More than 30 years after 118 hectare of land was acquired from 286 farmers, mainly tribals, of three villages in Valsad district for setting up an industrial estate, the Gujarat government has decided to return the land to the farmers and restore their ownership in land records. A notification in this regard is likely to be published by the state Revenue Department soon.
The government’s decision comes at a time when protests over land acquisition have become frequent. Interestingly, farmers in several villages of Valsad district are at present protesting against the acquisition of land for the high-profile bullet train project.
According to sources in the government, land belonging to 286 farmers in three villages of Sarigam, Fansa and Manda of Valsad district were acquired between 1984 and 1988 by then Congress-led government under then prevailing 1894 Land Acquisition Act for setting up an industrial estate of Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC). The land acquisition notifications were met with tough resistance and protests by farmers who challenged it in the court.
The government had to deposit the compensation amount to the court as the farmers were not ready to accept it. While the GIDC estate was established, land belonging to these 286 farmers fell on the border of the proposed project and was not a part of the industrial estate. All this while, the physical possession of the land remained with the farmers, who continued to grow their crops. But the ownership of the land in the records continued to be with the GIDC.
Welcoming the government’s decision to withdraw the land acquisition, the sarpanch of Manda village, Prabhu Thakariya, who is among the 286 farmers whose land was acquired, said the move will help them to sell or mortgage the land. “Though we continued cultivating the land for all these years, the sword of acquisition kept swinging over our head since the legal ownership had shifted to the GIDC. Because of this, we were not able to sell, mortgage or do any financial deal with our land… We have been protesting, but he government was not paying heed to our demand,” said Thakariya.
“We are happy that the government is now going to legally return the land to us,” he added.
For the past 15 years, the farmers of the three villages were being supported by BJP MLA from Umargaon Ramanlal Patkar. “I had been pressing for this withdrawal of land acquisition for the past 15 years. And now feel happy that Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has taken a final decision on it,” Patkar said, adding that the market value of the land is nearly Rs 200 crore.