LAND AND LIVELIHOOD ALIENATION IN GUJARAT

:
REPORT OF A PUBLIC HEARING

Organized by:
Action aid Center for Social Justice Delhi Forum Gujarat Lok Samiti Janpath Janvikas Paryavaran Mitra People in center Shalini Randeria (Researcher) Utthan Working group of women and land ownership S Jigna (Event Co-ordinator)

Rural groups:
Bandharo Ane Gauchar Zameen Bachao Lok Andolan, Mahuva (Bhavnagar), Bhavnagar Jilla Gram Bachao Samiti, Jaspara (Bhavnagar), Bhoomi Suraksha Andolan, Maliya (Rajkot), Maachimaar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, Bhadreshwar (Mundra-Kutch), Paryavaran Bachao Samiti, Veraval (Junagadh), Rehtaan Adhikar Manch (Gujarat)

TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION.............................................................................................................. 3
PROCESS OF THE PUBLIC HEARING ................................................................................................... 3

BACKGROUND OF THE PEOPLES' MOVEMENTS UNDER SCRUTINY AT THE CITIZENS PUBLIC HEARING .......................................................................................................... 5
MAHUVA BANDHARA, KEHTIWADI, PARYAVARAN BACHAO SAMITI: .............................................. 5 BHAVNAGAR JILLA GRAM BACHAO SAMITI AND ANU URJA ABHYAS JUTH, BHAVNAGAR: ............ 6 BHUMI SURAKSHA ANDOLAN: ......................................................................................................... 6 MACHIMAR ADHIKAR SANGHARSH SANGATHAN: ........................................................................... 7

PROCEEDINGS................................................................................................................ 8
OBSERVATIONS BY PANELISTS ......................................................................................................... 8 PANELIST PROFILES.......................................................................................................................... 9 DETAILED PROCEEDINGS................................................................................................................ 10

1

Introduction
There is growing resistance, especially among the poorest communities of Gujarat, to the increasingly aggressive and insensitive land acquisition policies pursued by the State Government. In what amounts to a massive transfer of peoples' resources to the powerful industrial sector, the State is acquiring agricultural and community pastoral lands and water resources, and handing them over to private industries and public sector undertakings at nominal prices. The losers in this transaction are farmers whose lands are acquired after aggressive persuasion by the State, and landless peoples who are dependent on common land and water resources for raising livestock and other livelihood options. The latter receive no compensation and have no avenues to seek redressal for the injustice done to them in the confiscation of their historical rights over these community resources. Additionally, there are several communities across the State that face the risk of severe, even fatal, degradation to their health and natural resources due to unchecked pollution by certain industries and power plants. Again, the damage will have greatest impact on women and marginalized communities and any compensation or mitigation is unlikely. To address the concerns of the affected peoples, a Citizens' Public Hearing was held in Ahmedabad, Gujarat on the 7th of February 2010. A panel consisting of eminent citizens, who have been engaged in issues of justice and peace, heard and documented the adverse impacts of a selected number of public and private sector projects. The core objectives of this exercise were to communicate to the State that the beneficiaries of development should first be the most vulnerable sections of society. Critical examination must be carried out on any project that impoverishes, or puts at risk, the lives and livelihoods of the poor.

Process of the Public Hearing
Panellists from multiple walks of life were invited. The eminent panellists included Chairperson of the Gandhi Peace Foundation Ms. Radha Bhatt, Member of the Planning Commission Dr. Syeda Hameed, Supreme Court Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh, Vice-Chancellor of the Gujarat Vidyapeeth University, Dr. Sudarshan Iyengar and eminent physicist Dr. Surendra Gadekar. Testimonials were heard from each of the movements, along with a short video shot at site by filmmaker Raju Barot. Written testimonials were also collected from the people. The panellists summarized their findings at the end of the event at a press conference. The issues addressed at the public hearing are listed below:
● ● ● ● ● ● ●

Handover of Village Common Resources without Due Consultations with Gram Sabha Forced Land Acquisition of Private Agricultural Lands Lack of Transparency/Local Consultations/Informed Consent Sham Public Hearings Blatant Violations of Environmental Laws/Court Judgements Intimidation of Residents by Private “Security” Agencies and Police Diversion and Destruction of Productive Agricultural Land

While every effort was done to ensure the participation of government representatives, the state Government chose not to send representatives to the public hearing highlighting the evasive methods it engages in participatory consultation process.

2

Background of the Peoples' Movements Under Scrutiny at the Citizens Public Hearing
Mahuva Bandhara, Kehtiwadi, Paryavaran Bachao samiti:
A strong resistance has emerged in Mahuva, Bhavnagar against the Government's allotment of land to the Nirma Cement plant. Included in this land is a recently-constructed irrigation pond and community grazing land. Additionally, the company will have access to over 4,500 hectares of land for limestone mining and the dust produced in the manufacture of cement will damage crops and create health hazards for surrounding areas. The irrigation pond in question (samadhiyala bandhara) was constructed in the year 2000 at the cost of Rs. 3.88 crores. The land, 268 hectares, was given to the government by Doliya, Vangar and Padhiyarka villages in 1997 for the construction of the pond. The purpose of this pond was to ward off salinity and recharge groundwater. It has been tremendously successful, recharging waters for 2000 hectares of land, and has been credited for a tremendous upsurge in agricultural productivity and related economic activity in the area. It currently stores 63 million cubic feet of water. According to 2002 High Court judgement (xx), water bodies cannot be handed over to corporations. In a sleight of hand, the State ruled that this body was identified, but not notified, and thus it could be handed over to Nirma. The public hearing conducted by the State was a farce.. Despite this, villagers found out about it and attended the hearing to state their objections. They were not allowed to speak initially, and only after forcing their way to the front were they allowed to make their statement. However, the result of the hearing was still stated to be in favour of the company? In view of the protests, the State appointed a committee, the Shelat Committee, to look into the matter. No non-governmental members were part of this committee and nobody in the village was interviewed nor their lands visited. Not surprisingly, the committee ruled in favour of the company. In its report, the committee suggested three alternates and the second alternate - to return 54 ha land to the villagers, and allow the company to proceed with the cement plant on rest of the 214 ha - was accepted by the sub-committee again formed by the government, including members like the State Finance Minister, Vajubahi Vala. The State has also shown considerable aggression towards the protestors, arresting them and threatening them. In a welcome twist, the local MLA Kanubhai Kalsaria, who is from the ruling BJP party, has thrown his weight behind the protests and has himself been subject to arrests and harassment. Additionally, company-hired goons have been harassing protestors in their villages, and when a large contingent left for Ahmedabad to attend this public hearing as well as stage a protest in front of the HC, they pelted the buses with stones, breaking several windows. Despite the high-level collusion of the company with State Authorities, and the resulting intimidation, the people are adamant that the plant will not be built in their area. Besides taking over the critical check dam and entering the area without consultation with local residents, there are also several environmental aspects that will cause tremendous damage to surrounding agricultural land as well as wildlife. Dust from cement factories typically coats the surrounding plant species for an area of as much as 2 km (?) and has been known to wipe out several species of pulses, reduce fruit production and even affects hay production that can reduce livestock productivity by as much as 80%. Additionally, populations living around cement factories are vulnerable to a variety of lung diseases. Nirma, in its representation, has assured that it would 3

use the latest technology to minimize pollution, but given its brute tactics so far, that scenario does not appear to be likely. A far more foreboding factor for the region's surging agriculture is the salinity ingress that could be expected in the face of widespread limestone mining .In terms of wildlife, the area is home to as many as 3000 nilgais (blue bulls) that are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act 2006. In a shocking statement, and in clear violation of the law, the Gujarat xxx ministry simply stated that the nilgai could be shot and designated the sarpanch as the designated “forest protector” (need more understanding of this?).

