While the BJP government in the state and the Centre are leaving no stone unturned to unveil the gigantic statue of unity of the ‘Iron man of India’ Sardar Patel on 31st October with much fanfare and publicity. There are some people who feel the exercise will destroy the state’s natural resources for good .
According to a report by news agency PTI, the headmen of 22 villages situated near the Sardar Sarovar Dam in an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi stating that villagers would not welcome him at the inauguration of the Statue of Unity on October 31.
Local tribal leaders have also announced a boycott of the function citing destruction of natural resources due to the memorial.
The Statue of Unity, a memorial to Sardar Patel, is situated on an islet and, at 182 metres, is touted as the world’s tallest statue.
“These forests, rivers, waterfalls, land and agriculture supported us for generations. We survived on them. But, everything is being destroyed now and celebrations are also planned. Don’t you think its akin to celebrating someone’s death? We feel so,” the letter, having common content and signed by sarpanchas of 22 villages, stated.
“We all villagers want to tell you with extreme grief that we will not welcome you on October 31. Even if you come here like an unwanted guest, you are not welcome here,” it added.
They alleged that people’s hard-earned money is being wasted on projects like Statue of Unity though several villages of the area are still deprived of basic facilities like schools, hospitals and drinking water.
“If Sardar Patel could see the mass destruction of natural resources and injustice done to us, he would cry. When we are raising our issues, we are persecuted by police. Why you are not ready to listen to our plight?” the letter said.
Earlier this month, tribal activists had announced that people living in 72 villages near the dam will join the protest on October 31 by not cooking food.