Statue Of Unity: Tribals Lock Engineer Office In Protest For Jobs And Rehabilitation Facilities
In November last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled the Statue Of Unity. The world’s tallest statue at 182-meters built at the cost of Rs 3000 crore to pay tribute to India’s first Home Minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, has been in controversies since the announcement of the statue was made. Earlier, 73 tribal villages near the Kevadiya district, the closest district to the statue did not cook food for a day in protest of lack of jobs for the locals at the statue site. In the latest development, the angry tribals from the same district locked the office of executive engineer of Sardar Sarovar Punarvasvat Agency in a show of protest. The protestors claim that the local people are left without jobs and even the people who were displaced because of the development of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, did not receive proper rehabilitation facilities by the government. The police dispersed the protestors after reaching the spot. The police did not detain any of the protesters.
According to The Indian Express, on December 18, Monday, the local police was informed that the tribals had locked the office of executive engineers at their office. The officer said that they immediately reached the spot, after getting information and soon the situation was brought under control.
The officers added that most of the protestors were the displaced tribal villagers. These villagers were evacuated and rehabilitated during the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam and the Statue of Unity. The angry and furious protestors claim that they did not get proper rehabilitation and job opportunities, from the government, whose primary livelihood was based on the agriculture in the area.
While speaking to the Indian Express, Inspector Ajay Damor said that the protestors raised slogans against lack of jobs and facilities for them which include water, electricity etc for the villagers.
The incident happened two days before the planned protest by the tribals in the village. On December 19, the villagers have planned to march from Kevadiya Colony — from the site of the Statue and Sardar Sarovar Dam — to the Collector’s office in Rajpipla. The march is planned just a day before PM Modi’s visit to the Statue of Unity.
According to the reports, on Wednesday, around 1,000 villagers are likely to march under the banner of ‘Zameen Bachao, Adivasi Bachao Andolan’ (Save Land, Save Tribals Movement). Apart from the residents from the statue site, the march would also be accompanied by Navagaam, Waghadia and Mukhudi people from across Narmada district. The protestors are allegedly demanding to stop any further land acquisition in view of new projects like government buildings, state guest houses and railway station, that is planned to be built in and around the Statue, as reported by The Indian Express.
The locals are also demanding, skill development training and job opportunities for the local tribals at the site of Statue Of Unity. Addition to that the protestors are also demanding water from the Narmada Dam for irrigation should be first provided to local farmers.
Earlier, the tribal from the village protested by not cooking for the day in their village. Others protested by burning tyres and releasing black balloons. According to the Hindustan Times, the protesters claimed that many trees have been cut surrounding Sardar’s statue for at least 3 km causing environmental damage in tribal areas.
According to the NDTV, the local organisations claimed that almost 72,000 tribal families have been affected by the statue project. “A 3000-crore statue in one of the most backward districts of Gujarat is a farce. We are not against Sardar Patel, but we want schools and hospitals,” said Praful Vasava.