Bhavnagar Jilla Gram Bachao Samiti and Anu Urja Abhyas Juth, Bhavnagar:
Local groups from several villages have come together in opposition to the installation of a 6000 MW nuclear power plant at Jasapara-Mithi Virdi villages, Bhavnagar. Several issues have been highlighted as being extremely problematic, not the least of which is displacement of lakhs of people. There would also be severe health hazards due to radiation, usurpation of tremendous amounts of fresh water for cooling the reactors, destruction of a fertile agricultural region, risk of a Chernobyl-like disaster, huge costs to the country in terms of setting up the plant, importing the technology and the equipment, and finally the issue of disposal of the toxic waste, which nobody would want in their backyard. In terms of displacement, 10,000 families living in 4 villages within a 1.5 km radius would have to move out immediately. All the fertile agricultural land would be destroyed, most likely forever, in an area famous for its abundant crop of mango, chickoo, cashewnut and other foods. In addition, 1.53 lakh families living in 44 villages within a 1.5 - 15 km radius would have to be shifted or would face the health hazards of radiation, well-documented in communities around the world to be birth defects and cancer, as well as the brunt of the risk of a nuclear disaster. The local communities have organized themselves to fight the plant in various ways. A signature campaign was held where more than half the landholders of Jasapara village signed on to stop the plant. Groups are distributing pamphlets on the ill effects of the nuclear power plant, taking villagers for visits to nearby nuclear plant at Kakrapar, Surat to see firsthand the effects of living near such a facility, and screening documentaries on Chernobyl and other horrific disasters.

Bhumi Suraksha Andolan:
Local landholders in the Rajkot area are increasingly discovering that land that has been tilled by their families for generations is in fact under government control. With no clear land records, farmers cannot avail of the benefits of government schemes, such as compensation for crop damage in the last monsoon season. Despite dialogue with the State for five years, farmers didn't get any response. Due to industrialization, land prices have also shot up in the region, but the farmers see no benefit. The local people along with a local NGO Peoples Rights Center (PIC), initiated agitation against the local administration in July 2007 with clear five demands: 1. Regularize the land, which is recorded as government land (dub ni jamin) into the name of its tiller. 2. Immediately fill the vacant post of President of the Municipal Corporation. 3. Compensate the farmers (flood victims) under the announced government scheme for 200506. 4. Repair the reclamation bund, so that further sea ingress is checked and fertile land can be saved. 5. Redistribute government land to the poor and marginalized under Santhani. 4

After agitating for nine days, the local administration was ready to dialogue with the movement representatives and assured compliance of the last four demands, which have since been fulfilled. However, the struggle is still ongoing for regularizing land in the name of the farmers.

Machimar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan:
The Mundra SEZ, approved in 2003-4, will extend over 10,000 hectares with over 14 villages. With the rich and sensitive ecology in the area that supports tens of thousands of traditional workers, the effects of the construction and pollution would be disastrous. According to the State's own Forest Department, the area covered by the Mundra SEZ has 3000 hectares of mangroves and these are currently being destroyed. The importance of mangroves in the regional ecology is indisputabe; they provide important habitat and nursing ground for a rich diversity of fish and other marine species, serve as the hub of the important prawn fishing industry, and protect the coast from cyclones and hurricanes. Dependent on this coastline and ecology are transient villages supporting more than 10,000 fisherfolk and their supportive fish processing industries. In other industrial areas along the same coast, prawn catches have fallen tremendously and the fish that is caught is covered in oil and not marketable. The fishworkers will thus be tremendous losers in this deal, and are unlikely to get any compensation for the loss of the livelihood enjoyed by their families for generations. Conditions of approval have been blatantly violated. For example, the Collector stated in the approval that no natural drainage systems could be affected. Yet, several rivers and creeks were blocked due to 15-20 km bunds built by the SEZ which led to the flooding of the Mundra township during the last monsoons. The SEZ has also been given large amounts of common (gauchar) grazing land. Dependent on this are the poorest communities in the Mundra tehsil who raise livestock for a living and also make charcoal with a plant found in these lands. The loss of this land is in contravention to a Gujarat Government Order (2002) which states that every village should have a minimum of 40 acres of land for 100 animals. The affected villages have fallen well below this level. Maldharis (livestock rearers) came out strongly against the company in the November 11 public hearing. Says Vaaljibhai from Jharpara village, where 60% of the families depend completely on livestock rearing, "We have been protesting against the handover of 1,000 acres of our gowcher for the SEZ. We will not let the company set foot on our grazing lands." On December 22, the village organised a rally in front of the Mundra tehsil office and warned that they will bring their 8,000-odd cattle and buffaloes into Mundra town and block all the roads if the notices to their panchayats (about the handover of gowcherlands) are not withdrawn.

5

Proceedings
The audit began with an address by Nafisa Barot, coordinator of Utthan, followed by the testimonies of the affected people. Each movement's testimonial was preceded by a brief video of the issue, filmed at location. The presentations were interspersed with questions and comments by the panelists and other eminent guests. The following is a synopsis of the major issues that emerged out of the people’s audit process.

Observations by Panelists
Handover of Village Common Resources without Due Consultations with Gram Sabha – In violation of norms that require a minimum of 40 acres of gauchar (common) lands for 100 livestock – Water bodies handed over in the case of Mahuva – Lands used by communities for livelihood pursuits, such as fishing and charcoal making, handed over without compensation Forced Land Acquisition of Private Agricultural Lands – Sec 4 being used with ?? violations – In the case of private acquisition by corporations, there has been a lot of intimidation to farmers who don't want to sell their lands ? Lack of Transparency/Local Consultations/Informed Consent – Affected villagers frequently find out about projects after the construction has already begun, which limits steps they can take to make their voices heard.

Sham Public Hearings – Public hearings held 25-35 km away from the affected villages, in violation of rules. – Buses organized to take villagers, but invariably they are packed with supporters of companies. – Information about hearings not publicized. – If and when villagers find out and make their way to the hearing, they are barred from speaking, either outright or with the intimidating presence of company-hired “security” personnel

Blatant Violations of Environmental Laws/Court Judgements <Instances of violations from each of the movements> Intimidation of Residents by Private “Security” Agencies and Police <Instances of violations from each of the movements> Diversion and Destruction of Productive Agricultural Land – Food security should be a priority in the face of rising food prices – Government spending on increasing productivity on one hand (check dams, rainwater harvesting), and once the investment was done in the name of communities, same land handed over to corporations, particularly polluting and problematic corporations which will ruin the land for generations to come

6

Panellist Profiles
Radha Bhatt (chairperson) Radha Bhatt is currently serving as the Chairperson of the Gandhi Peace Foundation. In this position, she has initiated peace work in Jammu & Kashmir and the North East and also guides the Centres of the Gandhi Peace Foundation which are involved in peace work all over India. Prior to this, she has served as Secretary of the National Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust, where she was actively in peace work undertaken by the Trust in the strife-torn states of Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Bihar. She also helped found the Lakshmi Ashram, a centre for womens' education and empowerment in Almora District. Dr. Syeda Hameed Dr. Syeda Hameed is a member of the Planning Commission, Government of India. In the Planning Commission, her sectoral responsibilities include Women and Children, Health, Voluntary Action Cell (nodal agency for govt-NGO interface) and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. Earlier, she was a member of the National Commission of Women (NCW). She is also the Founder Member of the Muslim Women’s Forum (MWF), and several other groups formed around issues of justice, equity and peace. In 2007, Dr. Hameed was a recipient of the Padma Shri Award. Dr. Sudarshan Iyengar Dr. Sudarshan Iyengar is the Vice Chancellor of the Gujarat Vidyapeeth University. a Ph.D in Economics, he has worked with various prominent organisations like Sardar Patel Institute of Socio Economic Research (SPISER), professor and director of Gujarat Industrial and Developmental Research (GIDR), director of Centre for Social Studies, Surat. He has meticulously worked for tribal and forest rights in Archvahini for 5 years in Mangrol. Today he is the youngest vice chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapeeth. Human development, Natural resource Management and human rights are his basic interest. He struggles to bring Gandhian philosophy and ideology in action Dr. Surendra Gadekar Dr. Surendra Gadekar is an eminent physicist and is currently experimenting and imparting training on natural agriculture, alternate energy and alternate lifestyle at the Sampoorna Kranti Vidyalaya in Surat. He has researched health effects due to radiation around Ravatbhata Nuclear Power plant, Jadguda uraninum mining, and around Kakrapar power plant, etc. He has been editor of “Anumukti” Magazine for 15 years. Advocate Sanjay Parikh Adv. Sanjay Parikh, a senior advocate with the Supreme Court, has taken up many cases related to human rights issues over the last 20 years and has presented them very effectively. In Tamil Nadu, he was a panel member of the Peoples' Audit on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) that raised difficult questions as to the SEZ development there with the associated land and livelihood losses.

