In a big victory for farmers of Mandal-Becharaji region, Gujarat Government on Wednesday announced that 36 villages, which were originally a part of the Mandal-Becharaji Special Investment Region (SIR), would be excluded from it. As a result, the SIR will now comprise only eight villages.
Farmers in Mandal and Becharaji were up in arms against the proposed acquisition of 50,884 hectare land by the state government for the SIR, which would be given to industries. The government had proposed to come out with a development plan for SIR for next 25-30 years.
In view of strong opposition from local residents, the state government had formed a ministerial committee to look into the issue, and to come out with a solution. Modi himself met with the farmers a few weeks ago and assured them that their sentiments would be taken into consideration before any decision was taken.
The agitating farmers had set August 15 deadline for the government to withdraw the SIR notification.
On Wednesday, a day before the deadline expired, the government announced that instead of 44 villages as proposed earlier, the SIR would now be spread over only eight villages, and the remaining 36 would be out of it. From over 50,800 hectares earlier, the size of the SIR covering the eight villages would now be about 10,000 hectares.
Out of the 36 villages excluded from the SIR, 14 are in Mandal taluka, 10 in Detroj taluka and 12 in Dasada-Patdi taluka. The eight villages that continue to be a part of the SIR are Bhagapura and Shihor of Detroj taluka, Hansalpur-Becharaji, Sitapur, Ugharoj, Ugharojpura and Ukardi of Mandal taluka and Chandanki village of Becharaji taluka.
“We had made it clear from the very beginning that there was no question of the government acting against wishes of farmers. The decision has been taken respecting their sentiments,” said Saurabh Patel, spokesperson to the state government.
The farmers, who were opposed to the SIR, have welcomed the decision, but have said that they are only partially satisfied by it. “We welcome the decision. This is the first time in 12 years that this government has been forced to bow to public pressure. But, we are only partially satisfied,” said Sagar Rabari of Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG), which spearheaded the protests against the SIR.
Rabari said that they will continue to protest against allotment of land for Maruti Suzuki’s plant at Hansalpur and de-commanding of agricultural land in the area.
“We will talk to other leaders of the agitation, and residents of eight villages that continue to be a part of the SIR to decide our future course of agitation,” he said.