Protests have broken out in four of the seven villages included in the limits of the Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) through a notification of the Urban Development and Urban Housing Department of the state government on June 18. The villagers of Karodiya, Undera, Bil and Bhayli have taken to the street to protest the inclusion in the corporation limits, citing violation of provisions of the Provincial Municipal Corporation Act and the VMC’s financial crisis as reasons for their objection.
On Saturday, residents of Bil on the outskirts of Vadodara held a massive protest in their village, disregarding the social distancing norms amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The residents demanded a reversal of the government decision, which has notified the inclusion of seven villages–Bhayli, Vemali, Sevasi, Bil, Karodiya, Undera and Vadadla–into the Vadodara city limits.
Jay Bhatt, Sarpanch of Bil, said, “The decision is against the interest of the villagers. The rules say that a village can be included in the city limits once the population exceeds 10,000. The projected population of Bil as per the 2011 Census is only 8,500. The government is only eyeing these villages to declare town planning schemes and earn revenue by converting our agricultural lands into real estate projects by developers.”
Protests were also held by villagers at Karodiya and Undera on Thursday and Friday respectively. Villagers from Bhayli, Bil, Karodia and Sevasi have also approached the Gujarat High Court against the decision of the government.
The original petition of the villagers filed during the lockdown in April sought stay against the government proposal to include the villages under VMC. It was to be heard in the HC on June 26. But the villages have now admitted a revision petition — a mandamus writ (seeking direction to perform statutory duty) — for quashing the state government notification of June 18.
Bhatt, who is one of the petitioners said, “We could not have regular hearings due to the lockdown for our original petition although there was a hearing via video conferencing. However, the state government had filed a caveat petition (probate stating that a decision could be taken without informing the court) putting forth its intention of issuing a notification while the hearing is pending. Now that they have issued the notification, we have revised our petition accordingly to seek quashing of the notification.”
The government notification means that the panchayats in the villages will stand dissolved. The notification, however, specifies that the land belonging to the state government and the panchayat will not be vested in the custody of the VMC yet.
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