7

Detailed Proceedings
The day began with rural people gathering at Gujarat Vidyapith. From the very beginning they were well behaved and seated in order. Soon Chunikaka from Gujarat Lok Samiti, walked in to a loud applause. He was accompanied by Aniruddhbhai who soon took on the task of charging up the atmosphere and preparing it for the public hearing. He got the gathering to sing songs like Aa amaaru gaam che (This is our village) and Maru Sundar Geet (My beautiful song). And this was followed by slogans like Mehnat no rotlo (The fruit of hard work) and Aa aazadi adhuri che (This independence is incomplete). Soon, the panelist arrived and Dr Radha Bhatt acknowledged that this independence is indeed incomplete. The testimonies presented were those who had suffered from 2002 onwards. This is the year of Swarnim Gujarat and it is time to take stock of how many people have sacrificed and how many more should to keep up the image of Vibrant Gujarat. All over the country, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is being implemented to uplift the poor and eradicate poverty, but in Gujarat, the very land on which the people’s livelihood depends is being snatched away. Terrorism is something that happens once in a while, but here the poor are dying every single day. Be it livelihoods like fishing and agriculture, everyone is suffering. Isn’t this terrorism? The police also threaten those who raise their voice for their constitutional rights. Who is responsible for Gujarat’s image beyond the state that as the state is prosperous everyone is giving away their land to industries without any problem. Barot said that the true picture regarding land acquisition would be presented at the hearing. The objective of the hearing was to lend voice to this campaign with the hope that people like the panelists would take it forward. Unfortunately, Justice of the Supreme Court Rajendra Sachar was not present for the hearing, as he had to be hospitalised the previous day but Sanjay Parikh, the Supreme Court advocate who had represented many such cases, was present. Following panellists were present, Dr Radha Bhatt, the Chairperson of the Gandhi Peace Foundation has been part of many processes of peace throughout the country. She has worked in states like Assam, Tripura and Bihar on issues like women’s empowerment and equality. She has also set up many organisations that promote the cause of peace. Dr Sayeeda Hamid, Member of the Planning Commission and better as Aapa (elder sister) she has guided many activists with her support and encouragement. She is the only woman in the Planning Commission and shoulders the responsibility of issues related to women and child health. She has been part of many forums for peace. She was honoured with the Padmashree in 2007. Dr Surendra Gadekar, he is a researcher nuclear physics and has studied the ill-effects of industrialisation on geology. He also shared the findings of his study in Meethi Virdi with the local people there. Sanjay Parikh, an advocate with the Supreme Court, he has taken up many cases related to human rights issues over the last 20 years and has presented them very effectively. In Tamil Nadu, he was a member of the committee that raised difficult questions to the SEZ there. Sudarshan Iyengar, the Vice-Chancellor of the Gujarat Vidyapith and an economist, he has worked with people with a focus on improving their economy. 8

Chunikaka is one of leader in Gujarat Lok Samiti. He has supposed this cause and campaign to the best of his ability. Maheshbhai from Paryavaran Mitra, who has been working on environment conservation for many years, co-ordinated the hearing. After the introductions, Iyengar read out Justice Rajendra Sacchar’s letter of regret that he could not be part of the panel to hear the testimonials. He was sorry that he had to miss the hearing, as he had to be hospitalised. He had been looking forward to the hearing for the past two-three months but now he could not meet the affected. He was happy that Sanjay Parikh was present and he promised to take the issue forward after the hearing. It was then decided that video clips of people’s voices explaining their problem would be shown before the affected themselves came on to the stage to raise their issues. The first video clip put together by Raju Barot was on the problems of the afflicted in Mundra. Video clip (Aminaben):Since the plant at Mundra has come up, the fish along that coastline has dried up. Moreover, the Adani Port has displaced many people and the new place that has been allotted has no facility for drinking water, sanitation or education. All that we know is fishing and with the high risk of displacement, we are very worried about our only source of livelihood. Of the people living along the coast, 95 per cent are fisher folk belonging to either the Muslim Wagher community or Pagadia fisher folk. We are waiting for the result of the petition that we have filed in the High Court. If we are not happy with the result we may even go to the Supreme Court. Many of our men have been beaten up and jailed for asking for their rights. Aminaben then walked on to the stage and said, “The Maachimaar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, Bhadreshwar in Mundra, Kutch has been active since seven years. We have been demanding for land so that we can develop our fishery business, but the government has given that land to the Mundra SEZ. Now, they plan to remove us but we will not leave our land, come what may. Our ancestors have been fishing and now even we depend on the same livelihood. But now our children have no access to health facilities or education. We don’t even have a road or electricity. Once this land is gone, we will even lose the scope of fishing here. The condition here is so bad that in case of an emergency, if we dial 108, the road is so bad that by the time the woman reaches the hospital, she delivers enroute or even dies.” Ismailbhai Mohammad Rafique translated from Kutchi to Hindi and answers the panel’s questions. He said, “In 2004, the fisher folk demanded land but they never got it. Instead 20,000 hectares, including their land, was allotted to the Mundra SEZ. Our mangroves have been cut down and a report on islands near Mundra has stated that due to development projects, marine life has been adversely affected because of which the production of fish is less. When the Maachimaar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, Bhadreshwar (Mundra-Kutch) raised the issue of Right to Livelihood after the land was given to the SEZ for Rs 680 lakh crore. We have lost our livelihood and there is no fish for consumption, let alone to support our livelihood. It has been 200 years since we have been living here. There is no water, health facilities, electricity, school or road. What about our constitutional right to live? Our land has been snatched away and in the case of Bhadreshwar Island, when we registered the case against the company, we were told that it was a premature case as the project had still not been given environmental clearance. But the company had already begun construction and when we tried to stop it, we were attacked and arrested under Section 307. Because of the desalination projects, there are no prawns, so how do we earn? There are big talks of generating employment but here, the livelihoods of 10,000 fisher folk, farmers and Maldharis (animal rearers) are already being adversely affected. Such is the impact of this development that a recent study suggested that this region had 10,000 camels till 2000 but after the Adani Port has 9

