In 2014, Gujarat unanimously voted for their Chief Minister Narendra Modi during the General Elections helping the saffron party clinch all 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state. However, in 2019, although Modi is the Prime Minister of the country, Gujaratis are visibly miffed especially in South Gujarat.
South Gujarat is not only a fertile strip of land with a bi-annual yield, it’s also one of the most heavily industrialised regions in the country. Now, three major infrastructure projects of national significance are currently underway in South Gujarat, which will eat into fertile land and has drawn the ire of several farmers.
These projects are: The Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor (Bullet Train Project), The Mumbai Ahmedabad Expressway and the Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). Except for the Bullet Train project, land acquisition for the other two projects has been completed, albeit, the farmers have dragged the state government to the court.
One of the major concerns for the farmers is the paltry compensation offered to them by the government, as it is far lesser than the actual market rate of the land. The Quint met with some farmers and land owners in Bharuch District where the three above mentioned projects will kick out hundreds of farmers from their lands.
Discrepancies in Compensation
Ranjitsinh Dabhi of Dehrol Village in Bharuch district juxtaposed the farmer’s position with a forced marriage and said that the farmers are like the girl’s family and they must follow all the rules and instructions set by the boy’s family (aka the government).
“We are not against Vikas (progress), we are not against the building of roads and railways. The controversy resides in the rates being offered for our lands. In a village, an unused government land has been priced by collector at Rs 2,000/sq metre, and the adjacent farm lands have been priced at Rs 250/sq metre. So, our question is, how can you apply two separate rates in the same village?”Ranjitsinh Dabhi of Dehrol Village in Bharuch district
The rates were decided by the state government as per the 2011 ready reckoner rate (Jantri rate) for the farm land, but the same rates were not applied on government land, which resulted in severe discrepancies in compensation.
Old Jantri Rates
The farmers have alleged that the government has not adhered to the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) and are compensating the farmers at ready reckoner (Jantri rates) set in 2011.
As per the provisions in LARR, land acquired in 2011 must be compensated in the same year; if at all the land was not compensated in the same year but in 2018, then the government has to pay as per prevailing market rates of 2016, 2017, 2018 market rates and not the Jantri rates.
Nipul Patel, from Juna Diva Gam, Ankleshwar said, “The government has not done this and instead we are being compensated as per 2010, 2011, 2012 Jantri rates in 2018, both in the Express Highway and the Bullet Train projects.”
“Even the stakeholder consultation meeting was held without giving notices to the project-affected farmers. They only nominated the village sarpanch. Is the government only acquiring the land of the village sarpanch and not from project-affected farmers?”Nipul Patel, Juna Diva Gam, Ankleshwar district
Vote NOTA or Farmer Candidate
When The Quint asked the farmers who they will vote for this election, their reply was unanimous.
“We have the Congress as Opposition, but they are quite weak. People are going to vote NOTA. Mandir-Masjid will not work, communal disharmony will not work and we are not against ‘Vikas’. We are not selfish, but we will only vote for those who are willing to listen to the farmers’ plight.”Ranjitsinh Dabhi of Dehrol Village in Bharuch district
Issaq Ugarada, from Dehgam in Bharuch said, “They are exercising their power, be it for acquisition or giving compensation. Why should we vote for those who don’t listen to farmers? We will find an alternative and we will have a candidate who is a farmer.”
Jagdish Patel from Ankleshwar said, “We can also use NOTA if no party listens to us. If our farmers’ organisation decides to field a candidate, then we will vote them to power. But we won't listen to anyone’s ‘Mann ki Baat’. We will only listen to the farmers’ ‘Mann ki Baat’.”