Vishal Mistry: Since the Statue of Unity (SOU), the tallest statue in the world, project began in Narmada districts Kevadia, the tribals in the area have opposed the project on the grounds that it robs them of their land and gets them pittance in return.
As the state government gears up to make the place a world-class tourist destination, the local adivasis have also intensified their opposition to the same. Earlier they had been campaigning for better compensation for their land but now they want the Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Act dismissed.
The tribals are demanding that their land be returned to them and that the Act be dismissed. The government plans to develop the area as a tourism destination and will be spending millions for the same. But what is the point of it if the locals are not happy with it? If the locals are happy with the project they will aid the government in the same. Tourists will find themselves being welcomed if the locals are happy with the development plans and that will ensure repeat tourism.
The government needs to find out what is it that the tribals find lacking in the package announced for land acquisition in the six villages and needs to address it within the confines of law. Ensuring a consensus on the package will accelerate the development of the region. The locals are not willing to give up land and if the place is thrown open for tourism and a protest surges then it will put the administration in an awkward situation.
The government needs to find an acceptable solution to ensure that tourists get the ‘Atithi Devo Bhav’ (Guest is God) treatment when they visit SOU.
Nikunj Parikh, deputy collector, Kevadia Colony, said that locals can register their objections to the package announced by the state government with the local offices. The government will take appropriate decisions. He said the land that was recently fenced is the one that belongs to the Nigam.
Govind Tadvi, a local leader, said the government wants to pay a few pittance for land that is worth crores of rupees. He said they don’t want to sell their ancestral land and want to farm on it. He said the government can spend crores of rupees on a single visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Had the government spent that money on us we would have been happy, he said.
Adivasi leader Dr Praful Vasava said that they will not talk to the government unless it dismissed the Act. He said the agitation will now be taken to the smallest of villages. He said contrary to claims that the government had stopped fencing, it was done because it had already fenced all the area it wanted to fence. He said the fight will continue until justice is done.