come in and destroyed the mangroves, not even 300 camels are here. Now, the time has come for us to work to save our livelihoods. There is a lot of industrial promotion in this region but we have to work to save our local industries.” Sanjay Parikh asked how much land was involved in the Adani project. To this Ismailbhai answered, “A total of 16,000 hectares is under the Adani Port and 3,200 hectare is under the water front development project. In 2004, the community met the Collector and revenue department officials and asked them for land for the fisher folk. But they refused to give us land and now they have gone and given 20,000 hectares of mangrove land to the industries. They have cut our mangroves.. The Mandvi area is particularly good. But now, the ecology of the areas near these in industries is bad. This may be good for the industries but not for us. Wherever there are no industries, the ecology of that area is good. The port covers 57 km of the coast and this has affected Rs 60.8 crore of fish production. Now, there are no more fishes and no more mangroves and even the area where we live has no facilities of health and education. We are not getting our rights.” Elaborating on the problems of Bhadreshwar, Ismailbhai added, “The other problem is the thermal power plant that is coming up in this region. They began construction before they got the environment clearance. When the fisher folk told them to stop construction, they attacked 30 fishermen and had them booked under Section 307.” The other problem is that because of the Sanghi and Adani desalination plants, there are not prawns and the same is the case with Mundra. The government talks of giving employment but 10,000 fisher folk, farmers, salt pan workers are losing their land as the grazing land of 14 villages has been given to the SEZ. Even in Tunda Vand, there were 10,000 camels in the 2000 census and now there are only 300 camels. Panelist Sudarshan Iyengar asked for how long the fisher folk live away from their settlements. Ismailbhai said that they were away for nine months. The fisher folk migrate to places anywhere between 5 km to 80 km. Sudarshan: For how long do you live in the temporary settlements along the coast? Ismailbhai: We live there for about nine months, we make huts and those are our temporary shelters and then we return to our houses in the village. Sudarshan: Is your main house in the village? Ismailbhai: Yes. Amad Ilias Mandaliya, the chairman of the Machimaar Adhikar Sangharsh Sangathan, Bhadreshwar, Mundra, Kutch raised his hand and clarified the point. “At present, we live there for nine months. But living a temporary life makes it very difficult for us. If the government gives us that land on lease, we will live there permanently.” Ismailbhai elaborated stating that the Swaminathan Committee had already reviewed the situation along the lines of the Coastal Zone Management Act. Even Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh agreed that the Mundra SEZ was in violation of the Environment Act as it was in the inter-tidal zone. The next on topic for discussion was the limestone mining in Rampara Veraval. Video clip (Karsanbhai, sarpanch): “Deepak Chemicals was given land on lease in 1981-82 and 10

they convinced the villagers to sell land by promising them employment in brick kilns. In 1997, however, the lease was transferred overnight to Ambuja Cememt. That’s when the battle against industries broke out in the village. Junagadh DSP Vanzara deputed 800 to 900 police personnel in Rampara who beat up the villagers. They even beat up the women because of which two of them suffered from abortion. Many fled the village to save their lives. That’s when every one, including me, went on a fast and presented our problem to the Collector. I continued my fight by fasting several times, at times for months together We told them about how the men were beaten up and how many of them suffered from broken bones. The Collector would come to the village, meet the people and document facts, but neither the Collector nor the company officials took any steps to improve the situation. I had a clash with them; the scars on my forehead bear testimony of the violent incidents. That’s when Ambuja claimed to have got a sanction for mining in 248 acres of land, but in reality it is 446 acres, including eight plots of land, which they have encroached upon without any permission. All this is a problem of illegal mining for which no royalty is being paid. One of our brothers from Ajotha village near Veraval was shot at eight times by unknown assailants. Though all the eight bullets have been removed and he has been saved with great difficulty, he cannot eat even today.” Suniben came on to the stage and said, “I have five sons and one daughter. At that time, my daughter, the eldest one, was eight years old. We had returned from the fields on that day and had retired for the day oblivious of what was happening all around. The policemen broke down our door at night and barged in, they beat us all up and took my husband away.” Kacharabhai said, “The police beat up my two children and I and that night they took 24 people from the village in a vehicle. They beat us up at the gate, they made us lie down and beat us up. I still bear the marks of that torture on my back.” Razakbhai of Paryavaran Bachao Samiti, Veraval, Junagadh, said, “Ambuja Cement Company aims to undertake mining activity in 54 villages in Veraval, Sutrapada and Kodinar talukas. The company plans to get a lease for mining 7,000 hectares of land, which will result in displacement in the next 20 years. About four villages housing 12,000 villagers will be affected. We have presented these issues to the government. Kacharabhai said, “The limestone mining results in flooding and we cannot take our monsoon (kharif) crop.” Then Rajatbhai presented his point by saying, “The four villages of Rampara, Anantpara, and Getadi were severely affected by illegal mining because their grazing land had been acquired by Ambuja Cement. The company had asked permission for 441 acres and got it. Then they illegally began mining in 145 acres of grazing land and they acquired this land through police power. This included the land of 600 farmers who got Rs 1 lakh for the land worth Rs 25,000. But now, all that money is spent and 400 of these farmers have no money, no land and no food to eat. Only 200 farmers have some land and that’s their source of livelihood. Of all the land that has been allotted to Ambuja Cement, 300-acre land is private land from four villages. Though they got double the amount of the market price, their source of employment has been lost. Now, 400 farmers are left with no employment, nor is there any development in sight. We gave our land in hope of development but now our children neither have land, facilities nor employment in these industries.” Panelist Sayeeda Hamid clarified her doubt, “Have all the farmers got full compensation?” Rajatbhai: Many farmers got compensation and those who did not want to sell their land were forced to sell. Earlier, farmers were given Rs 75,000 per acre and now they get Rs 3 lakh as that is the ongoing market rate. 11

Panelist Sanjay Parikh asked, “When the clearance for mining was given in 2005, was grazing land included?” Rajatbhai: Clearance was given for 200 hectares of private land and 54 hectares of grazing land. A total of around 310 hectares was given but the adverse effects were felt over 400 hectares. Because of the mining, agriculture is not possible after the monsoon. There is no facility to remove this water and it keeps seeping in through the mining holes. Sanjay: How many farmers having land are not able to pursue agricultural activities and are affected by these mining activities? Rajatbhai: More than 300 farmers. Sanjay: Have you applied for compensation? Rajatbhai: Yes, every year we apply for compensation but it is of no use. We have approached the Gujarat Pollution Control Board and they sent out a notice to the company and fined it Rs 3,000 for every acre of illegal mining. In 2007, the government collected Rs 36 lakh from the company but the farmers did not benefit from this. Three days ago, there was a hearing for allotment of more area. We went on a four-day hunger strike outside the Collector’s office. Our issue was that they were already not following the rules so how could they be allotted more land? No one heard us. Instead they broke our strength. We started out as 500 people but soon they threatened some and bribed some and weakened our strength. There was another public hearing on this issue but it was organised 35 km away and those loyal to Ambuja Cement were taken there by bus to vote in favour of the company. We learnt of it very late and made it to the hearing, but there were very few victims. When we raised the issue that the company was violating all the rules so how could they be issued a compliance certificate every three months? To this, the government told us that it was unintentional violation of the rule! It is sad that the government got all the money, but the people didn’t. Sanjay: This is not the first cases, there have been 10-15 such cases where the public hearing has been a farce. Even the environment where the hearing takes place is not right and there is not transparency in the way these hearings are held. Of the clearances that are given, 99 per cent are wrong. The environment and the displaced people are not kept in mind. This is what has to be presented to the government. This is not just the case of Gujarat but the whole of India. We will have to improve the system of public hearings. The third issue was that of Mahuva where Nirma had set up a power plant and a cement factory for which mining was being done on a large scale Video clip: Here the MLA himself, Kanubhai Kalasariya from Mahuva, is leading the campaign as there is so much of violation of environmental issues. On the one hand the government is working towards water conservation as part of which a check dam was constructed in Mahuva. In 2002, even the High Court had issued an order that no water conservation bodies could be broken down. In of the fact that Mahuva lies in the inter-tidal zone and there is a check dam here clearance to set up industries was given. There are 3,000 blue bulls living here and the Wildlife Protection Act 2006 shields them. Surprisingly, only the sarpanch has the right to shoot a blue bull and he is named as the ‘forest protector’. There are many peacocks here but they are dying slowly. Kanubhai Kalasariya from Samadhiyala village came onto the stage and said, “We gave away 222 hectare of our land to the village so that we could get the benefits of the reservoir. In 1997, we gave 12

