A silent revolution in Vidarbha
By Dr Shiv Shakti Bakshi
Vidarbha is all set to witness a silent revolution in the making. As a region hit by one of the worst farmers’ distress in the last decade it finds itself doomed in the dungeon of hopelessness and despair. But thanks to the new initiative by BJP National President Shri Nitin Gadkari the region may now hope for a better future with farmers getting employment through a combination of traditional, modern and non-conventional industrial initiatives reaping profits for themselves and generating immense employment opportunities in the rural belt. Gadkari is currently experimenting with agro-based industries in the rural areas which are capable of creating an energy base for local needs while generating attractive revenue at the same time. In the Vidarbha region 22 sugar mills have so far been closed down incurring heavy losses but three sugar mills run by Purti Group is making profit and there is an expansion plan in the offing with the target to create 40,000 employment opportunity next year, says a beaming Gadkari.
The mantra of ‘National Progress through Rural Progress’ is the guiding principle of this huge exercise now underway in the villages of Vidarbha. The entire project is conceptualised as ‘Social Enterprise’ with the aim of re-dedicating all the profit earned in the process for the upliftment and progress of the rural people. In a way it is a novel idea and if implemented successfully may see a new dawn in the entire region and may even serve as a developmental model for the entire country. So far 2.5 lakh people of Nagpur, Bhandara and Wardha districts stand benefitted by the setting up of ‘financially competent and socially inspired’ industries. The idea that ‘the self sufficient villages shall empower the development of cities and these together, shall ensure a prosperous and developed India’ is finding its manifestation in the region.
A visit to a small town Bela, around 70 kms from Nagpur city in Maharashtra makes one to realise the potential of such initiatives. Spread over 200 acres, the Purti Power and Sugar Project is a model of integrated industry approach which can cater to the needs of local farming community. While the sugar mill encourages the farmers to produce sugarcane the power which is produced can help change the face of the nearby areas. The Rs. 300 crore project having a production capacity of 2,500 TPD Sugar, 24.45 MW electricity & 1,20,000 LPD Ethanol/Alcohol can give direct employment to 2,000 people with another 10,000 families benefitting from the project indirectly. While other sugar mills were incurring losses, the company could financially stabilise itself by using sugarcane waste as fuel for producing 24.45 MW of power which was sold by engaging Reliance Energy Trading Ltd. In addition to this, an industrial waste of the sugar mills molasses was used to make Ethanol and Alcohol supplementing the income of the project.
The other important aspect of this entire exercise is the production of ‘Clean and Green Energy’. While today environment has become one of the major concerns of the world the demand for ‘Clean and Green Energy’ is expected to rise in the days to come. Keeping in mind the future requirements, initiatives have been taken to produce power through agro based products. While it helps generating employment opportunities for the rural population, the production of ‘Clean and Green Energy’ also helps in saving foreign exchange reserve. It has been shown that it is not only that such initiatives can be successfully implemented they are financially rewarding and lead to sustainable development through effective planning and efficient implementation. The products like Ethanol, Alcohol, Bio-diesel, Bio-methane gas, ENER-diesel, solar equipments, Organic Bio-fertiliser etc. can change the economic scenario of the rural India if related projects are implemented with visionary leadership and strong political will. It may be achieved by embracing next generation technologies while taking into account the availability of resources and future needs of the nation.
India today badly needs an alternative economic model. The model of development which India hitherto pursued has failed to serve the people in providing them employment opportunities and sustainable growth. The GDP might have increased but the fate of the ‘common man’ is still tied with unspeakable miseries and despair. The much flaunted ‘trickle down effect’ has undoubtedly benefitted a handful of people but the economic gains have refused to ‘trickle’ down to those who are in dire needs of relief and socio-economic support of various kinds. The agrarian crisis is turning from bad to worse compounding farmers’ distress resulting in thousands of suicides. In such a grim scenario the only way out is to revitalise the rural economy through poverty alleviation initiatives that can match the pace of the modern world. The model of development enunciated in Vidarbha not only presents the possibility of creating a rural economy which is locally sustainable, it promises environmentally sustainable ‘Clean and Green Energy’ which is capable of generating enough revenues and employment opportunities.
The hope generated among the farmers by such unique initiative was writ large on the face of the farmers gathered in Bela to attend the inauguration of the new sugarcane crushing season. The enthusiasm was very much evident. It was like a new movement taking shape which could lead to self sustained village economy, self reliant, environmentally friendly and self sufficient. The dream of self-sufficient, self sustainable, environment friendly village economy which our forefathers saw in the days of freedom struggle, the dream that was shattered under the spell of Nehruvian economics, the dream that was further relegated to oblivion in the post-Nehruvian phase but it was also a dream nurtured though the course of the swadeshi movement today seems to be the need of the hour, a necessity. This dream may be realised even now provided it takes the shape of a movement and people start taking initiatives on their own to build a strong and vibrant India. One such initiative is set to transform the life of Vidarbha.