Skip to main content

South Gujarat tribal rebellion spreads, villagers protest move to declare Soolpaneshwar sactuary eco-sensitive

By Ashok Shrimali*
A fresh tribal rebellion is brewing in South Gujarat. As many as 6,000 adivasis of 121 villages in and around Soolpaneshwar wildlife sanctuary, situated just next to the controversial Narmada dam, have gone on warpath. They are protesting against the Government of India’s decision to declare the entire sanctuary and the area next to it – about seven kilometers radius surrounding it – as “eco-sensitive zone.”
Following a powerful rally, organized by Adivasi Ekta Parishad, headed by tribal leader Ashok Choudhury, in which  people of 121 villages, as other villagers of Dediapada and Sagbara talukas participated, a memorandum submitted to the local authorities said they have “not been consulted” before declaring the area as eco-sensitive zone. The memorandum has been addressed to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
The fresh protest is in addition to at least three other anti-government movements going on with tribal participation in South Gujarat. People of more than sixty villages around the Narmada dam have been raising their against the decision of the government to develop the Kevadia colony – where the dam is situated – as a tourism spot, next to the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's 182-metre statue, which is under construction.
According to the tribals around the Narmada dam, if the tourism project is implemented, they would lose their precious agricultural land. In fact, according to them, the land where the Kevadia colony housing government engineers and other staff for building the dam hase already been vacated as officials have been shifted, and the tribals want it back.
Not very far away, the Adivasi Kisan Sangharsh Morcha (AKSM), an upcoming tribal farmers’ organization under the leadership of Romel Sutariya, has been demanding action against the sand mafia in the riverbed off Chhotaudepur township. AKSM’s radical postures led the state government to brand Sutariya’s organization “Naxalite”, even impose prohibitory orders by citing the danger of terrorist activities, which it had to regret later.
The representation by Soolpaneshwar sanctuary villagers says that the notification for hearing on the area declaring it and seven kilometers radius around it as eco-sensitive zone was “never never made available” to them published in Gujarati, and they had to "obtain" a Hindi version on their own. “This type of indifference is shocking”, they insist.
Further, the representation says, the decision to declare it an eco-sensitive zone has been taken at a time when the villagers are being enrolled for handing over land they had been cultivating for several decades under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. “The decision clearly violates the FRA, 2006, which clearly states that the gram sabhas have the right to decide about the future of the forests”, the representation says.
The representation further says that, even for declaring an eco-sensitive zone, there has to be an official procedure, “which has not been followed.” A high-level committee would need to be formed, consisting of the chief wildlife warden of the Gujarat government, a wildlife expert, a senior official of the state revenue department, and a senior panchayats representative for finding out pros and cons.
“However, this has not been done”, the representation points out, wondering how could the area be declared eco-sensitive without this process being completed or taken the view of the villagers. “We firmly oppose the Government of India move, and want the decision to be immediately taken back”, it adds.
“Instead of declaring it an eco-sensitive zone, it would be better if the government concentrates on providing basic infrastructure such as roads, water, medicine and electricity, which is not there in many of the villages”, the representation says, adding, “Villagers have to walk from five to 10 kilometres to access transportation even today.”
---
*Senior activist, Gujarat 

Comments

TRENDING

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.

Untold story of Jammu: Business 'down', students fear lynching, teachers can't speak

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report, seeking to debunk the view that people in Jammu, the second biggest city of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) after Srinagar, people had gone “out celebrating” abrogation of Article 370 which took away the state’s special status, has reported what it calls “abominably high levels of fear” across all sections in the town.

Kashmiris in a civil disobedience mode, are going against 'diktat' to open shops

Counterview Desk
A team of concerned citizens, including Ludhiana-based psychiatrist and writer Anirudh Kala, Mumbai-based activist and public health professional Brinelle Dsouza, Delhi-based journalist and writer Revati Laul, and social activist Shabnam Hashmi, travelled to Kashmir and Jammu to understand the impact of the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent security clampdown and communication blockade on the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…

Success of 'political' Hinduism: Kashmiris being depicted as antagonists of rest of India

By Anand K Sahay*
There are times in history when facts call attention to themselves; they assert their independence in all its amplitude and are in no need of the crutch of interpretation. Such a moment is visible in Kashmir now. Merely by being on the table, the facts there taunt the regime’s proclamations.