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In a first, ex-BJP CM brings 'warring' Congress, AAP Gujarat Adivasi leaders on one platform

Counterview Desk 

In an interesting development, former Gujarat BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta brought together Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) tribal leaders of the eastern tribal belt on one platform to claim that under the BJP rule in the state Adivasis are being pushed to the margins because of large scale siphoning off of funds meant for the scheduled tribes, comprising nearly 17% of the state population.
Addressing media together for the first time, the tribal leaders of the two parties – political rivals till now -- particularly insisted that efforts are being made to silence those who are seeking to expose the Government claims of development in the eastern tribal belt.
Speaking to media, speakers of both the parties especially referred to the case of Dediapada MLA Chaitar Vasava, against whom “false cases” have been instituted to pressure him to leave AAP and join BJP. While Vasava’s wife is in jail, he has gone underground to evade arrest.
In a note distributed to media, two of the leaders, Dr Arjun Rathwa of the Congress and Dr Dayaram Vasava of the AAP, using Mehta’s new civil society platform Jan Abhiyan Badle Gujarat, said, under the Gujarat government the official policy is “to displace, dispossess, disemploy and dehumanise Adivasis”.

Text:

The Gujarat government is best known for investing all its energies on propaganda and PR making bogus claims rather than tackling basic problems affecting people’s lives, on diverting attention instead of resolving burning issues. It has mastered the sinister art of harassing, foisting false cases on anybody asking questions – whether they’re opposition leaders, civil society members or common citizens.
It has tried to destroy the democratic values and principles enshrined in our Constitution. Print and electronic media have not only been a mute spectator, but has actively been a drum-beater for this dispensation. Adivasi areas are especially under the concerted assault of this dispensation, and that assault is multifarious.
The big claim is ‘corruption has been rooted out’. The reality is that scams of the worst kind pervade this administration. Cash has been unearthed in Sachivalaya drawers! Individuals have gone around posing as PMO official, Government officials going around with Z+ security etc.

Large scale corruption

Fake government offices siphoning off development funds allocated through the Gujarat Land Development Corporation (GLDC), a cent per cent government undertaking, in Adivasi areas have been discovered in Chhotaudepur and Dahod districts, defrauding the exchequer of tens of crores. Could all this be possible without connivance and protection from the top echelons of power?
After a huge unaccounted cash was discovered in the GLDC office, the government announced in 2018 that the GLDC was being shut down. Not only does GLDC continue to operate with impunity, to rub salt on the Adivasi wounds, many watershed, soil and water conservation and other schemes operating under it -- ostensibly for Adivasi areas -- have been discontinued. RTI replies have shown that at least 11 such GLDC schemes have been closed.
While a few schemes are arbitrarily being shut down non-implementation seems to be the norm. For instance MGNREGA that promised 100 days’ work on demand, the actual implementation has been abysmal. In many Adivasi districts (on an average) no more than 40-45 days' work has been given. A recent report exposed the fact that wages in Gujarat were among the lowest.
Similarly, implementation of the Forest Rights Act has been pathetic nearly two decades after the law was passed. No more 50% of the individual forest rights claims have been granted. This is in gross violation of even High Court orders. In Dahod district, particularly, only around 15% of the claims have granted.

Land acquisition

Contrary to all the lip-service to Adivasi development, the Adivasis are the worst sufferers of wanton land acquisition and loss of life and livelihood resources, sometimes to promote tourism -- close to 5-7,000 people may be threatened by the Statue of Unity and connected projects in the Kevadia area.
As if this was not enough, the Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Act was passed effectively doing away with PESA provisions. Then the Government brought 121 villages under eco-sensitive zone, riding roughshod over the rights of local Adivasis. Now, the Government wants to develop a tourism corridor from Kevadia to the Dangs. Is it official policy to displace, dispossess, disemploy and dehumanise Adivasis?
Chaitar Vasava
As if this were not enough the Bharatmala project runs through the eastern Tribal belt leading to thousands of Adivasi land owners losing their lands in Dahod, Chhotaudepur, Narmada, Bharuch, Surat, Tapi, Navsari and Valsad districts. All this in the name of infrastructure development! 
Those in power are known to have explicitly stated that infrastructure projects through Adivasi areas are advantageous because compensation is meagre! While per square metre compensation for the Vadodara-Mumbai expressway was in Rs 1000/sq m, compensation in Dahod area is Rs 170/sq m. So much for Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.
While accepted norms require that at least 15% of the total State Budget be allocated to Adivasi areas, it seems to be observed more in its violation. Funds allocated for Tribal welfare are diverted and misapplied with impunity.

Use of force against Adivasi farmers

The sordid tale of injustice to the 1 crore Adivasis does not end at corruption, non-implementation, misapplication of resources etc. They are under direct assault from the Forest and other departments. The trumped up FIR against the popular Dediapada MLA, Chaitar Vasava, in just one more instance in this saga. And, whatever be the allegations against Vasava, why is his wife Shakuntalaben still in jail? When did being somebody’s wife become a crime?
It is absolutely clear that Vasava is latest in the long list opposition politicians being targeted across the country.

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