Monday, September 30, 2013

Fifty-two villages around Kevadia colony off Narmada threatened: Give away land for tourism or face action

A replica: Urbanising Kevadia?
By Our Representative
In a clear example of how area development authorities, notified by the Gujarat government, behave vis-à-vis local villagers, a letter written by the chief executive officer, Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) has threatened the sarpanches of 52 villages adjoining the Narmada dam that they had better agree to hand over their villages for tourism purpose or else they would face dire consequences. The four-line letter was sent to the village sarpanches on March 6, 2013, but strangely it never became an issue till now, when the threat of their eviction from their land became even more apparent.
Addressed to each of the sarpanches of 52 villages and talatis – lowest level revenue officials – the letter, written under the heading “Regarding the decision to include your villages under KADA”, threateningly states that the government has decided to development oriented work in these villages, “even then you have not passed resolutions on your letterheads agreeing to be included under KADA.”
Calling this behaviour of the 52 village panchayats “improper”, the KADA letter says, “You are requested to send your approval for the use of your villages for developmental purpose within seven days. In case you fail to do it, then – keeping that in view – we will be forced to take further steps against you.” Significantly, KADA comes directly under the Gujarat urban development department and has been given the task of “developing” the area around the Kevadia colony – where the Narmada dam is situated – into a tourism spot, complete with all types of entertainment facilities, hotels and sports.
At least six villages which are likely to be affected the most because of the KADA move – Indravarna, Nana Pipariya, Mota Pipariya, Vasantpura, Mathavadi and Umarava – have reportedly staged their protest against for “forcible” manner in which the villagers’ land is sought to be placed “development” of tourism as part of the urbanization process. “They have been moving around with mikes in their hands mobilizing people of nearby villages to wake up the danger”, says Rohit Prajapati of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti in a statement.
Sardar statue: A replica
The six villages, which were the first to hand over the land to build the Narmada dam, have even decades later not been considered “equal” to other project affected persons (PAPs), thus remaining deprived of all the facilities which other PAPs of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have enjoyed. In fact, according to these villagers, they cannot even access Narmada water for irrigation, and there have been cases when they were penalized for it. Worse, the view is gaining ground among them that water is being for urban and industrial use.
The view is also gaining strong among the villagers that all this is being done at a time when the Gujarat government has decided to build the highest statue of the world in the memory of Sardar Patel by spending Rs 2,500 crore near Narmada dam, around which KADA’s tourism will be developed. Already, 16 villages have been brought under KADA, while the plan is to take the number to 70. A padyatra organised in the KADA area starting with September 28 to highlight the villagers’ plight had to postponed due to heavy rains. Now, the villagers have decided to stage their first protest at Indravarna village on October 2.

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