Best option for whom?
This is in reference to the editorial ‘Land Solutions’ (FE, April 26). First, as per the Draft Development Report and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Report, the Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR), established under the Gujarat SIR Act 2009, was found to be suitable due to “availability of maximum government land” (sic) (EIA Report, pp. 13, 57 and 76). Pastureland is to be retained owing to the fact that the area may retain its rural character for another 25-30 years and the requirement of pastureland will not cease to exist. However, a very minor portion of the land (around 5%) is declared and recorded as ‘pastureland’ and the rest, even if it is pastureland, would be classified as wasteland since it is not recorded officially as pastureland. Therefore, all of the government land and 50% of the privately-held agriculture land will be deducted for land pooling purposes at the start of the project. The total land with the SIR Authority will be then more than 50%. Second, we do not see how “60-70% of the land can be returned to the farmers”, as the edit holds. The land pooling and land deduction happens under the provisions of the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976. Section 40 (j) and (jj) (i)-(iv) mention the purposes for which land allotment for public purposes is to be made, which comes to 50% of the total area of the Town Planning scheme. As per the conversation we had with the Town Planning Officer of the Dholera SIR, we were told that 50% of the total area of the TP Scheme is to be deducted right at the start of the project including the public land (under the jurisdiction of the government) and private land. If this is so, 60-70% of the farmers’ land reverting to them defies logic. The edit also maintains “Owners are free to sell or retain it—in other words, should the farmers so choose, they get the upside from their land”. If the farmers choose to sell the land, they would have very little choice in the matter. The final plots would be part of various zones like entertainment zone, residential zone, IT zone, etc. The SIR Act specifies that the land has to be used for the designated purpose only. The options before the land-owners are therefore very limited, since business lobbies can collectively decide not