Farmers plan to serve 'stop work' notice to Maruti

In what could be the first signs of troubles for the country’s largest car maker, villagers now plan to send a notice to Maruti Suzuki India Ltd to stop work at its site at Hansalpur, Gujarat, where it is setting up a manufacturing facility.  

"Already a draft notice has been prepared and villagers are deliberating on the issue and taking legal counsel. Everyone thinks that the coming of the Maruti Suzuki plant at Hansalpur is the root cause of the special investment region (SIR) and are now opposed to having the plant in the region," says a villager in Hansalpur.

Gujarat’s Mandal-Becharaji belt in Mehsana district, where the Maruti plant is coming up, has been notified as an SIR. SIRs are similar to special economic zones, but units established here are not just export-oriented. Apart from commercial and industrial units, such regions can also house residential areas and offer logistic connectivity. Thirty-six of the 44 gram sabhas in the region on May 31 passed a resolution to oppose the status of SIR being given to the Mandal-Becharaji region, apparently over concerns of fertile land being acquired to develop industrial hubs.    

"We have already had multiple discussions with the collector of the region and have also sent letters to the company asking them to allow passage to our village. We have asked for land for roads, etc, and also some agricultural land has come inside the plot. However, we are yet to receive any feedback either from the government or the company, and if the construction work continues, then the entire purpose of the opposition might be lost," says Ajmalbhai Thakore, the village chief of Hansalpur.

A senior Maruti Suzuki official said he was not in the know of any such development.

Locals, however, say Maruti, which is in the process of building a boundary wall at the Hansalpur site, has slowed down work in the past few days.

Kanubhai Kalsariya, the rebel former Bharatiya Janata Party legislator, who had spearheaded the villagers' agitation against the Nirma Cement plant at Mahuva, feels at the moment, there is a lot of excitement at the ground level. However the protest would have to be peaceful, he says.

While some enthusiastic villagers claimed they would visit the plant site this week to take down the security cabins, Kalsariya says: "First, the company would be sent a notice intimating them about the opposition and asking them to halt work. But the movement has to be one of non-violent non-cooperation."

He feels the plans of the SIR are still at a conceptual stage, but the Maruti project is at the root of the plan. If the star investment in the area is opposed, the entire SIR plan will fall apart. Adds Ajmalbhai: "Initially, there was no opposition to the Maruti plant, but once we got to know about the SIR, we are worried. If the SIR happens, the entire land of the village would be gone in making way for roads, etc, according to the draft survey map."

The villagers are at the moment building awareness about the adverse impact of the SIR on agriculture and animal husbandry in the region and, in turn, create consensus against the SIR proposal.