Former BJP MLA Motilal Vasava has written to the sarpanches of 121 villages around the Statue of Unity in Narmada district, urging them to oppose the inclusion of the areas under eco-sensitive zone as per a 2016 notification of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
Vasava, who also leads the BJP party’s tribal cell in the state, has asked the sarpanches to use the upcoming gram sabhas in the villages to pass resolutions against the government order.
In a letter to the sarpanches of 121 villages of the “eco-sensitive zone” in Narmada, Vasava has reminded the tribal communities of the rights bestowed upon them by the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA, a law enacted by the Government of India for ensuring self-governance through traditional gram sabhas for people living in the Scheduled Areas of India as per Schedule V of the Constitution.
In his letter, Vasava has said, “The gram sabhas are coming up in your respective villages between December 28 to February 6… The grave issue facing us as of now is the inclusion of the villages in the eco-sensitive zone. You must remember that the government has granted you the rights to protect your properties, jungles and other possessions as indigenous communities under Schedule V of the Constitution as well as the special PESA Act. The state government, by the way of the central government notification to include the area under the eco-sensitive zone, is trying to establish its title on your lands. I trust that you will use the power that the PESA Act gives you to pass resolutions in your respective villages by taking into confidence the villagers to oppose this government move.”
Vasava’s letter comes a day after BJP MP from Bharuch, Mansukh Vasava, also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking revocation of the notification and “releasing” Narmada district from the eco-sensitive zone. The area has seen protests from villagers since the district administration began sending notices to the gram panchayats for the implementation of the notification, which involves the inclusion of the state government as a co-owner of the village lands on revenue records.
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