Times of India | 5 days ago | 24-11-2022 | 10:23 am
RAJKOT: While Union minister Nitin Gadkari had assured the parliament in March this year that there will no two toll plazas with 60km distance, Gujarat has 15 that breaches this rule. Even though the Union minister had then stated that he will ensure shutting one down within three months, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) admitted that there are 175 toll plazas across the country within distance of 60 kilometres . In fact, the lowest distance found in Gujarat between two toll plazas is just 21km between Nadiad and Anand! This was learnt from a reply of a RTI application filed by Rajkot-based RTI activist Shailendrasinh Jadeja. The NHAI said that fee plazas within distance of 60 km are permitted under sub rule 2 of rule 8 of NH fee rules 2008 and fee rules 1997. After three months of Gadkari’s statement to the parliament, Jadeja had filed an RTI application with the NHAI seeking information regarding how many toll plazas exist within 60kmS distance, what are the procedures to shut these plazas down as per the minister’s statement and how much amount had been collected in these plazas. Jadeja, however, did not get reply from NHAI within the stipulated time. He filed a second appeal with central information commission (CIC) and received a list of toll plazas located within 60km distance but did not get a reply on the total collection made in these. In a letter he wrote to minister Gadikari last week, Jadeja attached the RTI reply and asked: “This RTI reply shows that the assurance given to the citizens has not been implemented by the office under your control. This is a betrayal of the people.”
At his last rally in Rajkot for the first phase of Gujarat elections, for which campaigning ends Tuesday 5 pm, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Rajkot that this election is to “make our Gujarat developed, prosperous and touch new heights”.“Now, we can’t afford to tread slowly. We have completed 75 years of Independence and whatever capital we have accumulated and strength we have gained, whatever difficulties we have overcome, we can’t afford to walk for another 75 years. Whatever we want to do, we must do in just 25 years. This election is to resolve that we want to take Hindustan and Gujarat to that height, come what may,” he said.Addressing a rally on Race Course ground in Rajkot, Modi said his government trusts the people and added that after he became the prime minister in 2015, his government repealed 5,000 archaic laws and had done away with 40,000 compliance requirements. He also said that his government did away with the requirement of getting attested photocopies of documents and also started becoming guarantors of small time traders and even vegetable vendors so that they can get bank loans through Mudra and PM Swanidhi schemes.“During the Congress era, there was no trust in people. It didn’t trust the people. Government used to function in its own way even as people would struggle. We have changed this situation and there is a huge difference…,” Modi said adding that the Congress had the the mentality that used to prevail during the days of gulami (foreign rule).“Britishers had decided to not trust anyone in the country. This British trait was later transferred to Congress to not to trust citizens… Congress, during its rule, entangled the common man in such a way that he started believing that government was maa-baap (the provider) and that not a step can be taken without the concurrence of the government. Congress wanted that the country’s poor, middle class, trader, businessmen continue making rounds of (offices of) of Congress leaders and government,” Modi said.Adding that the BJP runs the government in a way in which those who need government shouldn’t feel the absence of it and those who don’t need it shouldn’t find it blocking their way unnecessarily, he said, “We have always believed in trusting the people of this country as they love the country as much as we do and mean good to the country.” He cited it as the reason behind the government doing away with the requirement of interviews for filling Class III and Class IV positions.In Jamnagar, the PM said, “I have got one more opportunity to seek blessings of Lord Dwarikadhis and darshan of you all.”
