We want our land

April 15. Zarapara village, Mundra taluka, Kutch. More than 3,000 men and women gathered to attend a gram sabha meeting called to discuss the transfer of the village grazing land for the Mundra sez. The atmosphere was charged as the taluka development officer (TDO) and the deputy district development officer (DDO) of the Bhuj District Panchayat took their seats. Villagers were bristling at having been kept in the dark about the land deal.

As soon as the meeting began, they passed a resolution with an overwhelming majority asking the panchayat to cancel the previous resolution and the no-objection certificate (noc) granted to the Adani Group. When the sarpanch refused to sign the resolution and left the meeting, the villagers made the tdo and the deputy ddo sign on the papers.

The Zarapara panchayat, headed by Sarpanch Dhanraj Gadhvi, had passed a resolution on March 14, 2007, and an noc was issued to hand over 400 ha of pasture land to the Adani Group. Villagers said gram sabha meeting was not held to discuss the issue and alleged that the Adani Group had bribed the sarpanch and other members of the panchayat to get the noc.

As per the Gujarat land rules, a resolution and an noc of the village panchayat are a must for acquiring gauchar land because the ownership of such land lies with the village panchayat.

The pasture, which also has a lake, is crucial for the people. According to the last cattle census, the village has a bovine population of 8,873. As per the state government norms, there should be 16 ha grazing land per 100 animals. "By this standard, our village requires 1,436 ha but we have only 1,000 ha. We cannot give 400 ha from this,' said Karshan Gelva, a villager and member of the Save Gauchar Committee.

Government officials in Mundra and Bhuj are tight-lipped about the issue, fearing backlash from villagers. "It's a delicate issue and I would not like to comment as the matter is pending before the high court,' said a senior office-bearer of the Bhuj district panchayat. Officials in the district collectorate also clamped up after saying that they were looking into the matter.

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