Lone JD(U) MLA a champion of tribal rights
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'Neither the BJP nor the Congress had the will to implement constitutional provisions to safeguard the properties of tribals. I took up the issue of an autonomous council for tribal areas with Ahmed Patel but nothing happened... There is no tribal university, tribal areas have fewer science schools compared to other areas'
Chhotubhai Vasava, state president of the Janata Dal (United), is his party's only sitting MLA and is defending his seat, Jhagadia, on the banks of the Narmada in Bharuch district.
Vasava demands an autonomous council for tribal pockets spread over 12 districts along the eastern belt of the state, known as "poorvi patti", on the pattern of such councils existing in Assam. His party has fielded 28 tribal candidates. Vasava will raise this issue in his campaign, he tells The Indian Express.
He says tribals account for about 14 per cent of the population of the state and have a decisive role in the poll outcome in 35 constituencies with their shares ranging from 15 to 50 per cent. Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Panchmahals, Dahod, Vadodara, Narmada, Bharuch, Tapi, Dangs, Surat, Navsari and Valsad are among the districts with significant tribal population.
He says there are enough provisions in the Constitution's fifth and sixth schedules to safeguard tribal properties and allow tribals self-administration of pockets they inhabit. "Neither the BJP nor the Congress had the will to implement these constitutional provisions to safeguard the properties of tribals. I took up the issue of an autonomous council for tribal areas with Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel but nothing happened," says Vasava, 68, who has represented Jhagadia in terms beginning 1990, 1995, 1998, 2002 and 2007.
"There is no tribal university, tribal areas have fewer science schools compared to other areas, health facilities exist in name only, roads don't exist," says Vasava. He had started out as a "talati" in 1982, leading a struggle that helped tribals get their land back from local Rajputs and Patels in Rajpipla, Bharuch.