Locals dream of Sanand-like riches

A flat in Ahmedabad,a car and a plot of land are what most farmers in Hansalpur are dreaming of after Maruti Suzuki chairman Osamu Suzuki’s visit to their nondescript village which will host Maruti Suzuki India’s first manufacturing plant outside Haryana.

Written by Avinash Nair | Hansalpur,ahmedabad | Published: August 26, 2012 7:00 am

A flat in Ahmedabad,a car and a plot of land are what most farmers in Hansalpur are dreaming of after Maruti Suzuki chairman Osamu Suzuki’s visit to their nondescript village which will host Maruti Suzuki India’s first manufacturing plant outside Haryana.

Pravin Patel,a farmer who cultivates 12 bighas of land near Hansalpur village,rode a bus with other villagers to the plant site on Saturday. “The prices of land have increased ten-fold since Maruti decided to come here. Once I get the right prices,I plan to sell my land and buy a flat and a car in Ahmedabad. I would also like to re-invest a part of the money generated in buying a plot of land at a cheaper location.”

Hansalpur,located about 100 kilometres from Ahmedabad,shares its borders with districts of Mehsana and Patan.

“This is the first instance of development in our area. Most of the people were poor,but with the land prices increasing,their notional wealth has also seen a rise. Now the same people (owning land) are optimistic about prosperity coming to their villages. This is why we have all turned out at the plant site to witness the developments happening with our own eyes,” says Bhurvan Patel,a farmer from neighbouring Sitapur village who turned out to witness the site-inspection by the top brass of MSI.

Patel was among the several local villagers who trooped in at the car manufacturing site despite the rains. Most of the site is covered with weeds (Prosopis Juliflora or Gando Baval in local parlance). The only sign of activity at the site are a few earth-movers,road-rollers and a mobile shelter for workers of L&T which is developing the land and building the boundary wall.

“I have seen the landscape of Sanand changing in the last five years. Now,with Maruti firming up plans to bring one of the biggest auto projects near our village,we are hoping that things will turn out to be even better than Sanand,” says 60-year old Baldev Naik,a small-time farmer who lives near Hansalpur.

Sanand,which is already home to large automobile players like Tata Motors,Ford and Peugeot,has attracted investments worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore and generated employment for over 26,000 people. This town near Ahmedabad has an additional Rs 1,355 crore of proposed investments,as per Gujarat government’s figures.

However,there are a few cautious voices in the group. “One of the biggest lessons we have learnt from farmers at Sanand is not to give away our land at cheap prices. Once the land is gone,it is very difficult to buy another plot of land,” says Jagdish Vyas,a farmer from nearby Vithalpur village.

“Moreover,farmers in this area have just started reaping the benefits of irrigation that have reached them after centuries. Now,they face a dilemma to continue tilling or to make a quick buck by selling their land,” Vyas added.

Students like the 20-year-old Raval Patel see a job opportunity. “I am pursuing a diploma in automobile engineering from a college in Mehsana. If Maruti’s plant comes as per schedule,I can easily get a job with the company after I pass out,” said Raval,who has enrolled himself in a three-year-long course.

However,few unhappy and unsure voices like those Raja Bharwad cannot be missed. “There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty among the villagers and farmers who live around Hansalpur. The local population has not been taken into confidence despite the fact that such a big project is being set up here. Neither the administration nor the company have held any meetings with the farmers in the area to inform about their future plans,” says Bharwad.

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