Tribal Protests Erupt Against Privatization of Vyara Civil Hospital

Protesters also criticised the State Government's plan to provide the hospital's site to the UNM Foundation of the Torrent Group, Ahmedabad, for the building of a medical college, for the pitiful sum of Rs 1 per year.


Surat :  Thousands of tribal people from the South Gujarat districts of Dang and Tapi, which are largely inhabited by tribal people, as well as people from border villages in Navapur, Maharashtra, gathered at the Tapi collector’s office in Vyara to protest the privatisation of the Vyara Civil Hospital. On September 13, Vishwa Adivasi Adhikar Divas, a day celebrating indigenous peoples’ rights, fell on the same day as their demonstration.

Protesters also criticised the State Government’s plan to provide the hospital’s site to the UNM Foundation of the Torrent Group, Ahmedabad, for the building of a medical college, for the pitiful sum of Rs 1 per year.

For the large populations in the neighbouring districts of Tapi and Dang, as well as the border villages in Maharashtra’s Navapur taluka, Vyara Civil Hospital is an essential resource for quality medical treatment. Beginning on September 7 at Udamgadi village in Tapi district, the indigenous groups embarked on around eight padyatras (foot marches). Dang’s last padyatra set off from a remote hamlet on September 13 and ended with a big gathering at Tapi.

Tribal representatives met with the Tapi district collector to deliver a memorandum asking that the government’s notification allowing the sale of the Vyara Civil Hospital and its valuable land to a private entity for the establishment of a medical college be rescinded.

Although the Vyara Civil Hospital was a primary focus of the protests, other problems, such as the UCC, the Par-Tapi-Narmada river connection project, the Vedanta project, and the government’s bullet train proposal, were also raised.

Adivasi Samaj leaders claim that on August 11, 2023, the Health and Family Welfare Department of the Gujarat Government issued a notification announcing a resolution to allocate the Vyara Civil Hospital land to the U.N.M Foundation of the Torrent Group for the equivalent of a token annual payment of Rs 1.

Native people from Tapi, Dang, and border villages in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district have Vyara Civil Hospital to thank for their survival. Approximately 300 inpatients and over a thousand patients who come to the Outpatient Clinic (OPD) each day benefit from its services. All of the medical care the indigenous populations need can be met by the hospital, with the exception of magnetic resonance imaging.

Dang tribal elder Mukesh Mama (also known as Mukesh Patel) voiced his worries, stating, “Like airports, ports, public sector companies, etc., the government seems to be on a privatisation spree of government hospitals.” A state-run medical school should be established immediately; why the delay? Is money really tight right now? If the Torrent Group didn’t need the land, why give it to them for a mere Rs 1?

Tribal leader of the Adivasi Samaj in Vyara Lal Singh Gamit remarked, “It appears that the Gujarat Government is facing financial difficulties, which is why they are offering government lands to private entities in the state.” The Torrent Group will not be given permission to run Vyara Civil Hospital under any circumstances.