Over 29 lakh tourists visited the Statue of Unity in Kevadiya in Gujarat's Narmada district since it was inaugurated on October 31 last year and revenue of Rs 82.51 crore was generated, the state government told the Assembly on Tuesday.
The Gujarat government will be tabling Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Bill, 2019 on Wednesday in the Assembly as it felt "there was imminent need for developing the area due to the ever increasing number of tourists from all over the country and abroad".
"As many as 29.38 lakh tourists visited the imposing structure near the Sardar Sarovar Dam between November 1, 2018 till November 16 this year, and had earned revenue of Rs 82.51 crore during this period," said Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel in his written reply during Question Hour to a query raised by Congress MLA Chandrika Bariya.
Gujarat Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava informed the Assembly that Rs 2.64 crore has been spent to procure animals for a ''jungle safari'' near the Sardar Patel memorial.
The Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Bill, 2019 on Tuesday faced opposition from the Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani, who burnt its copy, claiming it will adversely affect tribals in the region.
"On the pretext of Statue of Unity of Sardar Patel, which was constructed in Kevadiya against wishes of tribals living in the area, the government plans to snatch land and displace tribals from 70 more villages there against provisions of Schedule 5 of the Constitution," Mevani said.
"I call upon 40 MLAs from tribal and Dalit communities in the state Assembly to come together and oppose the Bill," he told media outside the Assembly complex, and set a copy of the bill on fire.
Mr Mevani was expelled from the Assembly for the 3-day session on Monday for "indiscipline" and "disrespecting" the Chair after he, despite warning from the Speaker, told the treasury benches, "you all believe in Manusmriti (an ancient Hindu religious legal text), not the Constitution".
The Bill "provides for development of the area and management of tourism in and around the Statue of Unity at Kevadiya by providing necessary infrastructure through effective planning and administration".
"With ever increasing number of tourists from all over the country and abroad, the state government has felt an imminent need for developing the area," the government said while explaining the objective of forming a "Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Authority".
The authority will implement provisions of the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976, and control and regulate development, with district police authorised to assist it, the govern said.
The bill empowers the authority to take punitive action, including jail term and fine, against persons found to be engaged in unauthorised development, touting or malpractice against any tourism, engaging in begging or unauthorised hawking, causing nuisance and damage adversely affect tourism potentiality.
Headed by a chairman appointed by state government, the SOU tourism authority will have officers of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), state urban development department, tourism development department, collector of Narmada, chief town planner and principal chief conservator of forest, among others, in the twenty-member body.
The land acquired for the developer of the region will be deemed as land needed for public purpose and will come under the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, it said.
Gujarat Forest Minister Ganpat Vasava, responding to question in the Assembly about an upcoming ''Jungle Safari'' near the statue, stated the government had spent Rs 2.64 crore to procure animals and birds.
The Forest department, so far, has brought five alpacas, four llamas, four wallabies from different countries to the safari site near the Statue of Unity, he said in his written reply to a question by Congress MLA JV Kakadiya.
Animals and birds brought from other states include marmosets, green iguanas, lemurs, capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, ostriches, scarlet macaws, green winged macaws, golden pheasants and lady amherst pheasants among others.