(Abhishek M Chaudhari, an Engineering Graduate from Parbhani, visited Gujarat visit as part of Prakashyatra, an initiative of Mumbai based Rambhau Mhalagi Prabodhini. It was a governance tour program, specifically for youths to know about developmental initiative of Gujarat. The 3 day tour was from 22 to 24 August. He penned down this piece after his trip)
India is going through a political upheaval. We keep reading about various political dramas, immature statements by the politicians, making and breaking of the coalitions. Government, in the center as well as in various states, is failing to deliver basic services to the people it governs. Several corruption scandals are coming to the surface; 2G scam, Commonwealth Games scandal, Adarsh Society case, and the recent Coalgate scam; the list is unending. We get to read a lot of things about these scams too.
As a ‘common man’, I find myself to be helpless in front of this corrupt, inefficient government. I had readily taken part in the movement against corruption last year. But that movement also could not bear any fruits. Implementation of an effective Lokpal Bill still looks like a distant possibility. The helpless and angry ‘common man’ in me continues to ventilate his feelings through the social media.
While I was surfing through the internet one day, I saw a proposal about the study tour; it was named ‘Prakashyatra – Gujarat’. This was an intiative by Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini (RMP), Mumbai. I was aware of this institute based in Mumbai that trains young political activists and social workers. I had also attended some of their seminars in Delhi. Nevertheless, this ‘Prakashyatra – Gujarat’ seemed to be a novel idea.
It was a 3-day Governance Tour to Gujarat, specially designed for youths. The plan was to study their model of development, to know about the developmental projects in details, to visit some of these projects, and lastly to meet and interact with Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. The ‘Gujarat Model’ is being talked about everywhere these days. While rest of India is lagging behind Gujarat has been doing surprisingly well. It was indeed a great opportunity to see those things directly. I was amazed by the plan and immediately applied.
There was an All-India screening through which the applicants had to go; but fortunately I could clear it. RMP had selected 14 young professionals; they had come from various parts of India and belonged to different professions. It was also a great opportunity to meet active people from various fields. We were to be accompanied by Mr. Ravindra Sathe of RMP. I reached Ahmedabad on August 22. Our stay was near the Shahi Baag circuit house. With the delicious Gujarati breakfast of ‘jalebi-papadi’, we all were informally introduced to each other.
A bus was waiting for us outside, to take us on our ‘Prakashyatra’. There were 2 officers of the Information department to guide us through the tour. The bus took us to the Gandhinagar Secretariate, where we were given informative presentations about 5 major initiatives of the Government.
Om Namami Devi Narmade…
An engineer from the Sardar Sarovar project was the first presenter. Sardar Sarovar is a huge project to divert water from river Narmada in southern Gujarat to central-northern-western Gujarat through canals. The main canal is 456 km long. Then other canals of approximately 1900 km length will take this water to several parts of the state. Moreover, canals will also discharge water in river Sabarmati and river Mahi. This project was praised as one of the 8 incredible projects in the world in 1994. The project is dually useful as it supplies water and produces energy. The plan is to supply 28 MAP (Million Acre Feet) water and to produce 1450 MW energy. This will bring 18 lacks hector land of Gujarat under irrigation, as at least 9000 villages and 131 towns would receive water supply, 30000 hector of land will be protected from floods, and there will be 10 lack employment creations.
Next presentation was about the water management in Gujarat. Water will reach villages through the canals. But wat after that? It is a common experience in India that major water supply projects are initiated, but water does not reach common man. This is where Gujarat stands different. Modi Government initiated changes in water supply and management system in 2002. Firstly, the Water Supply department was rearranged. A new Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), named WASMO, was established. ‘Users are the best managers’ is there motto! The Water Committee (Pani Samitee) is the major institution in this project. The water committees in villages do the water need-assessments and accordingly make plans. Implementation of the plan is also the responsibility of that committee. WASMO provides technical and financial assistance for the implementation of the projects. Tariff of the water, time-frame for its collection is decided by the Water Committee with the consent of the Gram-sabha. Till date, Water Committee has been set up in almost 90% of the villages; 8000 projects were completed till june 2012, 75% households are receiving water supply through taps. Moreover, 1,19,149 personnel are specially trained to maintain the quality of water that is being supplied. According to one study conducted in Gandhinagar district, 98% of water supplied is clean, pure and potable. WASMO has received several awards, including Prime Minister’s Best Public Service Award (2008), United Nations Public Service Award (2009) and International Award for Novelty by CAPAM organisation (2010).
