Loss of livelihood

Print edition : September 06, 2013

Sartanbhai Bharwad Kajabhai. Photo: Anupama Katakam

SARTANBHAI BHARWAD HAJABHAI is not allowed to enter the land he once tilled. He is a Maldari, who are a pastoral nomadic community which has settled in the Becharaji region in Mehsana district. They are landless and have subsisted by using the gauchar (grazing) land to feed their cattle.

“I have paid rent to the village panchayat for many years to use this land. Recently, they stopped taking the money. It must be because they had already given the land to the government.” There are 18 Maldari families who live in the area. If Maruti Suzuki’s automobile plant comes up, the Maldaris’ only source of livelihood will be lost.

Sartanbhai says: “The fodder that we grow is such good quality that we sell it across the district. In 20 acres, I get 1.5 quintals of grass. Our cattle produce 20-25 litres of milk a day. At Rs.35 a litre, we earn between Rs.800-900 a day.” The milk is collected by the local cooperative and is sent to the massive Sagar Dairy in Mehsana.

“We will be finished if the plant comes up as we have no rights over the land, being landless. We were told that the rent receipts were not good enough for compensation.” Sartanbhai may be relocated with the other villagers, but for now, he says he is continuing to till the land even if it means being beaten up by security guards.

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