Now Maruti to face a Singur in Gujarat?

Discontent is brewing in 44 villages covering 126,000 acres of land in the Mandal Becharaji belt, which had been notified as a special investment region (SIR), The Business Standard reported today.

Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi's political strategy may be paying rich dividends for him, but definitely not for his business strategy, the report said, as villagers have voiced opposition to the SIR plan in no uncertain terms saying they would also oppose the Maruti plant if the SIR plan was not scrapped.

SIRs have much in common with special economic zones, but units established here are not just export-oriented. Also apart from commercial and industrial units, such regions could also have residential areas and offer logistic connectivity.

The report said, Gujarat was the only state to have put in place an SIR Act with the Mandal Becharaji belt notified an SIR after Maruti Suzuki India decided on putting up a plant here.

According the report, 36 of the 44 gram sabhas in the region had passed a resolution now opposing this notification as they felt their fertile land was being taken away to create an industrial hub.

The opposition to the land use was strong not only in Hansalpur, but also in Vithlapur, where Maruti had acquired 700-800 acres of land, according to the report.

The simmering discontent against the widespread industrialisation in Gujarat was now coming to the fore. The report also points to the irony in government's move with farmer's land being taken away, after they had waited for many years for the waters of Narmada dam, from which they were to get water.

The report quoted former BJP rebel Kanu Kalsariya as saying that farmers in the region waited for many years for water from Narmada dam and their land was being acquired at a time when they were about get this water.

The farmers also burnt copies of the MB SIR (Mandal-Becharaji Special Investment Region) notification that was issued by the government in 2009.

The region was given SIR notification when Maruti decided to set up its plant. The total area located in the Sanand-Viramgam area on the western side of Ahmedamad falls under the Mandal-Becharaji belt which covered an area of 530 sq km (about 126,000 acres).

According to farmers 80 per cent of the land being brought under the SIR was agriculture land, while 15 per cent was pasture land and the rest wasteland.

Villagers feared an SIR would have adversely impact agriculture, animal husbandry and fodder.

According to the Gujarat government, the government would talk to the farmers and try to find an amicable solution to the issue. He said the government would make sure the farmers benefited from the development envisaged by the government.