The Gujarat government has bowed to the pressure of protesting farmers and has decided to withdraw the Hazira Special Investment Region (SIR) notification that was issued in February this year — the Hazira SIR covers 24,143 hectares of land.
Confirming this, Gujarat minister for industries, energy, petroleum, mines and minerals Saurabh Patel said the state has decided to withdraw the notification after talks with farmers since there was “widespread apprehension regarding the term investment in the term SIR”. According to Patel, the concept of SIR is a “mega urban development authority involving thousands of acres of land which would be provided basic amenities including roads, hospitals and parks and other public spaces which would make the regions more investment-friendly”.
Patel said this does not entail any acquisition of land. “This is a misconception which is being fanned by NGO activists and our political opponents,” Patel said.
He went on to add that in view of the apprehensions expressed by the farmers, the government was withdrawing the notification and “would find other ways to develop the region”.
Experts point out that SIRs take years to finalise and that this is simply part of the process. In developing SIRs, trunk infrastructure like highways are built on farmers’ land, and town planning is done. While farmers get 60-70% of the land back — and are then free to sell it if they wish — its value is greatly enhanced as the land usage is changed to allow setting up of industrial units.
The Gujarat Government Gazette published in February stated that the 36 villages of Oplad and Choryasi talukas in Surat, covering 24,143 hectares, will fall under the Hazira SIR. Hazira already has a cluster of large industries including majors like Shell, which has a Rs 3,000-crore LNG terminal and port facility, and Essar with a Rs 30,000-crore integrated steel complex including a 500 MW captive power consumption plant, port and steel facility. Other plants include Reliance's polyester unit, apart from units from L&T, Kribhco, Essar, ONGC, GAIL and IOC. The villages identified for the SIR are scattered in the vicinity of the Hazira cluster and are not only low-lying but also extremely underdeveloped.
Jayesh Patel, general secretary, Gujarat State Farmers' Association, which represents a large chunk of the affected farmers, told FE, “The original notification for Hazira SIR came out in 2010 and following the farmers' protest, Saurabh Patel had given us assurance in