Six years after massive farmer protests forced the state government to prune the Mandal-Becharaji Special Investment Region (MBSIR) in North Gujarat by 80 per cent, seven of the villages that exited the project in 2013 have now approached the government requesting to be reinducted into the SIR, where Suzuki Corporation is now an “anchor client”.
CEO of MBSIR Jay Prakash Shivhare said that the MBSIR, currently spread across 102 sqkm is no longer a contiguous plot after 33 villages pulled out. The SIR, located about 90 km from Ahmedabad city, is currently divided into two clusters, both 51 sqkm each in area, and is separated by a distance of over 15 km. “The demand to be reinducted into the MBSIR has come from seven villages who are in the middle of these two clusters,” Shivhare said. “They are now seeing the benefits of the planned developments taking place (in the area). Now they want to be part of the SIR.”
The villages are Odhavpura, Odhav, Dadhana, Zanzerwa, Kachrol, Anandpura, and Sinaj villages. As they villages earlier resisted being part of the SIR, “we have asked them to pass a resolution in their gram sabhas to ensure that a majority of the villagers agree to be part of the SIR,” Shivhare said. “If they come to us with a resolution from the gram sabhas then we will definitely start the procedure to include them back in the SIR.
These seven villages together cover an estimated area of 60-70 square kilometres.
Government officials said that the cost of land owned by the farmers within the MBSIR went up several times after town planning schemes basic infrastructure such as roads, water drainage systems and other amenities started getting built. “The farmers in adjoining villages began feeling left out,” the official added.
However, Sagar Rabari, one of the farmers who led the farmers’ agitation against the government in 2013 recounts, “The biggest cause for the farmers agitation was that the state government (said) it would deduct (the value of) 40 per cent of the farmland without compensation (for roads) and the remaining 60 per cent land would be allotted elsewhere.”
Secondly, Rabari says, “the farmers knew they had neither the education nor the skills to get jobs in industries that might come up on their farmlands.”
When asked if he was aware that some of the villages have approached the government to get reinducted into the SIR, Rabari who now heads the Gujarat Khedut Ekta Samiti says, “I do not think much has changed on the ground. Just last year, I had attended a gathering of villagers from Sitapur who wanted to exit the SIR.”
In 2012, the government announced the MBSIR, originally comprising 44 villages of Ahmedabad, Surendanagar and Mehsana districts. After the farmer protests, the then chief minister Narendra Modi constituted a ministerial committee to resolve the issue and finally removed 36 villages from the SIR. Only eight villages were left – two of Detroj taluka, five of Mandal taluka of Ahmedabad district and one of Becharaji taluka of Mehsana district.
Not all are happy with MBSIR plan. Bhupat Solanki, who owns three acres of agricultural land in Erwada village and falls within the MBSIR says, “There are farmers like me who do not want to part with our land. We plant three crops every year, which includes cumin that fetches us good remuneration. We do not want to give away our fertile land for industries.”
The total cost of developing MBSIR infrastructure is Rs 7,321 crore. “Apart from Rs 561 crore (work for road building) for which tenders will be floated soon, we will be spending an Rs 1,000 crore on Phase-I Town Planning-1 scheme. We have also received a Rs 360 crore loan from JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency),” the official said.
There are three town planning schemes proposed in Cluster A, which comprises Hansalpur (Ahmedabad), Sitapur (Ahmedabad) and Chandanki (Mehsana) villages. Two more schemes are proposed for Cluster B which will house Honda Two Wheelers and a Japanese Industrial Park in close proximity. These include Ughroj, Ughroj nu Paru, Ukardi, Bhagapura, and Shihor.
MBSIR is expected to generate employment for 3.04 lakh people, including 1.25 lakh direct employment. Currently, Suzuki Motor Gujarat Pvt Limited is its biggest investor. Located in cluster A, the Japanese car manufacturer is currently operating two plants. Officials said that the Honda Two Wheeler plant producing Activas and the Japanese Industrial park are located just outside Cluster B of MBSIR.
MBSIR will be developed through five-town planning schemes under the framework of the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976 where land under various ownerships will be pooled, redistributed and reconstituted after deducting 35 per cent of the original land for roads and public purposes. “For instance, for a farmer owning 10,000 sqm of land, 3,500 sqm will be deducted and a final plot of 6,500 sqm will be given to him,” Shivhare said. “The advantage of Town Planning schemes is that wide roads and common amenities will provide access to all the plots.”
However, over 81 per cent of land currently under MBSIR is being used for agricultural purposes and the entire MBSIR area falls within the command area of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited It has two Narmada branch canals passing through it. Over 28.58 sqkm or 28 per cent of the proposed area is earmarked to be developed as an industrial zone.