Monday, November 30, 2015

Civic Toilet trouble: Forest dweller can’t contest.

Toilet trouble: Forest dweller can’t contestAforest dweller in Gir was stopped from contesting the civic election because he did not have a toilet at his residence. The candidature of Lakhabhai Charan, a nomadic tribal who lives in Gir forest, was rejected by the Velavdar mamlatdar. The official cited the government's notification that makes it mandatory for any candidate to have a loo at his residence to contest the taluka panchayat election. According to government norms, a forest dweller cannot construct a toilet on his own.

A forest officer on condition of anonymity said, "As per government regulation, any construction in the forest area can be carried out only with the Eco-Development Committee (EDC)'s approval." Charan filled the form to contest the election from Kalavad constituency as an independent candidate. He is the third generation in his family residing in the forest. He has over 30 cows and buffaloes and earns a living through these cattle. There are 25 members in his family at Khambda nees area near Dudhala village in Visavdar taluka of Junagadh district.

The 51-year-old Charan wanted to contest from the reserved seat in Velavdar as Charan community living in the forest are considered a Scheduled Tribe. Talking to Mirror on phone from Khambda, Charan said, "I believe this is gross injustice to me and over 150 people living in the nees (small ghettos in the forest areas are known as nees in local lingo)." Charan said that even if he wishes he cannot construct a toilet in the nees. The construction has to happen on the directions of forest department. "We got a primary school recently, through EDC," he said.

Forest officials did conduct a survey to construct toilets for them, but so far it is only on paper. Charan even submitted an affidavit to the returning officer in this regard, but his form was rejected. Velavdar Mamlatdar and Returning Officer I R Parmar said, "It is a government rule. I cannot process the form. It is unfortunate that his form was rejected, but I am helpless. There is no exception to the rule for anyone." When asked, a senior official of the Forest and Environment Department said he was not aware of any such incident.

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