Gujarat: The Real Gateway of India
The third presentation was regarding the maritime transport and port management. Gujarat is gifted with the 1600 km coastline. In addition to this, it’s location is ‘geo-politically’ very important. Understanding this, Gujarat has achieved a lot in maritime transport and development of ports. In last 15 years, the contribution of Gujarat Maritime Board has increased from 8% to 28%. Among 915 sea ports in India 260 are situated in Gujarat. As we know, Gujarat government has been encouraging private investment. Consequently, in last 10 years, more than 20000 crores have been invested for the development of ports. Thus, several private ports have been developed, like Dahej, Mundhra, Pipagaon, Sikka, Hazeera. Ship-building is also encouraged. For easy access to the ports, there is coordination between rail-road-sea transports. Moreover, other projects like, ro-ro round service, greenfield port project, port SEZ project, Sea training program, etc are also underway. States having large coastline, like Maharashtra (840 km) can learn a lot from Gujarat. We have heard of Gateway of India situated in Mumbai. Today, Gujarat is trying to become the ‘real’ Gateway of India.
Sky is the limit
Next presentation was about one of the most ambitious projects of the government. Dholera Special Investment Region (SIR) is first of its kind in India. Dholera SIR was set up by the Gujarat government through a special act in 2009. It will be established on a land of approximately 90,000 hectors. It would include 6 core industrial sectors, 6 CBDs, 3 IT parks, Ahmedabad- Bhavnagar highway, as well as several play-grounds, air ports, golf courses, solar fields, Kalpasar dam, etc. The SIR will create employment for 8 lac people. It is sure to create New Gujarat within Gujarat. Indeed, this is the tag line of the project.
The last presentation was about the GIFT. Economic globalization is the most striking feature of the 21st century. There are several challenges in front of us in this ever-changing world. Mr. Narendra Modi has realized these challenges and has taken up a huge project in hands, that is ‘GIFT’! It is a project to build a ‘finance city’, based on the idea of Le-Defense of Paris or Dockyard of London. The proposed finance city can provide the financial services not only to India but to the world. Target is to achieve $400 billion contribution to GDP and creation of 1 crore employment till 2020. According to a study by McKinsey, the proposed GIFT city will accommodate total of 5 Gurgaon’s and 7 Pune’s. GIFT is not to be confined to commerce, plan is also to develop it as an entertainment hub. To know more about GIFT and to see its Diamond shaped central building, please visit its website.
On the front of Sabaramati
Impressed by these 5 presentations, we left the secratariat and turned to our next destination, Sabarmati River Front!! Rivers are fast deteriorating in the 21st century because of the developmental activities, and unprecedented pollution. We always hear the cries of ‘save Ganga’, ‘save Yamuna’. However, these slogans hardly materialize. But when concerns about deterioration of river Sabarmati were being raised, Gujarat government came up with a unique plan. Sabarmati River Front Development Corporation was established for the development of 11 km stretch on both sides of river Sabarmati that runs through the city of Ahmedabad. All the drainage outlets were diverted to clean and purify the flow of water. To maintian the water level in Sabarmati, water was diverted from river Narmada through the main canal of Sardar Sarovar project and it was released in Sabarmati. This region (Sabarmati River Front) is also to be developed as a tourist attraction, with beautiful side-walks, amusement parks, cultural activity centers, and museums being set up. In addition to this, ‘ferry service’ is also planned for water transport. This project will increase the ground water levels, and improve the water supply in the town. It will create green Ahmedabad. The project has received several national and international awards even before its completion.
Today, all the major cities are facing the problem of transport. Gujarat has achieved 42% urbanization. The percentage is likely to cross 50% in coming years. It is very important to find the solution of the transport problem. We were shown a revolutionary project of to solve the challenges faced in urban transportation – Ahmedabad BRTS project. Such BRTS projects were also initiated in cities like Delhi and Pune; they are also planned in some other cities. But till date, Ahmedabad BRTS is the only successful BRTS project in India. This is a 90 km bus service (today 45% is working) that transports 1.25 lac people every day. The project is developed through Public Private Partnership (PPP). BRTS control room is well-equipped by information technology and GPS. We were given live demonstration from this control room. All the information, like current location of the bus, driver’s name, his entire record, number of the passengers, is displayed on the big screen. We also had a round in the BRTS bus. Speedy service, spacious buses, limited passengers and beautiful bus stops, everything was praiseworthy.
