The Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) will be taking out “Adivasi Adhikar Yatra” to demand empowering of communities located in eastern belt of the state. The yatra, to be taken out from November 19 to December 2, will cover 1,200 kilometres distance in 13 districts and 38 assembly constituencies. While 27 of these assembly seats are reserved for tribals, 11 others are those where tribal vote is decisive in the outcome of elections.
The districts to be covered are Sabarkantha, Aravalli, Mahisagar, the Panchmahals, Dahod, Chhota Udepur, Bharuch, Narmada, Vadodara, Tapi, Navsari, the Dangs and Surat.
Prominent tribal leader and former Union minister Dr Tushar Chaudhary said that tribals in the state confined to eastern part of the state had not benefitted from the developmental activities in the state.
“While they are living in areas just 30-40 kms away from industrial complexes and big towns and cities in the state, benefits of the development are unfortunately not reaching them, with the result that gap between tribals and non-tribals is continuously increasing,” he regretted.
“While almost all big dams – whether it be Narmada or Tapi – are all in tribal belt and these were built by displacing tribals only, its benefits are not reaching them because no infrastructure has been created to take the water of these dams to the fields of tribals,” said Dr Chaudhary, and added “there can be no bigger irony that this.”
“If water from Narmada can be taken to Kutch through lift canal system, the same technology can be used to supply Narmada and Tapi water to tribal regions of the state to improve their agriculture and increase their income,” he suggested.
He said that Forest Rights Act that was brought by the previous government at the Centre with a view to empowering the tribal communities economically by making them owners of the forest land they had been cultivating for generations. But the state government in Gujarat, he said, had not implemented it properly.
“Politics may be the reason behind it but it is the tribals who are the only victim of this political one-upmanship,” he said.
“The new education policy, under which students are automatically promoted to the next higher class up to Class VIII without examinations or evaluation, is having its worst impact on tribals,” he said.
“When the tribal students reach Class IX, they are not able to continue their education further because they find themselves very weak and hence, drop out. This is happening so because most of the tribal students study in government primary schools whose standard is very low and they don’t have the means to go to private schools. The situation is really very bad,” he observed.
Dr Chaudhary said that improper implementation of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) by the state government, he said, was causing migration of tribal villagers to cities in search of job, away from their native places, thus forcing them to live in slums and withdrawing their children from schools.
“We will be submitting a detailed list of tribal issues to state governor O P Kohli before commencement of the yatra, with a request to him to look into them and use his good offices to ensure development of tribals without falling a prey to party politics because development of a highly backward community is more important than party politics,” said Dr Chaudhary.