Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel is a man of few words. Either he is busy reading something, thinking, and otherwise he is in action.
On August 10, 2022, he made an emphatic assertion: “……celebrating tribals is not a matter of just one day”.
In effect, he tried to sum up his party’s and government’s commitment for the welfare of tribals in the western state. He also cleverly tried to take the battle into the enemy camp, as some ‘new imported’ political outfits into the state have lately sought to corner his government vis-à-vis the welfare of the tribal community in India’s western state.
The occasion was the World Tribal Day. Chief Minister Patel wanted to make it clear that for him and his government, tribal welfare and uplift figure prominently in the list of priorities.
Speaking at a function at Jhalod, Chief Minister Patel made it clear that during the last two decades, the tribal families residing in the entire stretch of 53 talukas from Ambaji to Umargaon in Gujarat have benefitted from the Vanbandhu Kalyan Yojana.
The scheme was initiated, planned and implemented under Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister.
The tribal world is a ‘changed world’ for the state of Gujarat today. On Aug 10, Patel also inaugurated 5,690 tribal development projects worth Rs 1,600 crore.
The epithet or image of ‘Vikas Purush, which Narendra Modi earned during his tenure as the chief minister in his native state can be actually well appreciated among the simpleton tribal community in Dang district.
Though virtually overlooked by many travellers, generally scurrying between well established cities Ahmedabad and Mumbai and also renowned tourist havens in Rajasthan; Dang is indeed a rewarding place for tourists.
Dang district is nestled in the southern parts of Gujarat, almost like a cluster of thickly forested hills in the tip of the Sahyadri mountain range. Needless to add, perhaps Dang is the biggest tribal district in the state, with 94 percent of the population belonging to Scheduled Tribes.
In June, this Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the region.
Among numerous projects, during the visit the Prime Minister inaugurated roads constructed from Piplaidevi – Juner – Chichvihir – Pipaldahad and school buildings constructed in Dang, at a cost of about Rs 12 crore each.
He also laid the foundation stone for the construction of Zila Panchayat Bhavan and for providing and fixing a roller crash barrier in Dang at a cost of about Rs 28 crores and 10 crores respectively.
It is one of the six districts in Gujarat currently receiving funds from the Backward Regions Grant Fund Programme.
The district is full of green forests and has a number of attractive tourism places.
Here the guests are treated warmly with the rustic and yet ingenious ways of life of the tribal settlement.
Dang district and the region are famous for a number of native festivals. Some of these include: Bhawada – the Festival of Masks, Bail Pola – a farmers’ fest, Bhaya Nritya festival and this is linked to praying to the Hill God, the Dungardev.
People also observe a solemn Dang Darbar — essentially a festival that goes for 10 days around Holi festival time. One highlight of the fest is women getting tattooed and cross-dressing. Locals say this festival is also known for its Haat (market) which presents a unique opportunity for eligible singles to find their life partners.
There is another famous and regular ritual and community fest. To mark Diwali, the Dangi people worship Kansari Devi – a tribal Goddess of agriculture, food and prosperity.
Among the tourism attractions are – Waghai Botanical Garden and Saputara Tribal Museum.
The region also has Gira Waterfalls – located around 3-5 km from Waghai town. Blessed with natural beauty and biodiversity, Saputara is the only hill station in Gujarat. Saputara Lake is not to be missed.
According to an agreement inked in 1842 (during colonial regime), the Britishers were given a valiant fight by five tribal kings in the region. The Colonial masters were ‘allowed’ to acquire teak locally known as Sagwan from the lands, for which they had to pay around 3000 silver coins to the five kings.
* Interestingly, even today, these kings are among the very few hereditary royals left in India. They also receive a monthly pension from the government of India.
* In common parlance, the word/name Dang suggests a hilly village. According to the local legend, the district got its name from the term Dandak-Aranya meaning – Bamboo forest as per the Ramayana. It is said during his exile, God Ram passed through this area on the way to Nashik in Maharashtra.
What CM Patel says:
“The Gujarat tribal community is an inseparable part of Gujarat’s development journey. The tribals of Gujarat are more developed and progressive than the tribals in any other part of India. As a result of Narendra Modi’s development model, the tribals of Gujarat do not fall for any enticements but believe firmly in the PM’s development vision”.
* The residents of Sakarpatal, a tiny remote village situated on Waghai-Saputara road, are blessed with a unique water supply mechanism. A well in Ambika riverbed, the only source of water for this village, is connected with a mobile phone operated device.
* Miracle happens and water reaches when the villagers give a missed call.
Sources say each household receives around 700 litre water every alternative day in May and June dry months and daily in the remaining 10 months.
* The state government has declared Dang district as 100 percent Natural Farming. To make the district completely free from chemical fertilisers and pesticides, the state government has also announced a financial aid of Rs 31 crore under Sampurna Rasayan Mukt Dang Jilla.
* A total of 61 mobile towers were upgraded in Waghai taluka in Dang.