Hours before the Election Commission announced the dates for the Assembly elections in the state, various civic bodies on Wednesday made a last-minute dash to announce a slew of projects. In Vadodara, Mayor Bharat Dangar laid foundations for three “renovation” and “development” works in the city. He was accompanied by BJP MLA Jitendra Sukhadia and other BJP leaders. Amounting to about Rs 8 crore, the projects include a botanical park in Gotri, a renovated cremation ground in Gorwa, as well as the beautification of Bhim Talav in Atladara. This comes just three days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated and laid foundations for Vadodara Municipal Corporation projects amounting to Rs 1,140 crore.
The botanical park will come up at the site where the VMC had demolished about 425 homes of Ramdev Nagar settlement, which was a pilot project for slum upgradation by the UNESCO in the early 1990s. Later in the day, residents of Ramdevnagar, who were evicted before the demolitions in February this year and relocated 16 km away in Sayajipura Housing Scheme, submitted a memorandum to VMC Commissioner Vinod Rao, demanding an in-situ relocation at the Ramdevnagar site based on Public Private Partnership (PPP) model. Residents have stated that the relocation has disturbed their social and economic condition as the civic body has provided houses 17 km away from the locality where the families were staying.
Ramesh Baria, a resident, said, “The housing colony in Sayajipura area lacks basic facilities. Our children who were studying in Gotri have to commute from there to attend schools. Many women, who were working as domestic help in Gotri, have lost work.” Amit Tiwari, another resident, said, “Many BJP leaders want to showcase development by just laying foundation of projects but not solving the issues being faced by the residents due to the demolition. We are here to peacefully request the authority. If they do not listen to us, we will make our decision in the polls.”
Municipal Commissioner Vinod Rao said that it was “not possible” to concede to the representation made by the families as the process of demolition and relocation was done after taking the families into confidence. In Ahmedabad, the city’s civic body laid the foundation stone for a drainage pipeline in a majority neighbourhood of Vatva ward. The Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) also put out advertisements in newspapers announcing distribution of application forms for houses under the EWS scheme in Kalol, Dahegam and Borisana under the Mukhyamantri Gruh Yojana. The distribution of forms began on Wednesday and will go on till October 30. “Since it is an existing scheme, we can continue with that even after the onset of the model code of conduct,” AUDA chairman Bhupendra Patel said.
Similarly, three hours before the EC’s announcement, Rajkot Mayor Jaimin Upadhyay declared a Rs 95 crore housing scheme for employees of Rajkot Municipal Corporation and laid foundation stones of two water distribution projects.