Dalit youth leader and independent MLA from Vadgam constituency, Jignesh Mevani, on Tuesday called the proposed The Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Bill “anti-tribal” and burned its copy outside the Assembly complex. The state government is likely to table the Bill in the Gujarat Assembly Wednesday.
“Had I been inside the Assembly, I would have torn this Bill. But since I am not there, I am burning this Bill here and expressing my opposition to it,” he said.
Mevani was expelled from the Assembly for the entire three-day session on Monday for “indiscipline” and “disrespecting” the Chair after he, despite warning from the Speaker, told the treasury benches, “you all believe in Manusmriti (an ancient Hindu religious legal text), not the Constitution”.
“On the pretext of Statue of Unity of Sardar Patel, constructed in Kevadiya against wishes of tribals living in the area, the government plans to snatch land and displace tribals from 70 more villages there against provisions of Schedule 5 of the Constitution,” Mevani said and called upon 27 tribal MLAs and 13 Dalit MLAs in the Assembly to join him in opposing the Bill.
He added that the “constitutional rights of tribals are being violated” in Gujarat. He also alleged that the Statue of Unity (SoU) has been built at the site in Kevadiya of Narmada district against the wishes of the tribals and now the government is planning to take away the land of tribals of 70 villages nearby.
The Bill “provides for development of the area and management of tourism in and around the Statue of Unity at Kevadiya by providing necessary infrastructure through effective planning and administration”.
“With ever increasing number of tourists from all over the country and abroad, the state government has felt an imminent need for developing the area,” the government said while explaining the objective of forming a “Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Authority”.
In reply to a starred question by Congress MLA Chandrika Bariya, the government said that a total 29.38 lakh tourists have visited SoU between November 1, 2018 and November 16, 2019. And this has resulted in the state government earning Rs 82.51 crore, the reply added.
In the past one year, the Gujarat government brought 114 animals from various states and countries to set up a Jungle Safari near the Statue of Unity at the cost of Rs 2.64 crore. Forest Minister provided this information while replying to a question raised by Congress MLA from Dhari constituency, JV Kakadiya.
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