Sabarkantha village fights for its pastures

Villagers of Hadiyol near Himmatnagar in Sabarkantha district are up in arms against the state government for taking back 27 acres of land from the village panchayat to set up a medical college.

The district revenue department had given this gauchar (pastoral) land to the panchayat in 1983-84 for residential purpose for Hadiyol, a village of around 5,000 population. It had made 480 plots on it to construct homes for villagers on demand. In 2007, 32 dalit families applied for plots and were allocated the same with a condition that they have to complete building within two years.

However, in December last year, the government took back the entire piece of land for breaching these conditions. The same land was subsequently allotted for the construction of a government medical college.

This decision did not go down well with the villagers who have been ardent supporters of the ruling BJP. They are now protesting against the move and the person leading them is the sarpanch and a BJP member, Ketan Patel.

"I am very disappointed with the government for taking back the land without any notice... I am a BJP member, but I will fight this matter out in the interest of villagers," Patel said. "We do not have enough pastoral land in the village and now we want to get the land – excluding the 32 plots allotted to dalits — converted back into gauchar land," he added.

The villagers have submitted a memorandum to the district collector and are contemplating various ways to deal with any move to start work for the proposed college.

The lot of 32 dalits who have been allotted plots is more vociferous in their protest. "We were given the land in 2007. And some of us have done significant construction while spending personal money on getting the plots surveyed and clearing the shrubs. And now, the government is taking back the land. People like me have invested their entire life's earning for house on these plots," said Narandas Pandya, a dalit allottee.

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