property resources such as forests, coasts and pasture lands. 9. The Government of Gujarat must come out with a White Paper on land acquisitions in Gujarat from 1960 upto 2012. The Government of Gujarat should come out with a white paper on land acquisition, environment impact assessment, social impact assessment and a cost-benefit analysis of industrialisation (jobs created, nature of jobs, incomes earned, infrastructure, usage of this infrastructure ...) in Gujarat since the formation of the state in 1960 up until 2012. 10. All land related information to be put in the public domain The government also needs to bring in transparency in its land dealings with industry and other established sectors. It needs to give out accurate and updated data on land use, land acquired, land leased etc. Transparency is also required in the method of zeroing in on particular parcel/s of land and the method of arriving at pricing and compensation to the land owners/losers. We call upon the Government of Gujarat to take measures to bring all land related information in the public domain. A-302, Sharan Residency-1, Near Lohana Chhatralaya, Vasna, Ahmedabad Date: 8th July 2013
Shri Rajbha Chudasma is a farmer-leader spearheading the farmersâ€™ struggle against the Dholera SIR. On 25th March 2014 there was a minor altercation following a misunderstanding between two or three local communities. Shri Rajbha Chudasma, being a respected leader of the area, intervened in the matter and effected a compromise and the matter was amicably resolved. However, on the morning of 26th March 2014, around 3 a.m. the police arrived at this house and arrested him on false charges and took him to the Dhandhuka Police Station. He has since been kept there.
Jameen Adhikar Andolan â€“ Gujarat (JAAG) A-302, Sharan Residency-1, Near Lohana Chhatralaya, Vasna, Ahmedabad 26th March 2014 INVITATION DSIR: SIR Act hatao, Narmada na neer lavo ! (Remove the SIR Act, bring the Narmada waters) The people of 22 villages falling in the Dholera SIR area have been agitating against the SIR for some time now. They have made detailed representations to various administration officers and agencies as to their demands and objections to the present project. For the last 2 months they have undertaken an intense awareness drive in all the 22 villages of the SIR area and made people aware of the SIR Act and the provisions therein, what the SIR Act mandates and what the administration has been telling them and the situation that many farmers, who gave up their lands, are facing today. They are now planning a massive sammelan in order to show the powers-that-be that they are firm and united in their protest against the SIR. Their demands are: SIR Act hatao, Narmada na neer lavo! (Remove the SIR Act, bring the Narmada waters)
Date: Saturday, 29 th March 2014 Time: 10 a.m. to 12 noon Behind Shree Bhavani Hotel, Bhavnagar Highway, Dholera
We request you all to remain present in large numbers in order to show solidarity with the agitating farmers. Pradhyumansinh Chudasma Rajbha Chudasma 9426454698 9925226217 Jameen Adhikar Aandolan â€“ Gujarat (JAAG)
Sagar Rabari 9409307693
All photographs of Jan, 18 protest, Ruchir Purohit
Issued in Peopleâ€™s Interest by National Alliance for Peopleâ€™s Movements, 6/6 Jungpura B, New Delhi