Seeking the tribal vote
Tribal activist Ganesh Devy, who runs the Tribal Academy at Tejgadh, says a lot more needs to be done. "Government expenditure on tribal development has been massive, but development efforts lack focus, and expenditure alone is not the yardstick of development." Devy said. "Migration of tribals as construction labourers to bigger cities has not gone down. Public transportation in tribal regions remains poor as ever. Not a single railway line has come up joining tribal regions in the state in the last one decade. Despite constituting 14 per cent of the population, tribals hardly account for 1 per cent of faculty in Gujarat's universities," Devy added.
The Congress, wary of the BJP's efforts, has been attacking the government for alleged lapses in allocation of funds meant for tribals and for failing to implement various Central and state schemes in tribal regions, a key one being the Forest Rights Act.
"Of 1.9 lakh claims to benefits under the Act within my constituency, 1,900 have been settled so far; the applications of all other claimants were rejected by state government officials," said Amarsinh Vasava, Congress MLA from ST-reserved Dediapada constituency in Narmada district.
Opposition leaders have attacked the BJP for failing to implement schemes, including MNREGA and Indira Awas Yojana, in tribal regions. "The state government has not provided us funds that we have been demanding under various schemes for development of my constituency," said Chhotu Vasava, JD(U) MLA from Jhagadia in Bharuch. "We have asked for funds to construct bridges, irrigation facilities, houses, but got none."
The BJP MLA from ST-reserved Sankheda constituency, Abhesinh Tadvi, sought to highlight how much the government has done for such areas. "In these five years, the state government granted us Rs 70-80 crore to set up bridges and water supply facilities," Tadvi said.
The Congress says there may be many schemes for tribals, but attacks the government over their implementation. In a 12-point manifesto, the Congress has emphasised that it "will make sure proper constitutional allotment of budget for tribals...Tribal budget will never be allowed to lapse or be diverted".