400 hectares of our land and now more than 2,000 hectares are recharged by it. Two years ago, 222 hectares from this was given away to Nirma. They did not even inform us about it. Kadviben then said, “What will we leave behind for our children? We are 50 people who have enough food and livestock to ensure that we do not venture out in search of livelihood or food. We grow everything from bajri, vegetables to oinon. Without any land, we will become nomads. We all know how the industry creeps in, takes away our land by giving us 10 times its worth and then makes 1,000 times of profit from that land. Mahuva is the Kashmir of this region with its lush greenery and fertile land. Once an industry is set up, the fertility of the land can never be restored. We even organised a dharna and rally led by school students so that they realise that it is these children who will be affected. But they know only one thing and that is the fact that there is limestone in this village. Our group, the Bandharo Ane Gauchar Zameen Bachao Lok Andolan, Mahuva, and the Bhavnagar Jilla Gram Bachao Samiti Jaspara, Bhavnagar will fight till we die, we do not want Nirma anywhere near us.” Kadviben came on to the stage and said, “From the time Nirma has come to our area, we have lost sleep and interest to eat too. We have no livelihood and what will we leave behind for our children? There is no security for the women too as Nirma has its goons moving around the place. Even during the daytime, it is difficult to step out alone. They beat up our men, broke the bus in which we were going to the High Court for the hearing. But we went by another bus and reached the court. We were 8,000 people and the police beat us up. We took the MLA, sarpanch and people along. We also used the media effectively. Earlier, we did not know anything about this but learnt it along the way of our struggle. There are three check dams and this has helped our cultivation a lot. We have grown all this (she said pointing to about 15 varieties of vegetables lined on the stage). We were unaware of the extent to which these people could go. They threatened us, did not tell us about the hearing and even broke the bus to ensure we don’t reach the hearing, but we were determined.” She added, “One and a half years ago, when a public hearing was arranged very far away, they did not inform us about it. A lawyer asked us to come and we reached there with great difficulty. We were told not to say anything, but we women fought and we won’t let go off our rights. Even if we have to do so till our last breath.” After a round of “Bharat Mata ki Jai, Vande Mataram and Nirma Bhaage”she left the stage to take her place among the crowd. Maheshbhai clarified that the matter was still pending with the court. Dhanjibhai said, “If limestone is removed, it is not just our village or the 4,500 hectares of land that has been given, but everything lying within a 50-km radius that will be affected. We have no source of employment as mining has adversely affected 1,500 villages. Even the 50,000 small industries depending on cotton production will be affected. There is no respect for human rights. The government makes rules and breaks them too. The police beats up people so whom do we turn to, when the protector becomes the attacker, where do we go? How do we live? These industries promise employment but we already have it and they are taking away our source of livelihood from us.” Maheshbhai: This is a tidal-regulatory zone. The government spent Rs. 8 crore to develop this area and make the check-dams and now it has given away 4,500 hectares of land for mining. More than 15 villages will be affected by this development. The State announced that no manmade water body or wetland should be broken down, moreover this area is notified under the Wildlife Protection Act, and now it has violated all this by giving away our wetland to Nirma.

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The fourth presentation was from Vadodara-Jhala, Veraval. Video clip: Naranbhai said, “If the jetty project proposed by the government comes up in our village, it will ruin us completely. Our village has many trees and wells and all this will be lost once the jetty comes up. The small and marginal farmers here earn their livelihood from the three crops they grow every year. And they are leading a good life here, but this jetty will be a big blow to farmers like us. That why, when the officials came to survey our land we stopped them from doing so in a non-violent way. We also wrote to the Environment Minister about the threats posed to the environment. We told them that we have a sod ash plant on one side and the Siddhi Cement factory on the other. So, we don’t want a third one in this area. If this project materialises, we will lose a lot of grassland. How will those depending on animal husbandry and selling milk earn a living? When they came to measure the land, the DSP, DySP and other police officers pressurised us to give in. They said that if we tried to stop the project we would be put behind bars.

If we are forced to give up our land, we will give up our lives but not given in.” Virsingh said, “To protest against this project, we formed a group of 750 youths. We resolved that if we were attacked, we will write to the President urging her to cancel our citizenship and expel us from this country.” Narmadaben from Maliya taluka said, “The land of 1,500 farmers has been spoilt and as the protective wall has been broken, sea water mixes with our river making it saline. Now, we have access to sweet water only during monsoon and a few months after, and then it is a difficult life. How will single women live here? We have launched a campaign and get back our land. We have lived here since here. And, this land is not in our name. How will we live here? The king’s land was transferred to the village as we are a denotified tribe; we have spent all our lives fighting for land.” Ismailbhai said, “There are many tough questions being raised by farmers, today, I present those issues amid you. There are many problems like floods, pipelines passing all over the land. But what is really sad is that we found out about our lands being given away when work started here. We started a campaign and the Morbi Collector said that everything will be sorted out, but nothing has happened till date. There are salt mounds all around, the salt is carried by the wind and water during monsoon and it lands on our fertile fields, rendering them barren and saline. Hundred farmers among us also approached the High Court, but to no avail. Dilipsinh Jhala from Vadodara: The Maritime Board has given away 650 acres of grazing land to the L&T cement factory. We are a population of 6,210 and on November 24, 2009, Junagadh police threatened us and the very next day, 150-200 of our people were arrested. We launched our campaign and a peaceful protest against this. There was a lathicharge and this was a violation of human rights. We have 6,000 cattle here and what will we do if our grazing land is given away. Our village is united on this front. On December 31, a gram sabha was organised and all the 1977 people in this village spoke in one voice. Animal husbandry is our main occupation and we need the common grazing land. During the gram sabha, everyone realised that we were united and we would not give away our land so L&T could not take possession of our land. There is a notification passed by the Government of Gujarat that if there are 100 milch cattle in a village then 40 hectare land should be allotted as grazing land. The Collector can acquire it but only with the consent of the gram sabha.” The fifth case was that of Mithi Virdi and the upcoming nuclear plant. Video clip: Gitaben from Mandva said, “The proposed nuclear power plant in our village will cause more damage than development. This generation and our children are healthy. But once the project 14

is set up, the waste generated from the project will cripple our next generation from the very birth.” Shaktisingh, the sarpanch of Jasapara, said, “The nuclear project will take away the entire Jasapara village and Mandva, Sosiya, Mithi Virdi and Khadarpar will lose part of their land. Besides this, 1.5 km area will have to be reserved as margin area and no one can live within 5 km of the plant. The project will affect 15 villages and though the government is not declaring it, but we know that the ship-breaking yard in Sosiya will be affected. The yard offers employment to many people here and if that too is taken away, we will be adversely affected. We will lose our land as well as a major source of our income. The US has not built any nuclear plant in the last 30 years. Austria has made a memorial from its nuclear plant and everyone knows about the Chernobyl disaster and how 1.35 lakh people were affected within the 300-km radius of the plant. Then, why does our government encourage such projects? It is a rosy picture of cheap electricity that they paint to us but there is very little need for this. For all that we give, what will we get? Do we have any arrangement for disaster management, not just here, but all over the country? We all will be affected, sooner or later.” Arunbhai Dave, a scientist from Lokbharti, Sanosara, said, “In our country, there are 17 nuclear plants that generate three per cent of our power requirements. There is little need to install such a fatal technology in our country. Compared to this, the government has recently stated that there is a transmission loss of 35 per cent and Gujarat suffers a loss of 41 per cent. On the one hand, we produce 3 per cent electricity and on the other hand we lose 35 per cent, so what will we gain by spending Rs 60,000 crore on this project in the very first phase? We don’t mean to criticise anyone, but we should know our limitations. We don’t even have enough equipment to extinguish fire, then how can we handle accidents of such a large project? In case of an accident, people in the radius of 300 km have to be rehabilitated. Do we have enough helicopters or similar arrangements? For me, it is not a question of just Mithi Virdi village but it is a much wider problem that we are staring at. If there is an accident and if radiation spreads, the effects of it may reach us 5 to 10 minutes later, but we are all bound to be adversely affected by it. So, it is not worth taking this path. All the developed countries have decided not set up nuclear plants. But as we all know, we are the victims of international politics. Because the waste generated from this project is a raw material for making weapons. Hence, they are not interested in giving us electricity but they want us to give them raw material for their weapons. This should not fool us. We should not ask the hardworking innocent villagers to sacrifice their lives for this.” Baluben of Nesvad village said, “We don’t get anything from the government. All we want is that we should be allowed to keep whatever we have.” Arjanbhai from Mithi Virdi said, “We had leveled our lands and grown chickoo, mango, cashew and coconut. And just when it is time to reap the benefits, you want to take it away? We don’t want to give our land. They want to drive us away but we will not run.” Vashramdada from Jasapara village said, “There are several villages in this area including Jasapara, Alang and Sosiya that take several crops a year. We are not ready to give up this at any cost. Even if we have to lay down 1,000 lives, we will not give our land. Even a bird that builds a nest does not leave it, then how can we leave our houses?” Another villager said, “We have launched a protest campaign for this and we have submitted our point of view to the Collector. We have taken the signatures of the villagers and we will not let the atomic plant come up here.” Yet another villager said, “We all have pledged that we will not give up our land even if we have to lay down our lives for it.” 15

