The Saurashtra region located in western part of Gujarat along the Arabian coast covers 11 socially sensitive and politically crucial districts Rajkot, Jamnagar, Parbandar, Amreli, Junagadh, Bhavnagar, Surendranagar, Morbi, Devbhumi-Dwarka, Gir-Somnath and Botad.
Developmental issues are vital to be understood in this region as these areas are famous for the ceramic industry and also manufacturing units on watch parts, silk embroideries, automotive parts, casting industry products and kitchen knives.
One issue is water scarcity. Officials say the annual rainfall in Saurashtra region is 450-600 mm and is
received on average within 20-45 days. The monsoon patterns have changed due to deforestation and industrialisation.
Efforts were made in the past too to harness rainwater through 63,000 checkdams, 73,000 farm ponds
etc. Arid Saurashtra will soon have ‘acchey din’ as the much ambitious Saurashtra Narmada Avatarana Irrigation Yojana (SAUNI) project is set to supplement flood water to about 115 existing dams.
“With all the three phases done, the much talked about scarcity of water would be reduced in the Saurashtra region and in the ultimate it will strengthen existing facilities of irrigation for as much as 8,24,871 acre land,” says Rajkot Collector, Arun Mahesh Babu.
The Airports Authority of India has launched massive works for the construction of a new Greenfield Airport at Rajkot. The total cost of the project is Rs 1405 crore.
Rajkot, which is the fourth largest city of Gujarat – after Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara, is now
all set to get its second and new Greenfield Airfield in the Hirasar area by August-September this year. The coming of the new airport will actually give a boost to the Government of India’s much talked about ‘Make in India’ initiatives and manufacturing works.
It will raise people’s standard of living in the region and give thrust to the GDP of the local region. The new airport will ensure enhanced economic activities and generate employment.
“The city of Rajkot effectively contributes to the national economy through its small scale and heavy industries, and the present airstrip is incapable of serving aircraft larger than Airbus 320 family and Boeing 737-800,” Babu, Collector, Rajkot, told ‘Organiser’.
Politics and elections:
Elections are due in Gujarat by December. Thus, it will be important to examine things electorally as well. Gujarat is politically divided in five regions – Saurashtra, Kutch, north Gujarat, central Gujarat and south Gujarat. Saurashtra and Kutch make up at least 54 seats in the 182-member assembly.
In 2012 when Narendra Modi was still at the helm of affairs, the BJP dominated the scene
in Saurashtra. In fact, the BJP won 33 seats out of 48 in Saurashtra while the Congress could win in 13. In 2017, however, the anti-incumbency factored in and the region had given Congress 28 seats.
The entire dynamics involving farmers and related agrarian issues would be at play this time in the 2022 polls as well. But the BJP poll strategists feel the party will achieve a massive improvement across the state from its tally of 99.
Local people especially in villages have their problems. The Bhader Dam, built for irrigation in 1994, in Gondal taluka is, for example, about 50 kilometre away from Moti Parabdi village. Farmers complain of water shortage for their fields as tapped water is used during crises to meet the drinking water needs of Rajkot district. Villagers often have to resort to drilling exercise and in the process harm agi
prospects of their land and also have to incur expenditures. Now, officials say the SAUNI project will make a big difference in the entire region.
When all the three phases of works under Saurashtra Narmada Avatarana Irrigation Yojana (SAUNI)
are complete, a total of 115 dams would be filled up. These include 24 in Rajkot, six in Morbi, one in Gir-Somnath, 3 in Botad, 24 in Jamnagar, 13 in Junagadh, 12 in Amreli and 11 in Bhavnagar and soon, officials say.
There are other challenges too. Saurashtra and Kutch witnessed a record heat wave from time to
time over the last 15-18 years. In fact, in 2016, the temperature reached 50 degrees Celsius – the record highest in 100 years. Of course, the region like various other parts has suffered deforestation and thus rainfall is increasingly erratic.
Nevertheless, there are other developmental works. AIIMS Rajkot is under Phase six of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana. It would be a 750-bedded hospital with multiple speciality and super-speciality departments.
Officials say the AIIMS Rajkot has objectives to reduce the gaps in affordable tertiary health care and to generate wellness amongst the general population.
Rajkot has also been selected as one of six cities that have been nominated to execute the Global Housing Technology Challenge – Light House Project by the union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. Under this, affordable house projects are being developed as part of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna. Officials say a total of 1144 Dwelling units are being constructed at the cost of Rs 118 crore under Global Housing Technology Challenge at Rajkot Smart City Area.
A Confident Bhupendra Patel:
Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel is busy these days and he has to do lot of traveling. Nevertheless, he
exudes confidence that his party would do well. “We are taking the electoral battle in positive sense. Hum jeetne ke liye ladenge (Our contest is to win)….there is no room for negativity. Nowhere I am saying, we want to defeat A or B,” Chief Minister Patel told this magazine.
His confidence of doing well in elections come from his faith in BJP’s philosophy and principles. “We work round the year on daily basis”. On the other hand, the Congress has weakened both in Gujarat and in national politics. Its chief political strategist Ahmed Patel expired last year and it is yet to find an alternative.
Hardly a 15-minutes interaction and one would be convinced that Gujarat’s new Chief
Minister Bhupendra Patel is humble to the core, an ear on ground politician
and knows the strength of his party and the commitment.
Answering questions, he said, “Ek baat aap samajh lijiye, Narendra bhai ek hi hoten haen. (You must
understand one thing very clearly, Narendra Modi can be only one)”. This was in reference to the fact that now he occupies a chair once graced by Modi. But when it comes to electoral strategies and whether more freshers will be given tickets, he is candid: “In the BJP, even a chief minister is not sure of his ticket”.
On whether AAP can throw up a challenge to the BJP which is in power since 1995 in the state,
Patel is categorical.
“After I became Chief Minister, there were Gandhinagar Municipal polls.Everyone said the AAP will come to power but our party won as many as 41 out of 44. Earlier the BJP was never in a majority because it used to win about 50 per cent of the seats only….BJP is working among the people. Our workers stuck to the people during Covid”.
“It is the people who decide who gets to power….Even when it comes to opposition, some people may
still think of Congress, others may not,” he said.
When Patel is asked whether he has any message for minorities and Muslims of Gujarat, Patel says:
“Our government has only one policy that no one should face problems and our government is doing
whatever is required to improve the life of every citizen. The schemes and policies in Gujarat are for all citizens irrespective of religion. We would not tolerate anyone breaking these policies of the government”.
Pleasantly surprised !
Not only BJP’s friends and foes, even Bhupendra Patel was pleasantly surprised when his name was
announced as the new Chief Minister of Gujarat. Insiders say when he was informed by top brass that he has been ‘selected’, he thanked them presuming he has been “selected to be one of the ministers”.
“In fact, he is perhaps the only Chief Minister in the country who clapped merrily when the big announcement was made. It took a while for him to understand that he would be heading the government,” says a key BJP source.