Villagers run towards a car distributing leaflets announcing a furniture fair in nearby Viramgam that promises “free mehendi” for women, “free magic show” for children and “free visitor gifts” for couples as attractions. Smartly-dressed salesmen hound villagers marketing cars, homes and furniture. A stall at the entrance also offers car demonstrations.
Banners have sprung in the village offering vaastushastra-compliant realty schemes. The only bank — a tiny branch of State Bank of India (SBI) — is crammed with account holders. Khoraj village, 50 km from Ahmedabad, is on a consumerism roll.
At least 1,000 farmers in this village ceased to be agriculturists and became crorepatis, the village growing richer by over Rs 1,700 crore at the end of a land acquisition process by the Gujarat government for expanding an existing industrial estate.
At least 55 per cent of the 2,500 hectares owned by 1,000 odd farmers in this village was acquired by the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC).
The villagers were paid Rs 1,100 for every square meter of land purchased which is some 15 km from where Tata Nano and Ford Motors have set up their car manufacturing plants in Sanand.
Some Devipujaks (a scheduled tribe) in this Kshatriya-dominated village who struggled for a square meal, also became crorepatis. “Our family got about Rs 3.5 crore by selling a small land parcel that we had. We have not received our cheques yet, but we are happy,” says Asha Vaghri who is a senior member of the family of 20 living in the poorest part of the village, where adult members of the family work as farm labourers for a major part of the year.
Ramesh Mori, a member of the Khoraj Gram Panchayat says that of the 2,500 hectares owned by the farmers, 1,365 hectares have been acquired by the state government. “All of this land has been given to the state with the full consent of the farmers,” says Mori.
A confident Rakesh Jadhav (26) who belongs to a joint family where four brothers together sold 190 bighas (1.7 bigha is equivalent to an acre) to the state government and earned over Rs 50 crore as compensation. “We are planning to re-invest this money and buy land elsewhere,” says Rakesh, dressed impeccably in a blue check-shirt and tight jeans, proudly describing himself as “tenth fail”.
The SBI branch has seen business rise ten-fold in the last one month. “In comparison to Rs 8-10 lakh of transactions that we did daily, the numbers have gone above a crore now,” says Nikhil Anand, manager of this SBI branch which has been operating in this village for 39 years and now finds itself busy.
“In the last one month, we have opened 100 new accounts and have got Rs 300 crore as deposits in our branch,” says Anand who credits the inflow of the money to the transactions between the farmers and the state government. The influx of wealth has forced the bank to double its employee strength from the earlier four persons (including the manager).
The wealth in the village has also drawn private bankers. “Please invest at least one crore in our bank. We will meet you on our way back,” says Sachin Khurana, branch head of Axis Bank in Sanand while trying to convince a group of farmers. “We are here to see if we could get some business,” said Khurana who was in the village with a car full of team members scouting for possible investors.
Ashwin Barot, a Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) agent, travelled 100 kilometers from Anand district looking for clients. “I heard about this village and thought of selling some policies,” said Barot.
“Over 450 families, with about 1000 farmers, have benefitted from this land acquisition. Now-a-days a number of us keep our cellphones switched off as these banks and agents keep calling us,” says Hari Jadhav, a village elder who sold 40 of the 100 vighas owned by his family where farmers traditionally grew rice, wheat, cotton and castor.
Relaxing on a bench, smoking a pipe outside the village temple is Dilipsinh Jadhav who has sold half of the 30 vighas that he owns. “Most of the farmers in this village have become crorepatis after their land was acquired by the state. People are happy because of the money that has come in. Even some of the poorest in the village have got a couple of crores in their bank accounts,” he says.
- Avinash Nair & Satish Jha