Hinaben from Bhunbhali village said, “There are various groups in villages and we know that once this nuclear plant is set up we will lose our land that helps us reap gold. We don’t want to lose all this and we hope that we are all not robbed of this. We don’t get anything and we don’t want anything, our plea is that we should left alone with what we have. All we want is that our future generations should be healthy. Our land is a goldmine for us from which we reap mangoes and earn lakhs of rupees. The government will not be able to compensate this and if it does, it will not be for more than a year. What will we do once the money is exhausted? That’s why we don’t want this nuclear plant in Mithi Virdi, Bhavnagar or anywhere else in this country. Shaktisinh, then came on to the stage and said, “I am representing the people of Mithi Virdi. We have grown fruits and groundnuts for all these years and this is our livelihood. With the development all around, the peacocks and blue bulls no longer come to our village. Everything all around is being destroyed. Our children will be born physically challenged. We don’t want anything. We know that the atomic centre will affect Mithi Virdi, Mandva and Jasapara villages. For this 3000 mega-watt plant, a lot of our land has been acquired. It is most fertile for agriculture, today, we export mangoes and this is a known greenbelt area. The government officials have declared this land as barren. The gram panchayat did not tell us about this development and decided about this on its own. Is this democracy, monarchy or autocracy? We agree that the Alang shipbreaking yard is nearby and it has its negative effects too, but it also generates employment for more than 3,000 people here. Once the atomic plant comes up here, the ship-breaking yard will also have to go. We don’t want our land to go, we will meet the Collector, state ministers and even the central ministers to change this decision. We, the villages of five villagers, have signed an agreement that we will not let go off our lands even if it costs us our lives.” Sixth case of urban relocation Video clip: Have still not received the video for this. Dalit Sarpanch Ambalalbhai from Vatva village: In 1997, the gram panchayat sold off 45 hectares of our land without our knowledge. We came to know of it only when the fencing work started. We did not know how to stop this so we met Vinubhai Amin as they had undergone something similar. We have launched a campaign and it is still on. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has promised us help and we have decided not to compromise till the last breath and last drop of blood. Sanand Mahila Vikas Sanghathan has raised their voice against land acquisition for the Tata Nano plant. After the GIDC closed down, this land has been given to the SEZ. No one wants to sell land here. Industries talk of employment, but who will employ widows like us who have small children. Such promies mean nothing to us. There are no livelihood and employment options for us. Now, we take three crops of wheat and jeera. So, how can we give away our lands? They are forcing us to sell our lands. Maheshbhai: The biggest problem of the urban poor is the lack of agricultural land. Zohraben from the Rehtaan Adhikar Manch, Behrampura, Ahmedabad said that from 2000 their problems began. “Our private agricultural land is being given away to GIDC. For every proposal that GIDC makes, our land keeps going. We have launched a campaign against this. We have started the protest and now it is under process. After the 2000 earthquake, we were safe. Even after the 2002 riots, we continued living here and NGOs helped us continue earning and in 2006, we got a notice that we had to vacate the land as they were going to construct houses for the poor, but even we are poor. We fought and continued living there. They want to send us to a place where there are no facilities and the police behave very badly with us, so we took out a rally and staged a dharna to 16

register our protest. Ganeshbhai from Kankaria: We lived in slums and now they have shifted us to the crematorium. They are breaking us to live up to the image of the megacity. We presented our problems to Mukul Sinha but Ashish Vohra went ahead and gave instructions to break down our slums. They are not bothered about giving us facilities nor do they want to ensure our human rights. When we asked for our rights, the policemen beat up the women. We wrote to the state human rights wing and they said that this was no violation of rights and we had to move out. The next presentation was from Poshitra, Dwarka Video clip: Professor Kher of Gram Vikas Trust said, “This is one of the first two SEZs of the country, which got clearance from the Centre in 2000. The other one came up in Tamil Nadu. When professor of the Tata Institute from Mumbai came to survey this area, we realised that about 15 villages will be wiped out in the first phase of setting up the Poshitra port. In the next phase, we would lose 18 more villages and 10 more villages after that. In all, 42-43 villages would be affected by this SEZ that would cover 250 km of area. And the displaced would get compensation between Rs 2,000 and Rs 8,000. There was no RNR. That is when our women’s organisation became wary, they unanimously said that the land is our mother, we can nourishment from it but we cannot sell it. Then all the committees in different villages became aware and then based on my strategy, we began a war of words through letters. We launched a signature campaign in many villages and sent it to the Chief Minister and Prime Minister too. By then, even the people were aware. So, when the government officials came to survey the land, they people lied down on the path and did not let them do their work.” Noorbai from Rajpara said, “Several self-help groups from various villages joined the protest and took out rallies to stop the project from coming up here. What will we do without our land? What will we eat and what will we give our animals?” Hemabai from Rajpara said, “Mother Earth takes care of us just like our mother. If this land is sold, how will we survive? The inflation is already taking its toll and we depend on this land for our daily food. If we lose this Goddess who is our mother, we have nothing else with us.” Tharyabha, the sarpanch of Samlasar village (Gopi) said, “Displacement would mean complete destruction of our culture. Of the 42 villages that will be lost, 26 belong to Vaghers. They will be relocaed in Kutch or some faraway land. This will kill our culture.” Professor Ker said, “The court judgment said that first an RNR should be done after which the government will approve it. Only after this, the land acquisition procedure can start. RNR means rehabilitation and restoration. The Okhamandal area has a population of 1.25 lakh people but the project envisages an employment potential of 4 lakh people. And all of them were to come from outside and there was no scope of employment for locals. The people here are not educated and the project was based on high-technology units. It was an export-oriented project and this area was a sort of foreign territory. The company was not buying land and the government was acquiring it on behalf of the company. If the government needs land, it should be given, but how can we give away our land for a private project that is going to generate business? Even I have suffered a great loss because of this project and this is a irreplaceable loss. I have lost my wife who was leading a rally of 300 women to the mamlatdar’s office, when she suffered a stroke and passed away. My younger daughter was engaged to the MLA’s elder brother’s son, but the marriage was called off as they were contractors and had an interest in the port project. They were favouring the industrialists while I was with the people. These two incidents have been a great personal loss to me.” Sundarbai from Goriyari said, “In our village, Vaghers, Muslims and Harijans live together. Some 17

