It’s always heartening to find the Kutch region of Gujarat in its present style displaying confidence and form.
Heartening; because deep down as a journalist one knows that some people – a visionary and the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other stakeholders including officials and Modi’s colleagues worked hard in this quake-devastated region.
They took the pains, collected their thoughts, formulated their arguments, debated over issues and finally drew out plans and implemented them. The result is that Kutch is transformed. It is held up aptly as a showpiece of the ‘Gujarat model’ of development that four-time chief minister Narendra Modi brought into his home state.
The Bhuj and adjoining areas saw the killer devastating earthquake in 2000. This scribe has been witness to all that shattered hamlets like Anjar. But Modi’s vision and determination turned the tragedy into an opportunity for the desert region.
The Kutch Rann Utsav is a runaway success. Media reports said in 2020 that the festival has enriched the state’s treasury by Rs 81.15 crore and the grand show has found a platform to the local arts and crafts vendors to sell their products.
According to an estimate, the numbers of tourists have seen an exponential rise to 14.80 lakh till 2018-19 from the 2.85 lakh gathering recorded in the year 2005 when the extravaganza was first launched.
The Kutch region transformed. One impact, locals say, is that the emigration has stopped and hundreds of native people who during the killer tremor and later have returned. Kutch actually also benefited partly from a special tax holiday offered by the central government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001 after a huge earthquake left several thousand people dead and the buildings grounded and the areas devastated.
According to some, a few big power projects and greater commitment shown by the corporate houses have been the real factors at the vanguard of the region’s transformation.
Fabrication business has started in a little known Tunda Vandha hamlet.
In a decade and a few years, Tunda Vandha has graduated from a sleepy village of mud houses populated by cattle breeders into a modern and prosperous town.
To a large extent, the changes have been brought by two of India’s largest coal-fired power projects Tata Power Co. Ltd’s subsidiary Coastal Gujarat Power Ltd (CGPL) that has set up a 4,000 megawatts (MW) plant and Adani Power Ltd has built a 4,650 MW power station.
Officials say as the Chief Minister Modi with “inspiration from then President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam” had formulated plans to host a festival in Rann of Kutch to attract tourists from the other parts of the country and possibly a few neighbouring countries. “Accordingly, the Modi government worked on three prime objectives – creating economic opportunity, promoting the natural and cultural beauty of Kutch and bringing about social development and infra upliftment in the region”.
In August this year during Prime Minister Modi’s visit, incumbent Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel spoke about a few major hurdles faced by the Kutch region.
He had alleged that “urban Naxals” like Medha Patkar had opposed the ambitious Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river and the opposition actually aimed to deprive Gujarat and the arid Kutch region of water.
Mr Patel made the comments after the PM inaugurated the Bhuj-Mandvi Narmada branch canal, which has brought water to this arid region from the Sardar Sarovar dam in the Narmada district.
“On this occasion, when Narmada water has reached Kutch, we should also remember who were those people who had deprived Kutch from getting this water for nearly five decades. We all know who were those urban naxals who had opposed the Narmada dam project,” remarked CM Patel — who has the image of a ‘common man’ for his simpleton approach to governance and pro-people initiatives.
Notably, the Kutch-Bhuj Canal (KBC) work started in 2008 and it has been built at the cost of Rs 6493 crore. It is 357.18-kilometer-long that stretches from the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Dam in Narmada district 750 kilometres away, to the last of the villages of Gujarat’s Mandvi taluka, Mod Kuba.
This will benefit the people and farmers of the region by providing water for irrigation to 182 villages that have a culturable command area of 1,12,778 hectares (278,561 acres). It will also provide drinking water in all 948 villages and 10 towns of the Kutch district.
As it is, the Saurashtra and North Gujarat regions have been receiving Narmada waters through the Saurashtra Branch Canal, its six sub-branch canals as well as through the canal network in north Gujarat, officials say.
This is also rightly called the region of the Rabari community, which normally is presented worldwide as the face of ‘Gujarat tourism’ posters etc – the women in black ghagra cholis and the men clad in all white, sporting a turban.
The world of this Rabari community has over the years gone through a sea change and the Bhuj and Kutch region are now milestones of what India can be if it uses Modi’s vision and the Gujarat model of Development.
What PM Modi says about Kutch region:
- “Pakistan attacked the Bhuj airport in the 1971 war, bombed the airstrip and destroyed it completely. In such circumstances, another airstrip was needed in time. The women of Kutch, without caring about their lives, worked overnight to build an airstrip for the Indian forces. It is a very important event in history.”
- “The Kutch region has been a symbol of women’s power and potential for centuries. Here, Maa Ashapura herself resides in the form of Matrushakti. The women here have taught the whole society how to live in the midst of harsh natural challenges…The world has acknowledged the role played by the women of Kutch regarding water conservation by setting up ‘Pani Samiti’ (water committee). The women of Kutch have also kept alive the civilization and culture of Kutch with their tireless hard work. The colors of Kutch, especially the handicraft, are a great example of this”.
- Jan 26, 2001, the grand Republic Day parade was on at the national capital. PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had received the information at the parade venue itself. Next day, among others, Narendra Modi – then an ordinary BJP karyakarta had visited Bhuj. Recalling his visit, in circa 2022, an emotional Modi said that the people here have changed adversity into an opportunity. Kutch is an example that India will become a developed nation by 2047, he asserted.
- PM Modi took a line from superstar Amitabh Bachchan’s advertisement campaign for Gujarat “Kutch nahi dekha toh kuchch nahi dekha (You haven’t seen anything if you have not seen Kutch)”.
- The carrying capacity of Kutch Branch Canal has been kept as per the requirement of irrigation as well as the need for carrying additional one million acre-feet surplus water from different places in Kutch.