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Using Statue of Unity "appeal": Top academic proposes to involve tribals, Amul


Counterview Desk
At a time when controversy around the Statue of Unity is running high, Prof Anil Gupta, visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), has insisted that there is an urgent need to turn the Statue, which is supposed to be a “tribute” to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, into an opportunity for the Adivasis living in the region. Built in the downstream of the Narmada river, the statue, which is one-and-a-times higher than one of the tallest dams of the world, Sardar Sarovar, can be help not just ignite values of unity, diversity, integrity, but also development of the region, he argues.
Writing on his Facebook wall, Prof Gupta, who is known for his Honey Bee Network, which seeks to propagate and provide pride of place to the traditional knowledge holders and grassroots innovators, believes that the Amul milk cooperative union, operating from Central Gujarat, can play a crucial role in this, thus “sustaining Sardar’s legacy”.

Prof Gupta’s proposal:

There has been a lot of controversy on the Statue of Unity and tribal rights. I want to put forward proposals which can use the statue’s appeal to attract tourists to expand opportunities for tribal development in an unprecedented manner. Whether state and civil society will work together with local tribal communities to make this dream come true or not, time will tell. But let me still propose these ways of pursuing ideals for which Sardar Patel was always known for. Sustaining Sardar’s legacy will require a bias for urgent action.
First time when Sardar was elected to the sanitation committee of Ahmedabad municipality, he used to joke about the Gandhian approach and its ability to bring about change in the governance of India. But after Champaran Satyagrah, Sardar was deeply influenced by the bias of Gandhi for action and resolute action. When Kheda faced a crisis of disease and other stresses, Patel led the movement to bring order and succor. He is highly respected by civil service for the way in which he wanted them to work for the development of India with integrity, unity and maintaining diversity.
Can we bring about the same bias for action in dealing with the opportunities generated by the Statue of Unity? It was reported recently that, on weekend, more than 27,000 people visited the statue to pay their homage to the great son of India.
Can these visitors create opportunities for the tribal by just spending their money judiciously and he government facilitating the process? Amul dairy is owned by farmers but run so ably by the dedicated managers with great integrity and service orientation.
Can we ask Amul to organize the tribals around the statue in say 100-200 villages to begin with and later up to 1,000 villages at least? All the vending, services, food joints, craft goods, organic food, forest produce, value-added products based on minor- forest products etc., will be owned by tribals and only tribals.
Bandh in tribal area when Statue of Unity was inaugurated on Oct 31
 There will also be stay homes and trekking routes for those who wish to stay longer, understand local socio-ecological and cultural systems and contribute thus to their own learning but also to the local economy. Cooperatives of tribal will own the structures, shops, services, and entire system of management.
Amul will guide them, build their capacity and other NGOs like Gujarat Grassroots Innovations Argumentation Networks (GIAN), Gandhi Ashram, Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), etc., will work together with Gujarat government, tribal, tourism, culture, forest, food, agriculture, Industry and other related departments to create an agro-industrial revolution in the region. Goal is to remove complete poverty in five years through mobilization of tourism and other related interventions around the Statue of Unity.
Can we transform the region and its destiny through this statue? Will we be forgiven if we did not do it? Will we fail in respecting the spirit of Sardar who united the whole country, gave us the civil service structure and practiced extreme frugality. His children or grandchildren did not benefit from any thing he did. Can we rise to the occasion and the speed with which we built the magnificent statue, we can build the road to prosperity for lakhs of tribals in the region.

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