Our last destination for the first day was a ‘child park’. Though it was a child park, adults would also be very happy to visit it. This park is developed on a unique concept. There are small models of bank, post office, police station, law court, hospital, radio room; and also replicas of BRTS bus, ambulance van and fire brigade vehicle. Kids can go to the small bank, take out money at the ATMs, and deposit cheques. There are live demonstrations by the kids at all these models. Children come in the fire-brigade vehicle and try to rescue people from fire site; kids play judges in courts, punish criminals and deliver justice; and they become doctors in the hospital and do surgeries! We were amazed to see this small but moving world of children. Kids playing in such a garden are sure to become responsible citizens of India tomorrow!
The Solar Ocean
The second day of the tour began very early. We got into our bus at 6’o clock. We were to reach Charanka Solar Park, that was 250 km away from Ahmedabad. This is the only solar plant, not only in India but also in Asia, that produces 500 MW solar energy at one place. This is possible only because of Mr. Modi’s leadership. He not only succeeded in attracting private investors in solar sector but also managed to keep the tariff low. Gujarat already had good basic infrastructure. At the same time, system of governance was also made easy and accessible for the private investors. Investors chose this easy system over the red-tapism found elsewhere in India.
Mr. Modi wants to make Gujarat a hub of solar power. But production of solar energy needs a lot of space, as approximately 5 acres of land is required to produce 1 MW of solar energy. Therefore, there was a problem of land. This problem was also solved in a unique way. Solar panels were installed on the Mehsana canal in the Sardar Sarovar project. This was beneficial in two ways; as the land was saved, as well as there was reduction in water evaporation. Moreover, water heats and cools very slowly. Considering this characteristic of water, there is plenty of heat content available for the solar panels. In total 1000 MW solar energy that India produces, 600 MW is produced in Gujarat alone.
However, Gujarat is not confined to solar energy. In fact it has achieved considerably in overall energy sector. There was a complete revolution in the field of energy production, transmission and distribution since 2003; and several improvements were introduced in the power sector through systematic planning. Transmission distribution loss is brought down from 36% to 20%. There was scarcity of 500MW in Gujarat in 2000-2001; today, Gujarat is producing 2500 MW of surplus energy. The ‘Jyotigram Yojana’ of the Gujarat government is implemented all over India today. It is being praised from around the world.
We came back to Ahmedabad in the evening. I want to bring it to your attention another aspect of development here. Charanka is 250 km away from Ahmedabad. It is situated in the remote region of the Rann of Kutch. Even in such a condition, we reached Charanka in just 4 hours. We travelled through the national highway, state highway, and also district roads. But roads were of top quality. Even after travelling for 500 km in a day, we felt very fresh in the evening.
A meeting with Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi was scheduled during the 3rd day. The meeting was fixed in Gandhinagar Circuit House. Chief Minister came sharp at 11’o clock. He waved at us and asked, ‘क्यों प्रकाशयात्रीओं,
प्रकाशमान हो गए?’ (are you enlightened through this tour?). After the introduction session, he was willing to hear the ideas of young Indian minds. Each of us spoke about what we saw, experienced, felt in last three days. He listened to us silently, with his face full of enthusiasm. He carefully took note of our suggestions. When he started speaking, he had taken threads from our talks. He spoke passionately, his words coming straight from his heart. It was his vigour, patriotism and experience supplementing his words. He modestly admitted that the development of Gujarat has just started, and it has to go long way. We were surprised; if this was the beginning for him, what exactly was his ‘end’. Where does he want to take Gujarat to…!!
Former Prime Minister Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee made ‘development’ a national issue. Going ahead in that direction, Modi wants to make development a ‘basic need’. He wants development to be people’s movement. One of us asked him a question about the ‘sustainability’ of the Gujarat model. He immediately clarified, ‘Modi may or may not be there.. but development of Gujarat shall not stop’. Thus, his effort is to institutionalize every idea, every developmental activity. He touched several issues while talking to us. Another question was asked from our side, ‘how should be the system of government in the 21st century?’. He instantly relpied, ‘Maximum Governance Minimal Government’!
Honestly I am lost for words to describe the Gujarat experience. Still, we were rightly aware of the fact that we could cover only 20-25% of the developmental activities in Gujarat. We could just hear about the Jyotigram plan, Karmayogi program, Annual ‘Chintan Shibir’ for the officers, Nirmal Gujarat plan, RURBAN plan, Chief Minister Fellowship plan, e-city, Sadbhavana Yatra, vidya-deep plan, teachers’ training institute, Raksha-Shakti University, etc. What we saw was the tip of an iceberg.
While I came back from Gujarat, I was full of energy, vigour and enthusiasm. The feeling of helplessness had suddenly disappeared. This ‘Prakashyatra’ definitely proved to be a bright ‘ray of light’ in the current darkness!