(Inauguration of the Panchayat at Dahod district, Dhanpura Taluka. June 6, 2003)
The Dahod district of Gujarat state is primarily inhabited by tribals belonging to the Bakshi Panch. This area is not unknown to me as I have spent my youth touring through it by bus, scooter and motor-bike. Hence, I know about the problems of this area. It is our endeavour to bring happiness to the people in the lowest strata of the society. With this aim in mind, the State Government has created a stream of progress plans. The discussions for the development of tribals and the plans for their upliftment have been ongoing for decades. Even in the past huge amounts of money have been spent on such development projects for tribals. I am not a fool to claim that my predecessors have not made plans for development or spent money for the tribals. However, the difference is the priority of plans.
In the past, assistance was available for the development of tribals from the government and grand programmes were held for the same. The government would give a loan for buying five hens, which would help a tribal to sell eggs and earn his livelihood. Rosy pictures of a happy life were shown to the tribals and many tempting words were spoken. However, most of the time, a tribal would take home five hens and end up killing two the same evening to feed his guests and still spend his life repaying the loan. I feel that this was a misuse of money. Why should the tribals spend their lives raising hens and cooking them? If we are determined to provide financial assistance to Them, why not for a tractor or for higher education? Our government has sent the children of tribals to Canada for higher education, spending upto rupees five lakhs. Individually, it might be a small step, but it symbolizes the change of direction. Representatives of other states such as Rajasthan and Maharashtra visit Gujarat to study our style of working for tribal development known as the “Gujarat Pattern”. This is only because Gujarat provides an ideal example of the service and development of tribal areas.
The Power of Management
In the past, the financial assistance to villages was determined in Gandhinagar. A village might require a well and the government would sanction a tank. What use is a tank without a well? Even if a village has a road, the government would plan another road. There is no guarantee that the plans made in air-conditioned rooms in Gandhinagar would benefit the common people of the state. That is why under the Gujarat Pattern, we have formed committees in tribal areas, entrusted money in their hands and asked them to decide the area of development in their villages. This government has given a total of ` 1,54,508 crores to the tribal people in backward areas in a short span of time, and completed more than 61666 projects. I believe that no other state has achieved such a big target for tribal development in the past. We have succeeded because we placed trust in them, worked according to their needs and gave priority to their welfare. This has led to an organized and powerful management of financial assistance to the tribals.
Partnering with People in Villages
The Gram Sabha is a right step in the direction of development. During a Gram Sabha, a villager can question a government officer about pending proposals in the presence of 50-100 people who attend such Gram Sabhas regularly and keep track of the work being done in their village. This system has given people the courage to discuss problems related to the sanitation, cleanliness, road, or even school. The Gram Sabha
In the Service of the Forest Regions
Has emerged as an effective tool to overcome the hurdles that invariably crop up while resolving public issues. Villagers have become more aware about their own development because of the Gram Sabha, which has created an environment of partnership between the villagers, talatis, government officers, Sarpanch and even the village teacher, for bringing about a paradigm shift in the situation of the village.
The Gram Sabha has been successful in carrying out projects of tribal development due to collective efforts. Most of the problems are solved on the spot. Due to this arrangement, even the people belonging to the lowest strata have now found the confidence to openly present their problems.