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HindustanTimes Sun,13 Jul 2014
Land acquisition row: Voices of dissent echo in vibrant Gujarat
Ketaki Ghoge, Hindustan Times
Ahmedabad, December 05, 2012
First Published: 01:35 IST(5/12/2012)
Last Updated: 02:54 IST(5/12/2012)

Pradyum Munshi, a retired education inspector from Bavaliari village along with thousands of others across 22 villages will lose their farm lands to the Special Investment Region (SIR) of Dholera, 140 km from Gandhinagar.

Munshi's village of 3,000 will soon get cordoned off by high rises, swanky commercial complexes, industrial units and residential enclaves as this SIR spread across 900 sq km takes shape as a future Shanghai or Kobe. 

Envisaged as a global economic hub and world class city along the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor with port and airport connectivity, six-lane highway and a metro corridor, this is one of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's pet projects. 

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/12/05_12_12-metro11b.jpg

But, the question, Munshi and others, who took out a protest rally in July this year against the government, are asking is: Whose development is this?

"We are not against development or industry. Take our wasteland for that purpose. But, the government will take our cultivable lands and give us no say in compensation. Tomorrow, a global city will arise from our lands and we will be kept outside at the gates," said Munshi, who will lose 54 acres of his farm land.

Voices of dissent are slowly being heard as Modi's Vibrant Gujarat juggernaut interrupts lives and big port, airport, SIR and SEZ projects change the landscape of the state.  While Modi harbours national ambitions, this dissent by those on the periphery could backfire for him.

In Dhanduka constituency that includes the 22 coastal villages, the issue could tilt the balance in the favour of the Congress.  Experts say the SIR Act, 2009 gives the government overarching powers. (see box)

Another farmer, Pravin Singh Chudasma, who will lose 10 acres, said, "This is development that will benefit few big industrialists and a handful of politicians. We will go to court."

Munshi and Chudasma's village Bavaliari stands to lose nearly 2,800 acres of cultivable land where they grow wheat and jowar. The Bavaliari panchayat has now passed a resolution opposing the project and plans to move Supreme Court.

Villagers from 17 villages have formed a `Bhal Bachao Samiti' to protest against the project but the movement lacks strong leadership and unity. 

The Congress is supporting the villagers but it hasn't been able to win their trust so far.

Local Congress leader Ghanashyam Singh, also a farmer who will lose his land, said, "This is definitely an election issue and we will campaign on this plank. But, caste politics, and not this, may seal the fate on the voting day."

Rubbishing the protests, BJP national spokesperson Nirmala Sitaraman said, "There are chinks of protests that are being highlighted by the opposition or critics to mislead voters."


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