Darbars, who work in salt pans, live here as nomads. If the Poshitra project had materialised, our condition would be like theirs. This success is a success of a lifetime and this will affect generations to come.” Maheshbhai: No government officials are present here in spite of having invited then. If any government official is present here, who wants to present his or her views, we invite them on to the stage to do so. No one was present and so Chunikaka stepped on to the stage and said, “Automation means no employment while farming provides employment for lakhs of people. This land belongs to those living on it for decades and it is injustice to displace them. Let’s first survey how many local people have go employment in industries over all these years. We all want development, access to facilities and happiness. But the question here is who sacrifices and who benefits? We don’t want lopsided development. We want development from which everyone benefits and everyone gets happiness. We do not want development that creates a divide. Our minister P. Chidambaram recently said that 80 per cent of the people should live in cities. Isn’t this the cause for the farmers’ suicides? Isn’t this a plot of conspiracy to break villages and make villagers leave the villages and move to the city? Why should the farmer come to the city and sell the produce why can’t urban people go shopping to the villages? This partition of the poor and rich is not good. The government administration and the rich have joined hands to loot the poor living in the villages. Therefore, the divide between the poor and the rich is widening. We know that this is a democracy and 60-65 per cent of the population lives in the villages so let us join hands to ensure equality and happiness of the rural poor. Shaliniben, a non-resident Gujarati, working for social causes, said, “I have met many of your and have learnt a lot from you. I want to help you but what I like about you is that you have decided to take the legal route, without violence. I wish you luck in your endeavour to determine the safety of your livelihood. Veljibhai Desai, an exporter from Mahuva and a member of a fact-finding committee shared some facts with the gathering. “In Mahuva, the agricultural produce was earlier worth Rs 60 crore. With the help of the four check dams, the produce had steadily increased to Rs 200 crores and had the potential to reach the Rs 500-crore mark. The Nirma broke the check dam and the excavation led to salinity, which rendered 50 km of land barren and now the region had only three check dams. Over the years, 2,000 bigha of agricultural land had been given to Nirma. Notably, the survey report of the land says that the land in this region is barren. And it also says that no check dam exists here. The check dam stands even today and it is the government that sanctioned money for it. It has conveniently disappeared from the government report. This is happening with all the projects and when I interact with people who have been affected by such development, I feel sad. Such studies are false and they do not follow any rules and regulations. They are in clear violation of the law. The lunch session was followed by another round of singing and sloganeering after which the panelists share their views. Chunikaka walked on to the stage and shared a few more points. He said, “The planning of this country should not be done from the centre, it should be done from the village to the taluka, then the district and upwards. Or else, we as a people will reject it. When we asked for 10 acre of non irrigated land or 5 acre of irrigated land for each farmer, the government said that they did not have it and from where did they get and to give 13,000 acres to Adani, 16,000 acres to Ambani and 10,000 acres to L&T? We have decided that for the next election we will ask the government to first answer the question as to who is the owner of the natural resources, the government or society?

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Maheshbhai said, “The women are more vocal here as it is they who bear the brunt of such development more than anyone else. As there is no government official, who is present here, I invite Radhaben to share her views. Radha Bhatt: Congrats to all those present here as the issues have been well presented to social workers, the government and us. I invite Sayeeda Hamid, who has taken on the big responsibility of planning for the country to say a few words. Sayeeda Hamid: Thanks for inviting me to this public hearing. I have attended many such hearings but this one is special as the issues were presented well, everyone was very patient and the whole hearing was very well organised. First, I would like to answer Chunibhai, who raised the issue of organising for this country and deciding who are the owners of natural resources. I strongly believe that the natural resources belong to the people and that the country’s planning should begin in the villages and go upwards. In today’s hearing, it was important that government officials from the State and Centre remained present to hear the problems of the people and what they are asking for. If we are a true democracy then the people’s voice is Allah’s voice. Everything you said at this public hearing is very important and your voice is higher than any other. Your voices are more important than all the meetings at New Delhi and Gandhinagar. Here, women, fisher folk, tribals and all the communities are here. Till now, you have all been on the periphery as the government focused on other issues. Let me tell you what is my role here. I deal with health and women’s issues in the Planning Commission. I have learnt about women calling 108 and not being able to reach the hospital because of bad roads, I have learnt about health and other educational issues that affect you. When there is a press conference, or when something is published in a newspaper of telecast on a news channel, it has a wider reach, but today, I promise to take your voice forward from here. I am with the government and I am part of the team that decides what, how much and where to allocate, we decide on the RNR money and how much land or money should be given for acquired land. In the Planning Commission, as a member I take care of women and children’s issues. So, I can take up their issues in a big way. Bringing together such a big gathering is a big effort. Generally, most people leave but all of you are here, you have a hope for change and I promise and commit that I will take up this issue with the central government and state government too. Once a , all the state governments come to the centre to know about the allocations that have been made for them. That is the opportunity we will use to present this issue. I’m a human first and then a government official. So, for the cause of humanity, I am bound to take this issue ahead. Surendra Dandekar: You all said many things but there are three things that affected me a lot. The first is that the government makes and breaks laws. The second is that the government lies to get people’s land. What should the government do? It should provide health, education and security to its people. Instead the government does this for the industries and not its people. Who will you help, the poorest in your village or the one who has all the amenities? Our government seems to be taking from the poor to give the rich. This direction is wrong and we need to work towards people’s development. The third issue is that land is our mother and we should not sell it. We should decide that whatever we get or whatever happens, we should not sell our land, we should protect and take care of it as it provides us security. When I was teaching at the Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore, in 1984, the Bhopal gas tragedy took place. That’s when I thought about the adverse effects of industries. In Velchi, Kagdapar, I studied the impact of the electrical plant. The more I read, I understood that such initiatives are dangerous for us and our future generations. Electricity generation brings with it a lot of poison, just like samudra manthan (churning of the sea), which gives both nectar and poison. At that time, Lord Shiva stored the poison in this throat, but now we don’t have anyone so it is the people who live nearby who bear the brunt of this development. When I went to an electrical plant in Ravalpara village in Kotah in 1951, I studied the main village and four other villages beyond the 50-km radius. 19

We did not have any fixed parameters, just what happens and what does not happen because of radiation. We realised that in the main village there are 2,050 children and in the nearby villages, there are 2,800 children and all these are the effects of radiation. And there were more miscarriages, still borns and death within the first few hours of birth. And many children were physically deformed. And in the villages that were near the plant, 20 per cent had access to electricity and in villages that were far off, 50 per cent had access to electricity. And only two of the people were employed in this plant. And these people even spent much more on medical expenses and they were poorer. If you tell the government, they will say poverty, unhygienic conditions and lack of awareness is the reason for the deaths. Of all the villages, we went to the conditions were similar but it was the radiation that made the difference. We printed all our findings with the villagers. Till then, people used to ask for jobs and now they have started asking for the plant to be closed down. All this happened when we shared our findings with students and they read it out to their parents, who finally understood the impact of the plant. What we all know is that crores of rupees are spent in setting up these industries and it is difficult to close them, the only way is to ensure they do not come up. There have been many public hearings, at the government public hearing in Cudappah 65 people said that they did not want the plant and only two said yes, but the Collector’s final report stated that the people had agreed to the plant. So don’t trust government officials, the MLA or the minister. We should protect our land as it is in our hands and they are God’s hands. Sudarshan Iyengar: All the natural resources are those of the people. The government is the trustee and guardian, not the owner. They should understand this well and not threaten us. It is our land and our water, so, we should manage it well at our cost as it is we who get the benefits. The grazing land can never be given away without the agreement of the gram sabha, so we should all attend gram sabhas as it is easy to manipulate and bribe the sarpanch and the members of the panchayat. Not just others, even we should not get greedy to own a two-wheeler or car because our natural resources cannot support it. Those who want cars are the ones who are taking away what is rightfully ours and when we become greedy, we will take away what belongs to others and that is wrong. I am Gandhi’s soldier and this is his institution that we are all sitting at. We should learn to live with what our land and water offer us. If we get greedy, this jury or no one can help us. This fight is right and we should ensure that we are asked before any decision about our resources is taken. Shaliniben then read out the suggestions of the panel. They are: Interim Recommendations of the Panel at the Public Hearing on Land Acquisition in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, at Gujarat Vidyapith on 7.2.2010

The Panel members heard the depositions made by the affected people from various villages in differnt parts of Gujarat on several issues: Mundra, Kutch; Veraval, Junagadh; Vadodara-Zala, Junagadha; Mahuva, Bhavnagar; maliaMiyana, rajkot; Mithi Virdi, Bhavnagar, Urban poor in Ahmedabad. The hearing took place in the presence of Dr. Syeda Hameed, Memeber Planning Commission. The Panel members also heard some eminent people like Shri Chunibhai Vaidya, Veljibhai Desai and representative of the people. Officials of the Government of Gujarat were also invited but remained absent.

