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Another anti-NGO clampdown?: Gujarat civil society loses control over Mehdi Nawaz Jung Hall, premises

Nawab Mehdi Navaz Jung
By Our Representative
Gujarat's civil society has strongly protested against the latest Raj Bhawan move to hand over the management of the Mehdi Navaz Jung Hall and the premises in which it is situated, Himavan, Ahmedabad, to the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Till now, the complex was being managed by the Raj Bhawan through state NGOs. Born of a noble family of Ahmedabad district, Mehdi Navaz Jung was the governor of Gujarat after the state was born in 1960.
While no reason has been forwarded for the sudden move, the decision is suspected to have been taken as part of the Government of India and Gujarat government move to ""clampdown" on NGOs, who were utilizing the Himavan Campus for anti-Narendra Modi meetings.
Recently, the campus was being managed, through the governor, by People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) general secretary Gautam Thaker, among others. A few of the meetings at the campus were held in favour of well-known human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, pitted against Modi in the 2002 communal riots cases. The meetings were held to protest "harassment" meted out to her by the state government for her strong involved with riots victims.
Wondering what was the need to "hand it over to politicians", a joint statement by about a dozen senior activists said, the Himavan Campus was set up with the "lofty and noble aim of providing support to voluntary organizations to expand scope of philanthropic and welfare-oriented services by Mehdi Navaz Jung by setting up a social welfare fund."
"Hiraben Manilal Vadilal Nanavaty donated the spacious bungalow known as Diamond Villa in a centrally situated posh locality", the statement said, adding, "The Himavan Campus consisted of three structures, including a well-equipped Mahdi Navaz Jung Hall", and there was a Trust Deed where it was "clearly stated that entire premises shall be utilized for sustenance and spread of social welfare related activities being rendered by NGOs."
The activists said, "Any move to hand over administration to the AMC will defeat the noble and lofty purposes with which the Social Welfare Fund was set up, looking at the poor and pitiable track record of the AMC administration in the upkeep and maintenance of existing halls, such as the Town Hall, the Tagore Hall, the Ambedkar Hall and host of community halls situated in various wards of the city."
Pointing out that AMC managed halls are "in pitiable and worst condition due to poor administration and maintenance", the activists asked, "Why should the Himavan Campus be handed over to the AMC, which is run by political parties? Management of the hall should rest with your office for better administration for public good."
The statement said, "For past many years, your office has been successfully, satisfactorily and smoothly managing affairs of this Mehdi Navaz Jung Hall without any cause of concern or complaint from any quarters. We, therefore, fervently appeal to review and reconsider your proposition of handing over administration of the Himavan Campus to the AMC, as we fear that it will meet the same fate as that of other halls with deteriorating quality standards".
The signatories include well-known Gujarati critic Prakash N Shah, Rajni Dave of the Gujarat Sarvoday Mandal, Dwarikanath Rath of Movement for Social Democracy, Mahesh Pandya of Gujarat Social Watch, Father Cadrik Prakash of Prashant, Harinesh Pandya and Pankti Jog of Janpath, and a others.

Comments

Kumar Prashant said…
An aptly worded and well timed statement ! But it should not be left to the entire discretion of the governor. We all know how these governors are selected ! Mostly, they are self-seekers and partisan people with very little concern for the society and people. We should mount pressure by daily statements, protests and initiatives and see to it that it gathers momentum.

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