The Gujarat High Court ordered the state government Thursday to maintain status quo at Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR) as it took up a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by affected farmers against land acquisition for the purpose.
A division bench led by Acting Chief Justice Jayant Patel ordered the government to maintain status quo till further orders and scheduled the next hearing on December 15. The PIL was filed by Gujarat Khedut Samaj, a farmers’ body comprising the residents of 22 villages of Dholera in Ahmedabad district.
The petitioners challenged the notification issued in 2009 enacting the Special Investment Region Act. They sought the court’s direction to declare the SIR Act, 2009, unconstitutional.
They also prayed for directions to restrain the government from taking farmers’ land. As per Section 17 of the Act, the government can implement ‘Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act’ through which it can take away 50 per cent of farmers’ land without any compensation.
Besides, the petitioners claimed that through this act, the powers of village panchayats have been restricted to their village boundaries.
On the other hand, the state government argued that this project is in interest of the nation for which the central government has already earmarked Rs 2,784 crore. This SIR will be part of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).
Though Dholera SIR is spread over 920 sq km, the Phase-I of the project will cover only 153 sq km and the actual work will begin from a smaller area of 22.5 sq km, described as “Activation Area” which is meant to act as a catalyst for attracting further investments from local and global investors.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had approved the construction of trunk infrastructure worth Rs 2784.83 crore for the SIR in May 2015. This truck infrastructure will be created within the “Activation Area” .
The trunk infrastructure development is proposed to commence in 2015-16 and is likely to be completed by 2018-19.
In November this year, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change also gave an environment clearance to the proposed Rs 1378 crore Dholera Greenfield International Airport, likely to be built at Navagam village of Ahmedabad district. This proposed airport will provide international connectivity to the SIR.