News Brief

Gujarat Government To Reclaim 108 Hectare Grazing Land Allotted To Adani: Here's Why

Swarajya Staff

Jul 06, 2024, 12:40 PM | Updated 12:40 PM IST

Adani Group. (Representative image).
Adani Group. (Representative image).

In a big setback to the Adani Group, the Gujarat government on Friday (5 July) informed the High Court that it will take back nearly 108 hectares of ‘gauchar’ (grazing) land which was given to one of the Gautam Adani-led conglomerate's entity in 2005 near Mundra port in the state’s Kutch district.

Interestingly, an industrial unit called Kutch Copper, a subsidiary of Adani Enterprises, now stands on part of the land that is to be given back, Times of India reported.

Kutch Copper had commissioned the first unit of its greenfield copper refinery project at in March by dispatching the maiden batch of cathodes to customers.

Adani Enterprises is investing nearly $1.2 billion to set up the copper smelter plant with 0.5 MTPA capacity in the first phase.

On completion of the second phase that will add similar capacity, Kutch Copper, with 1 MTPA, will be the world's largest single-location custom smelter.

The decision by the government to reclaim land allotted to Adani Group entity came 13 years after residents of Navinal village there moved the High Court through a Public Interest Litigation against a decision to allot 231 acres of gauchar land to Adani Ports and SEZ (APSEZ) Ltd.

The allocation was made by the state revenue department in 2005, but villagers only became aware of it in 2010 when APSEZ began fencing the area.

Residents had challenged the allotment of 231 acres of gauchar land to Adani Ports and SEZ Ltd, claiming the move left the village with only 45 acres of grazing land, which was insufficient and violated communal land rights.

The PIL was initially disposed of in 2014 after the government assured the High Court it would grant an additional 387 hectares of grazing land.

When this did not materialize, villagers filed a contempt petition.

In 2015, the state government filed a review petition before the High Court, contending that only 17 hectares were available for allocation, proposing allocation of remaining land 7 kilometres away, which villagers rejected, saying it was not possible for cattle to travel such a long distance.

In April 2024, the division bench comprising Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Pranav Trivedi directed the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS) of the Revenue Department to come up with a solution.

On Friday, the ACS, through an affidavit, informed the bench that the state government has decided to take back nearly 108 hectares or 266 acres of gauchar land, which was earlier allocated to APSEZ.

The revenue department informed the court that the state government will “replenish” 129 hectares of land as gauchar and give it back to the village, for which it will use some of its own land and the 108 hectares being taken back from the Adani group firm.

The HC bench expressed satisfaction and directed the state government to implement this resolution.

Senior advocate Mihir Thakor, appearing for APSEZL, objected to the court’s directions, arguing that the state government could not reclaim land already allotted to APSEZL two decades ago and that such directions would infringe upon the company’s rights.

The bench told the company to file a separate petition if it wanted to challenge the government’s decision.

The government decision comes as currently, India is an importer of refined copper with imports reaching Rs 14,000 crore in the past year.

India's transition from a net exporter to a net importer of refined copper stemmed from the closure of Vedanta's Sterlite copper plant in Tamil Nadu's Tuticorin in 2018, following protests over alleged pollution concerns.

The closure of Sterlite's plant, which accounted for 40 per cent of the country's copper smelting capacity, resulted in a 46 per cent decline in India's copper production in 2018-19.

The Adani Group’s entry into the copper sector is expected to play a pivotal role in addressing India's growing demand for copper.

By doubling the nation's domestic capacity and potentially returning refined copper production to pre-closure levels by 2025, the group’s initiative promises to significantly contribute to India's industrial landscape and economic growth trajectory.

However, if the Gujarat government's move affects operations at the plant, it could be a big setback for India's copper self-sufficiency ambitions.

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