While Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing the Adijati Sammelan in Dahod of Gujarat last Wednesday talked about the Rs 20,000 crore electric locomotive workshop project which he said would generate employment for approximately 10,000 people, the large tribal audience cheered and applauded.
For many of the youths at the rally, the Prime Minister’s announcement of the locomotive upgrade project in the tribally dominated Dahod district was a beacon of hope. The district is witnessing large scale migration of its workforce, the highest in Gujarat, due to lack of job opportunities, with more than one lakh people migrating from the district every year to job search.
Kishan Damor, a 24-year-old tribal man, said, “Modiji made a huge announcement that young people from the tribe will be employed here. We know that with the installation of the Statue of Unity (SoU) in Kevadia, deserving tribal youths have been able to earn a living. As older men in his group looked at him skeptically, Damor said, “There are always people who don’t make it, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of the project opening up to those who qualify… Not everyone needs to become an engineer to find a job there, look what tourism has done to Kevadia. Dahod has always been known for its railway workshop.
Another local, Rajesh Bhabhor, said, “If big projects are set up in Dahod, it will create more indirect jobs for other jobs that are not necessarily related to engineering… The setting up of he Indian Railways project will open up so many possibilities for our children in the years to come… What SoU did for Narmada, the revival of the railway workshop will do for Dahod. At least the next generation can hope to break the cycle of migrant workers, as this will also motivate them to study.
Dahod also saw the highest number of MGNREGA jobs during the Covid pandemic, recording 2.7 lakh one-day jobs in June 2021. Prime Minister Modi referred to migrant workers who returned to the district during covid lockdown with no job or income. “I stayed awake to make sure the stove for the poor kept burning while Dahod people who went to the cities to work returned home when everything was closed. We created a world record by providing grain free food to 80 million people over the past two years,” he said.
Another major concern of the belt’s tribal inhabitants has been water scarcity. The Prime Minister also inaugurated the Southern Dahod District Regional Water Supply Scheme worth Rs 893 crore which is envisaged to bring water from Narmada River via Hafeshwar in Kawant taluka of Chhota district Udepur to Dahod.
A group of women from the Taluka villages of Dhanpur could barely conceal their excitement at the prospect of having tap water in their homes. Dholki Damor, a 28-year-old mother of five, said: “Our house would have running water thanks to this project. When the project was announced in 2016, I had been married for three years and pregnant with my second child, and fetching water was a tedious process… It had been a dream for many years d have tap water.
As many as 285 villages and one town in South Dahod as well as 85 villages and one town in Chhota Udepur district would benefit from the water supply project involving a 1,550 km long pipeline. Many of these villages, which had depended on groundwater depletion for years, got their water from tankers during the summer months.
There were also dissenting voices during the Prime Minister’s tribal rally for which about 2 lakh people were transported from five districts – Dahod, Mahisagar, Vadodara, Chhota Udepur and Panchmahal – to his venue for which a 17.98 lakh dome square feet, “the largest in Asia”, was settled. The five districts account for a total of 26 seats in the Assembly, including 10 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs), of which the ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress currently have five each.
The BJP hopes Modi’s Dahod rally will boost the party’s prospects in the tribal belts ahead of state assembly elections later this year. The Congress is also seeking to galvanize its tribal units by launching a mega Adivasi Adhikar rally on May Day, which Rahul Gandhi is likely to attend.
In his speech, the Prime Minister, while reiterating that he had spent a lot of time as a BJP worker in Dahod, said, “At the beginning of my public life, my area of operation was the whole tribal area of eastern Gujarat, from Ambaji to Umargam. . Staying within the tribal community…and understanding them was part of my early years of life. These tribal mothers, sisters and brothers have guided me, taught me a lot and today I am motivated to do something for you because of it.
Like most women from her village of Gutardi, located in Savli taluka of Vadodara district, Leena Vasava came to the rally accompanied by her husband. She said: “Our husbands told us to get dressed and come… We don’t know what important issues they are going to talk about but my husband knows everything… I am not literate but I know there is a water crisis in the summer, the cost of a meal has increased considerably, and our children are not able to cope with the reopening of schools after the Covid… there have been losses.
Further to the rally venue, Ratan Baria, a 25-year-old driver from Chhota Udepur, said: “We know that Modiji will come here and tell us about the different programs available for tribals, but our district is suffering badly from health services. . We don’t have doctors, hospitals and blood banks… we can only try to save lives by rushing to Vadodara, which can be 150 km from remote villages in an emergency. Why is health care in tribal areas so neglected? »
Another Kawant taluka tribal group from Chhota Udepur district, which is behind the water supply project, mentioned the water crisis in the remote areas of the district. One of the men asked, “Summer has come and all the villages in the district have started digging wells again in search of water… The government wanted to complete the Par-Tapi-Narmada link project and promised that ‘he would bring water from Narmada to Chhota Udepur but the project has been put on hold and so have our hopes…Even if it is completed, the tribals of another place will be lost…But how many years