The Narendra Modi government checked all opposition to the grand rally planned on Thursday to lay the foundation of the 182-metre high Statue of Unity,at the Sardar Sarovar Dam site on the Narmada river,by agreeing to all the demands of the protesting tribals living in the villages around the site. Three days ahead of the event where Modi is expected to launch the campaign to collect iron from farmers to build the Rs 2,500 crore memorial for Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel,the state government sent its emissary,tribal development minister Ganpat Vasava,to announce that it would not only repeal the Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) under which the government was to acquire land for tourism development around the statue,but also promised to form the Garudeshwar taluka. Modi is expected to formally announce the taluka on October 31.
Vasava told media persons,in the presence of local villagers at Kevadia Colony,that the government had agreed to most of the demands made by the tribals. The government has accepted the demand to form Garudeshwar taluka after a long and extensive meeting with the Chief Minister at his residence on Saturday. The chief secretary and the revenue department officials have been given instruction for the same. Also,with the formation of the new taluka,the KADA will be automatically repealed, Vasava said. The government has not offered anything in writing yet.
The tribals had held a protest on October 2 after KADA officials approached panchayats of 70 villages,seeking their consent for acquiring land for tourism purpose. A delegation from the protesters met the Cabinet core committee on October 15 to express their unhappiness over the land acquisition decision. Back then,the delegation,calling itself “Satter Gaam Aadivasi Sangathan (Association of 70 tribal villages),did not call the meet fruitful. The villagers had given a 15-day deadline.
The first phase of what is pitched as the world’s tallest statue is planned to be completed in 42 months. The project includes the Sardar Patel statue,a bridge over the river connecting the statue with the main road and a road till Kevadia. The Sadhu Tekri,where the statue is planned,will have a memorial garden and lifts to carry visitors to the top of the statue from where they can view the dam from the eyes of the statue. The total height of the structure,including the pedestal level,will stretch to 240 metres,an engineer associated with the project said.
Vasava said the government has also accepted revising compensation packages for six villages from where land was acquired for the creation of the Narmada dam in 1960,but was used for other purposes after the plan for the dam site changed. The villagers were demanding that they be offered similar compensation for the dam that has been offered to villages that were submerged due to the dam. They will now get a special package.
The land presently houses Narmada Nihar hotel run by the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL),an SRP campus,a private school,all given on lease by the government. Some part of the land has also been leased for stone quarrying purpose.
Social activist Rohit Prajapati,one of the leaders of the protest,said,”People are not opposing KADA for the sake of KADA. We are opposing the acquisition of land for tourism development in the region. The government has not assured that no such development will take place in the region. They have made a vague declaration just because of the CM’s visit on October 31.”