To press for the regularisation of buildings in Navi Mumbai gaothans, 41 members of the Agri Koli community are on indefinite hunger strike in Belapur since Tuesday. The protest, organised by the Agri Koli Youth Foundation, is aimed at highlighting the issues faced by the ‘sons of the soil’, after their land was given away for various projects more than four decades ago. Office bearers of the foundation said the government neglected the rehabilitation of the community in 95 gaothans and extended gaothans, including Ghansoli, Karave, Airoli and Gothvili.
“After acquiring our land for the Navi Mumbai project, government authorities were supposed to carry out the land survey within a stipulated time. It had not been done till today. Whenever we plan to carry out repairs or redevelop our buildings, the authorities ask us for the title of the land, but it is not with us as the survey has not been carried out. Hence, our buildings in the gaothans and extended gaothans have been termed illegal. We gave our land for government projects and have been staying here for decades. Then how can the authorities say the buildings are illegal?” said Nilesh Patil, president of the foundation.
Patil, who is on hunger strike, said the state must carry out the survey, give residents the title of the land and regularise the buildings in the gaothans and extended gaothans. Of the 41 protesters, three are women.
“Besides, the authorities should give the certificate of project affected families to all the members and not just one. Our children should get stipends and quota in education. They should be given preference for the jobs in the industries and establishments in the area,” he added.
Nirat Patil, a lawyer and also on strike, said the communities’ progress had suffered due to the neglect by the authorities in rehabilitation. “The traditional farming and fishing businesses ended after we gave our land. With no jobs, the community turned backward financially and socially,” said Nirat.
The protest will end only after a written assurance from the government, said corporator Girish Mhatre, also part of the hunger strike.
All political parties, including the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the NCP are supporting the protest. NCP’s Ganesh Naik, BJP legislator Manda Mhatre and Shiv Sena leader Vijay Nahata have visited the protesters and extended their support, said office bearers of the foundation.