The auctioneer quotes Rs 5,000 per quintal as the base price for groundnut brought by Hansraj Gadhiya, and then invites bids from buyers. The farmer sits down in the auction shed of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Rajkot, resignation writ on his face. A small bidding war pushes the price up to Rs 5,425. But the bidding soon stops, and the auctioneer announces that Gadhiya’s lot of 28 quintals of groundnut, grown on a 1.24 hectare field, sold.The 45-year-old farmer from Vijaynagar village in Tankara taluka of Morbi district, who has no formal education, seems neither too happy nor unhappy by the outcome. “One gets what is written in one’s destiny,” he philosophises.His total crop this year was double that of last year, when his groundnut was infested by white grub pests that eat roots of plants. The price he got this year is also higher than the Rs 4,500/quintal he had got last year, though it’s Rs 425 lower than the Rs 5,850 that was announced as the minimum support price (MSP) by the Central government this year. Gadhiya says he doesn’t sell his produce to the government as generally, it takes a couple of weeks to get paid via bank transfer, at a time when he needs cash to pay his labourers, and to buy seeds and fertilisers for sowing winter crops. Instead, he prefers to sell at the APMC, where he is paid hard cash, instantly.Gadhiya has also taken on lease an additional 1.5 hectares to grow cotton. A few days ago, he sold 22 quintals of cotton, harvested during first picking, at Rs 9,000 per quintal, substantially higher than the MSP of Rs 6,080 for the medium staple variety he had grown this year.“Prices are so-so. A farmer will never be happy about the price he gets for his produce,” he says.What Gadhiya is unhappy about is the unreliable electricity supply to his farm, a central plank of the BJP in the state (NOT TRUE SO KINDLY REMOVE. MODI MEANS DOMESTIC POWER SUPPLY). He still has nice words for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, though. “Modi does work, but we are not getting the hours of supply we are promised. Currently, the government is supplying us power for 10 hours daily as the elections are round the corner. But it will stop once the elections are over. The government will again forget us, farmers,” Gadhiya says, adding, “A party should be voted out every five years so that the government remains on its toes.” (SENSITIVE IS WHAT THAT FARMER MEANT)After harvesting the groundnut, Gadhiya has sown gram (chana) in his 1.5 hectare field, but needs power to operate motor pumps installed in two open wells to draw water for irrigating the Rabi crop, as well as the cotton he had sown in the Kharif season.Claiming that he had burnt Rs 30,000 worth of diesel to give two irrigation to his crop by drawing water from the nearby Aji river using a diesel pump the year before last, Bavji Rangani (52), a farmer with five hectares of land from Moviya village in Paddhari taluka of Rajkot, also gets animated (excited here meant a bit aggressive. So, animation is not a proper discription, I am afraid) while talking about power supply. “The government promises that it’ll give power for eight hours, but actually gives it for six hours, with the supply disrupted scores of times. But these days, they are giving it for 10 hours because of elections,” says Rangani, who sold his crop of G-20 groundnut — a variety that is widely cultivated in Saurashtra — for Rs 6,300 per quintal.Rangani, who dropped out of school after Class X, has sown cotton in 1.2 hectares and the crop, he says, looks good. “But cultivation costs have risen by 35 per cent, as pesticides, fertiliser, diesel and labour have all become costlier,” he adds.At the Gondal APMC, Mahesh Dobariya (35), a farmer with 3 hectares in Vinzivad village of Gondal taluka of Rajkot, agrees with Rangani. “The average cultivation cost was Rs 18,000 per hectare last year, but it has shot up to Rs 30,000 this year. Hence, Rs 6,000 would have been a remunerative price, instead of the Rs 5,500 I actually got for my groundnut,” Dobariya says, after selling his 28 quintal groundnut at the Gondal APMC. “However, I will continue supporting the BJP as it provides safety, security, drinking water, etc.,” he adds.Groundnut and cotton prices are higher by an average of Rs 500 and Rs 3,000, respectively, over the corresponding prices last year, say traders, mainly due to robust domestic and overseas demand.Gujarat accounts for about a half of India’s groundnut production. Within Gujarat, the Saurashtra region accounts for more than two-thirds of groundnut acreage and production. Gondal is the biggest wholesale market of groundnuts in the state, while Rajkot APMC is considered the second largest market of groundnut, but among the biggest for cotton in the state. Gujarat is also the largest cotton producer of India. Cotton and groundnut are the main cash crops of Gujarat in general and Saurashtra in particular.“This is a rare year when good cotton yields have coincided with good market prices. So, the Rs 9,170 per quintal I got today sounds good. But one should remember that a bag of the fertilizer, DAP, which cost Rs 600 five years ago, today costs Rs 1,350. Labour charge for picking a quintal of cotton was Rs 750 last year. This year, I’m shelling out Rs 850,” says Ramesh Boda, who owns 1.5 hectares in Sarapdad village in Rajkot’s Paddhari taluka, before adding, “To make farmers feel happy during elections, the government is even supplying power during the day.”PM Modi, who had served as chief minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014, had launched the Kisan Suryodaya Yojana (KSY), a scheme to supply power to farmers of Gujarat during daytime, in October 2020. However, state-owned Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Limited (PGVCL), the