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Many forced to vacate land for Statue of Unity project; Is commemorating Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel by evicting Adivasis justified?

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By Ishan Kukreti

Words like ‘development’ and ‘progress’ go hand in hand with democracy. Geared towards improving the lives of people, development projects are the torchbearers of everything that modern society stands for.

Yet, on closer inspection, nothing can be more un-democratic than what goes in the making of these projects. In the past 50 years, more than 50 million people have been displaced for ‘national interest’, according to a Planning Commission report. Tribals or adivasis, who are a mere 8 per cent of India’s population account for more than 40 per cent of the displaced communities, while Dalits make up the other big chunk of 20 per cent.

The absurd phenomenon of multiple displacement and how it has rendered people homeless over and over again, raises some serious questions. People from Singrauli have faced eviction five times to make way for Rihand dam.

All these facts state the obvious question that whether people have any say in the process of development? At the end of the day who will benefit from the growth and who will have to pay for it?

Unity Project – for the sake of the tourists

The Unity Project in Gujarat, however takes the whole thing to a new dimension. The Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) created for the implementation of the tourism development plan for the Unity Project will affect around 70 villages in the region. The project includes building a 182 feet tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel along with a 13 Km lake.

Tourism is not a development activity, not in the same way a power plant is. Still, the government is ready to boot people out of their homes for the sake of someone else’s leisure activity. People living for generations on that land have to move out so that some work exhausted urban working couple can come there and relax their bones. The callousness of the government is all too palpable even on the surface.

The region is a tribal agricultural land area. Although there is a provision in the law of safeguarding tribal interests by prohibiting sale of tribal agricultural land to non tribals, but KADA can declare the land non-agricultural, thereby making the transfer smooth.

Moreover the project was approved without obtaining the permission under the Environment Impact Assessment Notification. A group of activists from Gujarat have filed a petition regarding the same with the National Green Tribunal.

Time to relocate?

However, the government is not deterred by any challenge.

For many who are currently residents of the area, eviction seems inevitable. An area of 20 acres has been cordoned off since March, 2015. It is the site for Shreshtha Bharat Bhavan, a complex which will include hotels. The irony of the situation is that the site which will make many homeless, will provide lodging facilities for tourists.

The government is cold and clear about its intentions. People protesting the land acquisition have to face the rough side of law, if it can get anymore rough. The day the foundation stone of the site was laid, Sanjay Tadvi, a farmer from the region and an active protester was locked up for a day without any charges.

Although the government has promised providing land to the displaced, no progress has been made in thist. Plus, the administration will only provide for the loss of agricultural land. For many who earn their livelihood mainly through non agriculture activities, the project is nothing but a mechanism to force them into extreme poverty.

Postscript

The area is prone to high seismic activities and might not be safe for the construction of
large 182 feet structures. Thus, the only thing that can help Narmada district residents win their rights from the Unity Project is the National Green Tribunal.
But whether they win or lose their rights, by taking such a step the government has undoubtedly failed its people.

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3 Best Travel Experiences in India You Should Not Miss

India is steeped in culture and history.

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Beaches in India. Pixabay

About 60% of polled vacationers rate travel experiences as more important than material possessions. Curated experiences rank high on the list of voyagers this year and in 2019, the trend is expected to continue according to an independent survey commissioned by Booking.com. If you are planning a trip to India, there are several experiences that you should not miss from checking in at a luxurious royal hotel and estate tea visits to temple tours and mountain sun rise excursions.

Arrange a Yoga Retreat

The country is a dream destination for yogis with many places to choose from. A yoga retreat might just be what you need to relax and discover your inner self. A relaxing vacation is not only rejuvenating but also offers a glimpse of a different lifestyle.

 

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In order to comprehend better, the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation. Pixabay

While the practice of yoga in the West focuses on physical postures and sequences, a yoga retreat in India offers benefits by emphasizing breathing, meditation and cleansing. In addition, you’ll be exposed to devotional practices such as chanting and karma yoga. A typical retreat consists of an inclusive stay at specialist accommodation such as a hotel, yoga camp or school but if you want to save on accommodation costs, you can just drop in daily or sign-up for shorter courses.

 

Go on a Tour of the River Ganges

To continue your spiritual journey, organize a tour of the Ganges, the third largest river that flows through the country. Named after the Hindu goddess, Ganga, it is one of the most sacred places in India with religious festivities and burial rites taking place at the river’s banks. Pilgrims come from far to cleanse themselves with the holy water in the Ganges.

 

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River Ganga is one of the holiest rivers in India. Pixabay

 

The river starts at the Himalayas and drains into the Bay of Bengal. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Ganges River while on a cruise. If you have the opportunity, sign-up for a walking tour along the Ganges in Varanasi.

Get Up Close with Hindu Gods

With over 2 million Hindu temples in India, deciding where to go might prove difficult. But if you want to cover the most temples during your visit, head to the state of Tamil Nadu. It is not for nothing that it is known as the ‘Land of the Temples’ boasting of almost 33,000 ancient places of worship. In total, there are 38,615 temples according to the Tamil Nadu Hindu Endowments Board.

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Most of the temples situated in Tamil Nadu were built during the historic and medieval period

Marvel at the Brihadishvara Temple dedicated to the Lord Shiva. It is one of the largest South Indian temples and features exceptional architecture. Don’t forget the Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai decked with thousands of colorful figures of gods, animals and demons.

Also Read: Best Casinos in India

India is steeped in culture and history. With so many things to offer its visitors, you’ll have plenty of choices when it comes to unique travel experiences that cater to your senses and personal preferences.