Probe ordered into Anand pastoral land-grabbing case
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The Anand District Development Office (DDO) has initiated an inquiry into allegations of illegal sale of gauchar (pastoral) land by the sarpanch of Umeta village to prominent people of Vadodara to build farmhouses. The villagers of Umeta are fighting to regain control of their pastoral lands, spread across an area of approximately 100 acres near Mahisagar river. The land, they allege, has been illegally sold off to private parties — mostly prominent personalities of Vadodara by the village sarpanch, Bhagwansinh Maheda. After a series of applications and protests, the villagers have finally got the district administration to initiate a probe into the case
Roughly 100 acres of pastoral lands in Umeta have got encroached upon in the last few years. Resorts and luxurious farmhouses have replaced the pastures that were a means of livelihood for about 4,000 farmers of the village. The villagers, who have sought intervention from the district administration to claim their lands back, say the deals with influential parties from Vadodara have been struck by the village sarpanch, who has been misusing his powers.
Sheetal Goswami, deputy DDO of Anand, has ordered the taluka officers to look into the revenue records of the lands. Goswami said, "The villagers have written to me saying that the sarpanch has misused his power to give away pastoral lands for private constructions and I have accordingly ordered my officers to conduct a thorough land record check and get back to me. I will be able to comment on the matter only after ten days." In line with Goswami's order, Umeta taluka circle inspector and revenue officers visited the village to measure the areas of the pastoral lands. The officers, however, refused to comment on their findings.
Yuvrajsinh Rana, one of the 250 farmers who have signed the petition submitted to the Anand district collectorate, says, "The sarpanch of the village has been instrumental in selling off the pastoral lands to private parties for extensions of their lawns or for their farmhouses. About 20 acres of pastoral land is in possession of the sarpanch's son, who runs a resort there without even having the title of the lands with survey number 11 12/1 and 12/2."
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