Pitching for forest rights of tribals, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi attacked the Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Chhattisgarh, accusing both of working "just for two-three industrialists" and not passing on the benefits of development to locals.
Raking up the issue of land acquisition in the mining belt of Korba, he questioned the development model of Prime Minister Narendra Modi alleging that tribals do not stand to benefit from it and sought to corner the ruling BJP over issues like displacement due to coal mining and compensation against land acquisition.
The Congress leader promised the tribals that he will stand by them as he stood by farmers and also took a dig at the national media for not giving importance to tribal issues.
"Modiji gives many lectures on development. Development should happen but my question is that what partake do tribals have in that process...development should be for all. It should not happen for just two-three industrialists.”
"It should not be a scene that their industries come up, they make thousands of crores in profit and on the other hand the tribal children have no future... We do not want such a future for tribals of India," Gandhi said.
Repeatedly attacking Modi and the BJP, he alleged, "Be it the government running in Delhi or in Chhattisgarh, the entire government machinery is running for the promotion of two-three industrialists."
Referring to the National Democratic Alliance's ordinance on land that removed clauses for taking consent of farmers and carrying out social audit before acquiring land and modified the provision to return acquired land if it was not utilised within five years, Gandhi said sarcastically, "Modiji said that development is needed.
So there is no need to ask anybody."
Targeting the prime minister on the land issue, Gandhi said, in remarks laced with sarcasm, "It does not matter if landwas not used within five years for the purpose for which it was required. Once land is taken, it is taken. Leave social audit. What does social audit mean?”
Invoking the rights of 'jal, jangal and jameen (water, forest and land) of the inhabitants in the tribal state, the Congress leader said that tribals lose their lifeline forest when the land is acquired for mining purposes and hence they must be made shareholders in development.
Rahul kicked off his two-day tour of Chhattisgarh from Kudmura village in Korba district, located around 300 km from state capital Raipur, where he met villagers affected by the wild elephants menace in the region. He also met forest dwellers and villagers bearing the brunt of coal mining in the Hasdeo-Arand coalfields.
Stressing on the "inclusive growth" slogan of the UPA, Gandhi sought to contrast the Congress philosophy of development with that of the BJP.
"We want to move forward with the idea that everybody should progress, be it the poor or the rich. People from the BJP and Modiji say that development is needed. If Modiji decides that a mine should come up here for the development of the nation, then a question arises as to what will happen to those and their children who live on the land where the mine is coming up.”
"The question arises whether they will benefit from that development or not. Tribals are intrinsically connected with forests. They get fruits, tendu leaves and many more things from forests. If mines come and the forests go away, then you have lost it (aapka haanth kat gaya). Is it right or not," he asked going interactive with the tribal audience.
Insisting that it is a right question to be asked, the Congress vice president rued that the issues of tribals generally do not reach Delhi. "People in high positions talk in Delhi. Even people from the press easily pick up what they say. Your issues are not raised so much. Only a little is written about tribals in newspapers of Delhi but when it comes to big industrialists, so much is written about them. People of India should know that development should be for all and not a few," Gandhi said.
On the contentious land issue, he said that the UPA had made the land acquisition law in 2013, which ensured that consent is taken from those whose land is being acquired. "We had written in the law that if you wanted to take the land of tribals, ask them and the panchayats that whether they want to give their land or not," he said, citing instances of arbitrary land acquisition in past like in Noida, where land acquired from farmers was used for constructing a racing track.
"It is said that development is happening. But farmers' land was snatched and a racing track was constructed there. When you say that land is taken from tribals, it should be done with their consent and when the development takes place, tribals should also make progress. We are talking of these two things," he said.
Gandhi also asked some people in the audience not to raise slogans against Modi, saying he was talking of issues.