Nearly 90 years after Mahatma Gandhi marched on to Dandi coast to break the salt law imposed by the British, the quiet hamlet saw a kind of satyagraha on January 31, a day after his death anniversary.
A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the National Salt Satyagrah Memorial (NSSM) at Dandi in Navsari district, village youths gathered at the site demanding jobs. The villagers were unhappy that people from neighbouring Matwad and Samapur villages were hired instead of local youths for security and housekeeping jobs at the memorial.
Led by village sarpanch Vimal Patel, local youths gathered at the parking place near Saifee Villa and staged a protest. Mahatma Gandhi had stayed at Saifee Villa, the night before he broke the salt law, at the end of the 24-day march to Dandi from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad in 1930. The villa is also now a part of the Dandi memorial. “All the villagers protested because not a single person from our Dandi village was given job at the memorial site,” said the 39-year-old sarpanch.
After seeing the villagers’s steadfast protest, officials of security agency responsible for the memorial’s safety along with officials of Gujarat Tourism Department held talks with the sarpanch and agreed to hire local youths. “After talking to the security agency, top officials along with Gujarat Tourism Department officials agreed to our demands. They selected our village youths as security personnel and for housekeeping,” the sarpanch said.
Earlier, 50 persons from Matwad and Samapur were hired, but after the protest, the hiring was cancelled, and the recruitment was done afresh. Now 62 people have been hired — 40 from Dandi village and remaining 22 from Matwad and Samapur villages. Those hired will get Rs 6,000 per month for a daily 8-hour duty.
“Earlier, the memorial was being taken care by the CPWD department of the Union Ministry of Culture. After the project was dedicated to the nation by PM Narendra Modi, Gujarat Tourism Department has taken the control. A temporary agency has been looking after the operation and maintenance work at the memorial. In the coming months, we will issue tenders for operation and maintenance, and recruit people from there. We will also ensure that over 85 per cent of jobs are given to locals,” S J Haider, Principal Secretary to Gujarat Tourism, told The Indian Express.
Justifying its decision to hire from neighbouring villages, Kavach Security Services, the private agency in-charge of the security and maintenance work said that the intital recruitment done hurriedly as they had less time. “The reason behind organising the recruitment process at Matwad, was because the PM Narendra Modi was likely to visit Dandi, and there was full proof security bandobast, so we thought to hire from Matwad village which is situated 3 km from Dandi. As the time was short we have taken the help of locals and started the recruitment process afresh,” Harish Shukla of Kavach Security Services said.
“Now, the villagers are happy and the issue has been sorted out,” he added.