largest discom in the state that distributes power in 11 districts of Saurashtra, as well as in Kutch and parts of north Gujarat regions, had suspended implementation of KSY in October last year, to keep the grid “stable”, as power supply had dipped at a time when demand was rising.Varun Kumar Baranval, managing director of PGVCL, says the company has been supplying power to farmers during daytime for the past couple of weeks but adds that it’s not under the KSY. “It’s not as per the scheme. Rather, it’s due to a sharp rise in our solar power generation due to increasing solarisation of our grid. We have been doing some scheduling too,” he says, adding, “We are supplying power to farmers during daytime as power is available. It’s not load-shedding.”There are around 18 lakh agricultural connections in Gujarat, including 11.5 lakh which are served by the PGVCL. Farmers pay an average 75 paisa per unit while the government gives an average of Rs 2.60 per unit as subsidy to them. Farmers in the state get power for eight hours a day in rotating weekly shifts, in which, every third shift is a night shift. However, days before November 3, when he Election Commission of India announced the schedule for the Assembly election in Gujarat, the state government extended power supply to 10 hours.“For the past one week, we have started getting power for 10 hours during daytime. But I am fully aware that this is going to stop as soon as polling for Assembly elections is over, though industries will continue to get round the clock supply,” says Dilip Mungalpara (38) a farmer from Khajuri village of Paddhari, who had brought his 47 quintal of cotton grown on a two hectare plot, to Rajkot APMC that fetched him a price of Rs 9,150 per quintal.He says he will explore new options while casting his vote on December 1, when polling will be conducted in Saurashtra, Kutch and south Gujarat regions, in the first phase of the two-phase Assembly elections.In almost every public meeting that Modi has addressed in the state over the past five months, he has talked about bringing Narmada waters to Saurashtra for irrigation and drinking purposes, and how residents of the state are today getting round the clock power. The BJP government in fact claims Gujarat to be a power-surplus state. “While that may be true, the fact is that power supply to farms is not regular. Why should only farmers get electricity at night, exposing them to risks of being attacked by wild animals or bitten by snakes or other poisonous insects while irrigating their crops?” asks Vinu Khakhariya (45), who has a three hectare farm in Moti Veraval village in Lalpur taluka of Jamnagar district, after selling his 30 quintal cotton crop at a unit price of Rs 9,165 in Jamnagar APMC.The BJP manifesto for Gujarat promises Rs 10,000 crore for farm infrastructure and Rs 25,000 crore to augment irrigation facilities over the next five years. The Congress, meanwhile, is promising 10 hours of daytime power to farmers, for which they will be charged on per-day basis instead of per unit basis, while AAP is promising 300 units of free electricity if voted to power. But some farmers are hesitant. “What do we do with 10 hours of power supply if there is no water,” says Prakash Bharwad (26), a farmer from Morbi district’s Raydhara village, who got Rs 6,425 for his Gujarat Groundnut-9 variety that’s fetching up to Rs 10,000 in the Jamnagar APMC. He adds that unlike farmers in neighbouring villages, he doesn’t get Narmada water for irrigation.“No leader of any political party is going to come and lend a hand on a farmer’s field. So no one is going to give us anything free. Ultimately, the burden will be on our backs,” says Khakhariya.
Gujarat has for long experienced severe water shortages. The unique water storage system at Dholavira in Kutch, part of the Indus Valley civilisation dating back approximately 3,000 years, points to this being an old problem. Severe droughts in the region have, over the past 500 years or so, forced people to migrate to Mumbai, other cities in India as well as to East African countries.The availability of Narmada waters, the water harvesting done through lakes and check dams, and the linking of water-storage facilities have, however, made acute water scarcity a thing of the past. In fact, many young people are unaware of the hardships and the deprivation suffered by earlier generations.The Assembly election of 1985 brought the Congress to power with 149 out of 182 seats. Within a few months, however, the architect of this grand victory, Madhavsinh Solanki, had to resign from the post of Chief Minister. Amarsinh Chaudhary, who succeeded him, was a young engineer from the tribal community with more than a decade of experience in the government.It was Amarsinh who was to save Saurashtra and Kutch from the impact of a third consecutive drought. Most of the water sources in the region had dried up by the beginning of 1986. The groundwater too had depleted and many wells and borewells went dry or had very little water. With the crops having failed and fodder being unavailable, the people in villages and the major cities of Saurashtra — Rajkot with a population of 6 lakh and Jamnagar with 4 lakh — were in great difficulty.When the government surveyed the situation, it became evident that in order to prevent mass migration from these cities and the region, fresh water had to be imported in substantial quantities.Since the affected regions had a population of about 1.20 crore, the minimum water required per day was 100 million litres. The government constituted a task force to examine various options:(1) To bring in large tanker ships to various ports and transport them to cities through pipelines. The infrastructure needed for this was so huge that it was not possible to create it in a short span of 30 days that was available to us.