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Fresh protests erupt in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar against Limestone Mining

Farmers of Mahuva and Talaja taluka of Bhavnagar district are once again protesting against UltraTech Cement to stop the transportation of trucks carrying limestone through the villages. 

“We have been sitting in protest at the location of the mining site so that we can stop the trucks carrying limestone from being transported through the villages,” said Bharat Bhil, a farmer from Nicha Kotda village in Mahuva taluka. Bhil added that, “The company did not stop the mining activity due to the pandemic or even during the lockdown. In fact, work was fast paced as protests were called off owing to the pandemic. But we had to come out in protest as the company has been flouting environmental guidelines and running its trucks carrying limestone through the villages.” 

As per guidelines laid down by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, a bypass road is to be built at least 200 m away from the village or any natural habitat. 

“The Bhavnagar Police arrived at the location of the protest and attempted to clamp down on the villagers and disperse them. However, the police left after the local Congress MLA joined us in the protest,” added Bhil.  

The two talukas Mahuva and Talaja, have been in conflict with Gujarat government for the past three years, after they leased out 13 villages in these talukas to UltraTech Cement for limestone mining. 

The protest started in 2016, but it reached at its peak in 208. There were multiple protests that took a violent turn. Subsequently, two cases were lodged against protesting farmers under charges of preventing police from doing their duty, rioting and attempt to murder, among other charges. Over a hundred farmers from Mahuva and Talaja talukas were charged with attempt to murder. 

In February 2021, a local court in Talaja sentenced former BJP MLA Kanu Kalsariya and six farmers with six months of imprisonment in a case of trespassing into limestone mining site of a cement company in 2018. 

Grasim Industries first attempted to acquire land between 20 to 22 years ago, thereafter in 2014, UltraTech Cement came to buy the same land.  

In the three public hearings that were held subsequently in 2016, more than 30,000 farmers participated and all of them refused to part with their land. However, this time the Gujarat government leased out the land to UltraTech Cement for 50 years.