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All the panel members have agreed to the following interim recommendation final recommendations will be given soon. 1. Mundra SEZ: Mundra, Kutch is an ecologically sensitive are where vast tracts of land have been given away to the Adani Group of companies. In order to favour the company and to give several relaxations from labour laws, environmental laws etc. the project has been included as SEZ. The project has seriously affected the mangroves and generally the coastal ecology. The Project is also violating the CRZ notification. The panel members were informed that even before environmental clearance was granted, construction was started. There is a growing tendency that even companies and sometimes even by the public sector. They obviously think that they are above the law. To curb this systematic legal violation, if it is found that construction is begun before EIA clearance has been given, the company should be debarred from seeking any clearance on the project. The project has adversely affected the old tradition of transient and pagadiya fishing. Approximately 1000 families of fisherfolk will be directly affected and many more will be indirectly affected by the project. We are told that the annual fish catch value is approximately Rs. 61 crores. Pastoralists in the area are seriously affected by the taking away of Gauchar land in order to make it over to the company. we recommend the restoration of the affected coastal ecology, fishing rights(transient and pagadiya, which were traditionally available to them). The government should start a scheme for protecting and improving the rights of fishing communities. Gauchar and waste land are common village property that should not be allotted to any private body or a company and we recommend that it be restored to the gram sabha. 2. Veraval, Junagadh (Ambuja cement): The panel was informed taht the company had violated the condition set down in the EC. Instead of canceling the clearance, the government entertained their further application for expanding of mining operations and further acquisition of land forth purpose. The people also complained that they was given cash compensation and that they have not been rehabilitated. We recommend that an enquiry committee be set up to look into the violations by the company and also the issue of the rehabilitation of the people. Those affected by the illegal mining should be immediately compensated. The company has already been fined Rs. 5 crores, which should be disbursed to the affected people. 3. Mahuva: The government at an earlier point in time had built a bund to prevent ingress of salinity. The dykes had benefited 15,000 families directly and involved 40,000 farmers in agroprocessing. This process has now been reserved to favour industry (Nirma Cement Company). People were not allowed to speak at the environment public hearing and the environmental clearance is still pending. We recommend that it should not be given as it has not taken into consideration that the area is rich in agriculture and that a water body spread over 100 hectares is involved. The breaking of the bund will lead to an increase salinity with detrimental effects on the surrounding villages. The drinking water and food is the primary need of the people and is therefore required to be protected. this are should not be used for any industrial development and should be protected for agricultural and allied activities keeping in view food security and secure livelihoods of farmers. 4. Maliya- Miyana is a case where the government has to expedite its recording of the land titles and land rights in the names of the de-notified tribes. 5. Vadodara-Jhala, Vasna, Vatwa and other villages where gauchar or grazing lands have been transferred to private companies for undertaking industrial activity or SEZs. These common village lands are meant to be used by the village communities and should there fore not be diverted for any other use. In any case the informed and prior consent of the Gram Sabha should be taken before such decision are made by the state. 6. Mithivirdi has been proposed as a site for the nuclear power plant. This is an extremely fertile agricultural area, which is supporting thousand of the families. It should not be used for the setting up of a nuclear power plant. 1. Under our constitution development should be such that it empowers people generally and not only a chosen few. Material Resources should be sued in such a manner that it brings 21

equality among the people. 2. There is urgent need to protect agricultural land in the interest of food security and stop its diversion for non-agriculture purpose. In case such diversion is inevitable there should be a minimum of displacement of people, and if happens, the affected people should be given land for land another benefits so that they are better off.

Sanjay Parikh: The Constitution states that development should be for all and not just for a few. All the natural resources should be used for the people by the government to ensure equity is improved and inequity is reduced. There is an ample need for agricultural land it should not be used for anything but agriculture. Even the common land, which is barren or used as grazing land cannot be taken away from the people under any circumstances. In a rare case, if the government wants to use the land it should discuss its intention with the people and answer all the questions at the gram sabha. Be it the coast, forest or any other natural resource, it all belongs to the people and the government is the protector, not the owner, of these resources. Be it Maldharis (animal rearers), farmers or fisher folk, together they comprise 60 per cent of the country’s population and whenever development is discussed, they should be kept in mind. In some cases, if displacement cannot be avoided, the people should be given the same type and the same amount of land or the compensation should be such that they can live well and their quality of life is improved. One the whole, it is very important to keep the views of the rural people in view while planning for the development of the country. With the rise in inflation, there is a need to increase production of food crops. Here as we discuss development of the rural poor, fertile land is being given away to industries not related to agriculture. The government policies are not as much as a problem as the implementation. The rivers are drying up and there is no water for agriculture. There is a need for 57 lakh tonne of increased agricultural produce to feed 4 crore hungry people in our country, for this we need 172 lakh agricultural land and we need to work to match this need. We will have to work to make our barren lands fertile to ensure food security. And we need to be very careful, especially those farmers with small land holdings as the government finds it is easy to give small compensation and take the land for other needs. This isn’t happening in Gujarat alone, this is the story everywhere, where will this people go is the inevitable question that the government has to answer. Radha Bhatt: The initiative of bringing together well-known and experienced Sayeeda Hamid from the Planning Commission, Sanjay Parikh from the Supreme Court with good experience in this issue and Surendra Gadekar with knowledge on science and effects of the electrical company is a very good one. They and many others have come here to wish us luck on this campaign. Now, our campaign will become stronger. In Uttarakhand, where I am working on similar issues as an activist, under similar conditions for developing projects, the company and government were hand in glove in getting people evacuated from their land. The company invited the people for a public hearing without telling them that it was a hearing. The company offered the people tea and snacks and finally handed out paper and asked them to sign on them. When asked why, they said that they had to sign for the cost of tea and snacks. The very next day it was out in the media that the people had agreed to sell their land to the company and they had given the same in writing. Similar kind of cheating is rampant all over the country. It is important to have knowledge of all the facts. It may not be easy to get, but once you get it, you should make it a point to share it with others so that everyone has complete information of the issue. When you go for a protest, you should have complete information about what you are protesting against and why, only then no one can cheat you. You should know about the ill effects against which you are protesting. We all say that land is our mother, we will not give it or sell it and 22

everyone likes to hear it. But it is important that this just not remain as a feeling, a strategy should be ready only that will help us in the long run. Every village should make a strategy to protect its land. All the villages should then come together and make a joint strategy and then this should be taken to the national level. That is because when you want to get back something, you should be well prepared. Why should the government take care of the natural resources that are yours? It is our responsibility and we are capable of taking care of it. Our ancestors did it and we should also do the same. We will manage our resources and work for them. We should improve our forests and increase the water levels in our village. Along with the protests, we should also create new resources. Only then, if someone touches our resources we will not tolerate it because it will be our creation. So, it is important for us to make our natural resources stronger and prosperous. Don’t ask for your rights, take it rightfully after fulfilling your duties. In Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the case is the same, so we should all come together to ensure that our voices are loud or else, as of now, it does not seem that they will do anything for Gujarat or Uttarakhand alone. We elect them so now it is time to make them listen. This land is ours and the government is taking it away. Today, we have come together to raise a voice though no one has come from the state and central governments, Sayeeda Hamid has come here and promised to take our cause ahead.

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