(2) Large-scale desalination plants to be installed near the coastal area to convert sea water to fresh water. This option too was time-consuming.(3) To press water tankers into service. There were more than 6,000 water tankers already reaching more than 4,000 villages; additional vehicles were not easily available.(4) To bring special water trains to Rajkot and Jamnagar using oil tankers (after cleaning them). Even under this option, special infrastructure was needed for loading the tankers at Gandhinagar and Rajula (where the dam had adequate water) and for unloading it at Rajkot and Jamnagar railway stations. Though many were sceptical about the feasibility of the water train plan, the government decided to go ahead with it.This was an unprecedented situation and I had just returned from a training course abroad and had been appointed as Joint Managing Director of Gujarat Industrial Investment Corporation (GIIC).On March 12, 1986, at about 10 pm, I received a call from CM Amarsinh Chaudhary asking me to go to Rajkot and work as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to manage the water situation that was being handled by the Department of Water Supply.The technical staff of the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board rose to occasion and planned and implemented a number of projects, simultaneously and in record time, in preparation for the water trains. These projects included digging large diameter tubewells at Gandhinagar; laying a 8-km pipeline from Dhatarwadi Dam to Rajula Junction Railway Station; building huge storage tanks at six locations; setting up a system for ‘watering’ and ‘dewatering’ of 32 tankers near railway lines at Gandhinagar, Rajula Junction, Rajkot and Jamnagar; setting up water testing laboratories in Rajkot and Jamnagar; cleaning and preparing tanker rakes in collaboration with the Railways; and setting up pumping facilities at more than 20 locations. Perfect team work ensured that within 25 days of commencement, all facilities were operational.There was a lot of excitement when the first water train reached Rajkot in late April 1986. Thousands of people had gathered to welcome “water on rails”.I must mention that though in the Opposition party, Vajubhai Vala, who was the mayor as well as MLA, inspired confidence with his witty remarks. He always motivated all of us to sing, “We shall overcome.” Yes, the Gujarat government, their officials and the people did overcome the worst water crisis of 1986.My assignment as OSD, Water Crisis, ended as suddenly as it began.On May 30, 1986, I was travelling from Ahmedabad to Rajkot, my mind filled with apprehensions about the water shortage. What would happen if the rains are delayed or fail, I wondered? When I reached Limbdi town (about 105 km from Ahmedabad), a strong breeze blew, dark clouds appeared from the south, and it started pouring heavily. Saurashtra was drenched in pre-monsoon showers.I stayed on in Rajkot for another month until the Chief Minister called once again. “Laheri, you can come back to Gandhinagar,” he said.The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Gujarat
AHMEDABAD: Para swimmers from Gujarat continued to shine at the national level, bagging 29 medals -- 18 gold, six silver and five bronze -- at the recently-concluded 22nd National Para Swimming Championships, 2022 in Guwahati. The championship was hosted by the Paralympic Association of Assam under the aegis of Paralympic Committee of India. Thirty-two para swimmers from across the state had represented Gujarat at the meet and 13 of them returned with at least a medal. Three para swimmers each from Ahmedabad, Surat and Rajkot and one each from Vadodara, Gandhinagar, Junagadh and Porbandar clinched medals of various hues. Vadodara’s Garima Vyas, who won three gold medals, was adjudged the best para swimmer in the senior women’s category. The 21-year-old won gold in 50m freestyle, 50m breaststroke and 100m breaststroke. Garima won the gold in the S-5 category by setting a new national record of 1:45.98. In 50m breaststroke, she came first after finishing in 1:59.15 while in 100m breaststroke, she rewrote the national record, claiming the yellow metal in 4:15.41 Ahmedabad’s Vyom Pawa won three gold medals and broke one national record. The 15-year-old won the gold in 200m freestyle with a record-breaking timing of 10:34.80 in the S4 category. He also clinched the top position in the 50m and 100m freestyle, by registering timings of 2:32.56 and 5:31.18 respectively. Surat’s Jaynish Sarang too was in red hot form, eclipsing two national records. He won the gold medal in the 50m breaststroke in 41.15 seconds in the SB8 category while in the 50m butterfly, he finished the race in 38.68 seconds to set a new timing record and win the yellow metal. Surat’s Abizer Dodia and Devanshi Rana too bagged three gold medals. Ahmedabad’s Sursinh Solanki won two medals - a gold and a bronze, while Dinesh Kanzariya won a bronze. Rajkot’s Niti Rathod bagged two gold and a silver while a gold and a silver was claimed by Jigar Thakker of Rajkot. Porbandar’s Keshu Bhima won a bronze while Junagadh’s Burhan Modiya claimed a silver. Rajkot’s Indresh Palan won three silver medals while Gandhinagar’s Harshil Shah won a bronze.
RAJKOT : A total of 135 migrants from Pakistan who were granted Indian citizenship recently will vote for the first time in this election in Rajkot district. After naturalization, these happy people say that they were glad they could leave their refugee life in Pakistan and that now they would not be called ‘Pakistani’. A majority of them are residing in Bhagvatipara area of the city. Shakti Matang, who got Indian citizenship along with six of his family members, said, “The election card is now our real identity. ”