Tuesday, 18 June 2019

‘Statue of Unity’ illegal, meant for publicity: Former Gujarat Chief Minister Suresh Mehta

Sardar Patel

Mehta alleged that the BJP government in Gujarat went ahead with the construction of the statue despite local tribals registering their protest when the project was first conceptualised some years ago.

Ahmedabad, Oct. 19, 2018: Former Gujarat Chief Minister Suresh Mehta Friday claimed that the “Statue of Unity”, a memorial dedicated to Sardar Patel, is “illegal” and has been built by the BJP to garner votes.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to unveil the 182-metre statue, touted as the world’s highest, in Kevadiya in Narmada district on October 31.

Mehta alleged that the BJP government in Gujarat went ahead with the construction of the statue despite local tribals registering their protest when the project was first conceptualised some years ago.

Mehta, along with several project affected tribals, Friday held a press conference here.

He announced that over 5,000 tribals living in the vicinity of the memorial will observe a fast on October 31.

Mehta claimed that the state government violated the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act of 1996, which empowers local residents to take decisions through “gram sabhas”.

“Under the PESA Act, decisions taken by gram sabhas are final and binding. But, when tribals of that area, through gram sabhas, raised objections against the project, the state government did not listen. This is a violation of the Act” Mehta told reporters.

“This project is also illegal because the government did not conduct any environmental impact assessment. It is only meant for publicity. It is a politically-motivated project keeping in mind the 2019 elections” said Mehta.

He added that budget meant for the maintenance of Narmada canals was diverted for this project.

“Land of six villages were first acquired by the government in the 1960s for the main dam project. We have not received any compensation for that till date. Now, that land is being used for the statue project. We want the government to compensate us before unveiling the statue” said Shailesh Tadvi, a tribal from Vagadiya village.

Another tribal, Arvind Tadvi, claimed that though water of the Narmada has reached Kutch through canals, around 28 villages near the dam are yet to get water.

According to tribal activist Lakhan Musafir, people living in 72 villages near the dam will observe fast on October 31 as a mark of protest.

“We have also urged tribals of the eastern belt of Gujarat, from Dang till Ambaji, to join our protest,” said Musafir.

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