More than 2,000 farmers from 42 villages within 10-15 kilometre radius of Junagadh town took out a rally in Junagadh Wednesday against the merger of their villages in the Junagadh Urban Development Authority (JUDA). Led by representatives of the Jameen Adhikar Andolan Gujarat (JAAG) and Khedut Hit Rakshak Samiti (KHRS) of Junagadh, farmers also submitted a memorandum to Collector Alok Pandey, who also happens to be the JUDA chairman, urging him to immediately halt the process of merger of their villages in JUDA.
The memorandum stated that the farmers in these villages were not interested in becoming a part of JUDA and hence, the state government should not go ahead with merging their villages in the urban development authority. The memorandum said that the land in the villages in question was all fertile and the farmers were interested in continuing with the agricultural activities and did not want to sell their land at all.
Speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Junagadh, KHRS representative Atul Shekhda said that the existing population of Junagadh town was merely 3.5 lakh and hence the expansion of the town at such a large scale was not required at all. Shekhda alleged that “the intention behind incorporating 42 villages in the urban body was to grab farmers’ land to allot them at low prices to local politicians and their relatives for setting up industries, educational institutions, hospitals and other enterprises for commercial purposes”. He said that the real purpose of the bid to expand JUDA limits could be understood in the light of the recent amendments in the state land acquisition law that allowed JUDA to transfer its land to corporates and industries.
Another KHRS representative Hameer Ram said that the power tariff of the villagers would go up with the merger in JUDA. Besides, farmers would then have to pay several other taxes, thus increasing financial burden on them. Ram said that the state government had issued a notification two months ago, asking the people to give their objections, if any, in this regard. He said that none of the farmers were interested in the merger and all of them were opposing it.
Shekhda and Ram said that they had approached BJP MP Rajesh Chudasama and MLA Mahendra Mashru who gave them “verbal commitment” to support. Sagar Rabari from JAAG, who was also a part of the delegation that met JUDA chairman, said that farmers would lose 40 per cent of their land with the merger of their villages in JUDA.
They would also not get any compensation for their land. Since there is not much urban activity around Junagadh, unlike Ahmedabad and other towns, Rabari said that farmers would not fetch better price for their land left with them after the acquisition by JUDA. Moreover, they would also not be able to carry out their agriculture activity after the construction of roads through their farms and development of other amenities. When contacted, JUDA chairman Alok Pandey said the urbanisation plan for the town had been prepared keeping in view the requirement for the next 25 years. “But the government would not acquire the land without the consent of farmers,” said Pandey.
“The last date for filing objections in the matter is October 13. The decision on the issue will be taken only after hearing the farmers’ concerns,” Pandey said.