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Can we eat cement? Geetaben Jadavs face is completely concealed by her saree.

One expected a shy voice and is startled to hear a booming voice saying: They will build huge factories in the SIR which will produce machines, chemicals and cement. Can we eat cement? What will we give our children if they take away our land? Sarsla village has gathered for a public meeting to discuss the SIR. Interestingly, the women, who are not allowed to show their faces (they do, eventually, as the reporter is a woman) and live by a general code of submissiveness, are vociferous in their opinion on the SIR. We will give up our lives but not our land. Our land is our bread and butter. Their compensation will not replace the land, says Geetaben Jadav. Dholera has farmers with large landholdings as well as small farmers, owning anything between five acres and 50 acres (one acre is 0.4 hectare). Largely rain-fed, the main crops grown are wheat, cumin, rye, cotton and chickpea. Although in the Narmada command area only a few small canals have been built and the water does not reach the fields, farmers say that the crops grow well in the rain-fed area as the land is extremely fertile. They will give factories Narmada water, but they wont give us. If we had that water, we could grow sugarcane, which is very productive, says Narayanbhai Chauhan, a village elder. My question is, if they take way our land, what will happen to us? We heard about the SIR after the Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2007. The government, however, only came to us with its plans in 2011, says Pradhumansinh Chudasama, a farmer with a large landholding from Bavaliari village in Dholera. They had meetings in all the villages but it was more to tell us about it and then take our consent. Even though environment impact assessment meetings were held, it seemed more of a formality then a genuine effort. They did not pay heed to any of the environmental or wildlife concerns. The government will do what they want, says Chudasama.

This land is so fertile that we just need to sow the seeds and wait for some rainfall, and the crop grows, says Chudasama, who owns about 30 acres of land. We realise that Dholera is very well located. But why cant they use wasteland for these projects? Why take away our livelihood? One acre produces 1.5 tonnes of wheat. Because it is an organic type, the grain earns about Rs.800 per 20 kilograms. If a farmer has an average of 10 acres, he will reap approximately 15,000 kg, which will earn him close to Rs.6 lakh a year just on one crop. Cumin, of course, is much more expensive. An acre yields one tonne of cumin. For every 20 kg of cumin, the farmer earns Rs.2,500. If a farmer has an average of 10 acres, he will reap approximately 10,000 kg of cumin, which earns him close to Rs.12.5 lakh a year. Each acre of chickpea produces 1.5 tonnes of the pulse. The farmer earns Rs.600 for every 20 kg. Because it is non-irrigated and mostly organic and pesticides and fertilizers are not used, the production costs are nominal, says Chudasama. The government told us we will get hospitals, schools and industries where people will get employment and the new towns will increase the real estate value. But we do not need any of this. In any case, by law they should be providing us government schools and hospitals, says Anirudh Chudasama, another farmer. We have just started the protest. Farmers are ready to fight. Rabari says that given the hierarchical structure of village society, it is important to convince the upper castes and bigger farmers about the movement. Unless they are converted and are willing to protest, it will be a pointless exercise because the smaller farmers and the landless and lower-caste people take their cue from them. In this case, even the big farmer is furious and ready to battle. Every time we plan a meeting, they surround the place with policemen. The last time we planned a tractor rally to Gandhinagar they denied us permission. But we will continue our agitation, says Anirudh Chudasama.

Instances such as Jamnagar farmers losing a Supreme Court case which allowed Reliance to acquire land should perhaps tell Dholeras farmers that they may have little choice in the matter. Yet, they seem determined to fight.