Ahmedabad: Farmers in Gujarat's Dholera region, about 100 km from Ahmedabad, are fiercely opposed to their agricultural land being taken away for an ambitious industrial project backed by Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The Dholera Special Investment Region was announced by the state government in 2009. Spread over 920 square kilometer area, the project aims to create a global manufacturing and trading hub in the state.
Despite protest by the farmers, the state government carried out surveys and land acquisition in the area. In October last year, notices were sent to the villagers informing them that their land was being acquired.
What was shocking for farmers like Chehurbhai Jadhav in Sarasla village was that in return, the government promised them plots half the size of the ones they owned. Farmers claimed the land being offered was not even cultivable.
"This land if my lifeline. They should kill us before acquiring it. My land yields a produce which helps me and my 10 members survive," Chehurbhai said.
Sarasla is one of the 20 villages in Dholera area of Ahmedabad district protesting against their agricultural lands being taken away. These villages produce high-quality wheat sold nationally. Acquiring such land for industrial purposes would spell doom, they said.
It is not just the farmers who are worried. The pastoral community of Bharwads in these villages also faces a threat to its livelihood. Jasubhai Bharwad and his family, who depend on milk from the cows they own, say the project would deny the cattle of their grazing land.
"If my cattle don't get fodder, how will they survive? That would mean my seven-member family would also die,'' Jasubhai said.
The villagers now threaten to intensify their agitation. "We will carry out protest rallies in the days to come. We are even contemplating fast-unto-death," Naranbhai Chauhan said.
While the state government has been maintaining a silence over the issue, the district administration says the villagers would be adequately compensated.
Farmers have in the past protested against a cement plant in Bhavnagar. In that case, the order for land allotment was withdrawn after the Supreme Court's intervention. About a year ago, farmers protested against a Special Investment Region in north Gujarat. The government backtracked and decided to exempt some villages from land acquisition.