Land acquisition: Tribal villagers meet Cabinet committee 'in vain'

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SummaryThe collected iron will be used in the memorial premises.

Representatives of 70 tribal villages, who were opposing land acquisition by Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) for building tourism infrastructure at the proposed Statue of Unity site, met a Cabinet committee on Tuesday to discus about their demands. But they had to went back without any assurance from the government.

“For the first time, the government gave us a patient hearing. But we did not get any assurance that our demands will be considered,” said representatives of Seter Gaam Aadivashi Sangathan (70 Villages Tribal Association) after the meeting with a group of ministers including state Finance Minister Nitin Patel, Revenue Minister Anandiben Patel and Forest and Environment Minister Ganpat Vasava. In all, 145 villagers met the ministers.

“We just hope that our demands are considered within 15 days,” the representatives said. The protesting villagers set a 15-day deadline which would finish on October 31, the date when Chief Minister Narendra Modi is supposed to lay foundation stone of the 182-foot tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (also know as Statue of Unity).

On the same day, the state government will also start a nationwide campaign to collect iron pieces from farmers of each 7 lakh villages in the states. The collected iron will be used in the memorial premises.

However, the villagers said that they don’t have any protest plan for October 31. “Though, we will chalk out our future plan soon, there will be no protest on that day,” said the members of the association.

The statue will come up on Sadhu Island, which is 3.5 km from Sardar Sarovar Dam in Kevadia colony. These 70 villages are located in vicinity of the dam. The villagers had also demonstrated on October 3 after KADA, formed to develop the area primarily for tourism purposes, sought the consent of the village panchayats for land acquisition.

Opposing the plan, the tribals have been demanding that the state government should take back the proposal to develop tourism infrastructure in the area, which is being undertaken alongside the the proposed statue. The other demands include - no construction work on Garudeshwar Weir, which could affect around a dozen villages in the region. They have also asked for water from Narmada and Karjan dams for irrigation purpose and declaration of Garudeshwar as a taluka.

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