With land prices having shot up in the auto hub of Sanand and land-owners flush with cash,the township in Ahmedabad district now wants more and more of guns.
Since 2010,when the Tatas changed the once-sleepy town into a destination of global auto majors like Ford and Peugeot by relocating its Nano plant here,Sanand has topped the list of firearms licencees.
According to data obtained from Ahmedabad district collectorate,between 2010 and May 2012,a total of 100 firearm licences were issued in this district. These covered 80 revolvers,nine pistols and 10 double-barrel guns and one single-barrel gun. Sanand alone cornered 33 of these licences while the other nine talukas in Ahmedabad district shared the rest.
The sharp rise in the number of gun licencees can be gauged from the fact that only 914 licences were issued till May 2012 in the whole of Ahmedabad district since it was formed in 1959-60.
I am a farmer and businessman. I keep travelling from one village to another to look after my land. I am also into selling and buying of land. Because of this,I always travel with cash. Thats why I had applied for a licence for self-defence, said a resident of Sanand who did not wish to be named.
According to collectorate officials,they receive an average of 90 applications per year for firearms from across the district. Most are denied for want of strong reasons.
However,a top official in the collectorate said 35 of such applicants appealed before the state home department and got licences in the past two-and-a-half years.
Many of the farmers who became wealthy overnight want to carry a gun for clout,the official said,adding that the phenomenon has not led to any spurt in crimes though.
Earlier,we needed guns mainly to protect farms from stray animals. However,today we need it for self-defence. Due to the development in Sanand,migrants have flooded the area. The property market has soared. With this,the fear factor has increased over the years, said Jagdishsinh Vaghela,sarpanch of Vasna village in Sanand.
Vaghela says there have been clashes over land deals,besides instances where landlords have been forced to sell off land.
Bahadursinh Vaghela,a former sarpanch of Iyava village,says many villagers who used to ride bicycles are now driving cars and carry huge cash with them. N S Malek,an inspector in Sanand,agrees.