Ahmedabad: BJP MP Mansukh Vasava on Tuesday dubbed senior IAS officer Rajiv Kumar Gupta an 'angrez' (Britisher) for allegedly giving orders to remove stalls and handcarts operated by local tribals near at the Statue of Unity in Narmada district of Gujarat.
Angry over the extensive anti-encroachment drive undertaken near the colossal statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Vasava lashed out at a section of bureaucrats, saying since they live in air-conditioned houses, they do not know the plight of the poor.
The prominent tribal leader said local residents should have been taken into confidence before launching the drive near the imposing monument, a major tourist attraction, as it has affected their livelihood.
Gupta, a 1986-batch officer of Gujarat cadre, is Managing Director of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd and also serves as Additional Chief Secretary (Forests & Environment).
In his defence, Gupta said the anti-encroachment drive was necessary as a large number of stalls and handcarts have been put by locals on both sides of a road leading to Statue of Unity, resulting in traffic snarls and even accidents.
Vasava rushed to the statue site near the Sardar Sarovar Dam upon learning that local administration has started a drive to remove such stalls and handcarts.
"On one side, our (BJP) government talks about providing employment to the poor. On the other side, some IAS officers, who live in air-conditioned houses, do not know the plight of the poor people.
"There is one angrez officer Gupta, who is making new rules every day. He does not care about the poor people's livelihood," Vasava told reporters. Vasava was elected from Bharuch, while the Statue of Unity falls under the adjoining Chhota Udaipur Lok Sabha seat, represented by another BJP MP, Geeta Rathva.
"Gupta has a British (per-independence British rule) mentality. He does not like tribals. He thinks that stalls and handcarts are reducing the charm of the Statue. Gupta should have take into confidence local tribals before taking such an action.
"An IAS officer must understand the problems of people. What will these tribals do now as their livelihood has been snatched away," said Vasava, known to be a vocal leader.
Explaining his stand, Gupta said the drive against encroachments was necessary to end traffic congestion on a stretch of a key road between Kevadiya village and the Statue of Unity.
"He (Vasava) is an MP and I have the highest regard for him. The decision against (removing) encroachments was taken as per government policies and prescribed rules and laws," said the senior bureaucrat when asked about his reaction to Vasava's critical remarks about him.
"Over 30,000 tourists and 4,000 vehicles are coming to the Statue of Unity every day. Due to this, encroachments on both the sides of the road and resultant traffic congestion have became a serious issue since the last few months.
"People were getting stranded for almost two hours because of presence of roadside stalls, sheds and handcarts. "Moreover, even pedestrian tracks were encroached by hawkers, making it impossible to even walk till the monument," said Gupta, justifying the drive.
According to local officials, around 200 such stalls and handcarts were removed during the drive on Tuesday. Designed as a memorial to the first home minister of independent India, the 182-metre statue of Sardar Patel, touted as the world's tallest, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31 last year.