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Will the Sardar statue withstand Narmada water current of 20 feet per second? Top state insider doubts

By Rajiv Shah
Apprehensions about viability of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s pet Rs 2,500 crore project, to built as the world’s tallest statue in the memory of Sardar Patel, are now coming from unexpected quarters, albeit “off the record.” One of the topmost government officials, known to be close to Modi, told Counterview on condition of anonymity that several “issues” about practicality of the project – which is part of the overall Modi drive to turn the area surrounding the Narmada dam into a major tourist attraction – have “yet to be resolved”.
The bureaucrat, who has been associated with several projects of the state’s Narmada and water resources department and can claim to be privy to inside information about the project despite not being directly part of the Sardar statue on a day-to-day basis, said, “Without solving some of the major contentious issues, and making them public, it would be advisable not to continue with the project. It would be even more advisable to m…

Rich farmers of Mandal-Becharaji area "regret" taking part in agitation against special investment region

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat government may have gone on the back foot by excluding 36 of the 44 villages from its proposed special investment region (SIR) in the Mandal -Becharaji area of North Gujarat, but now there is enough reason for it to "cheer". Sharp rise in the land prices in the eight villages that will now be included in the newly-formed SIR – Bhagapura and Shihor of Detroj taluka, Hansalpur-Becharaji, Sitapur, Udhroj, Udhrojpura and Ukardi of Mandal taluka, Chandanki village of Becharaji taluka – is leading to a situation where a section of the rich landowners of rest of the 36 villages are said to be regretting why they protested against SIR.
Informed sources close to the development say, land prices in the eight villages have gone up so high that they are “double those that exist next to the Tata Motors’ Nano plant in Sanand area in Ahmedabad district.” They add, “The highest land price around the Nano plant is Rs 1.5 crore per bigha, while those next to the propo…

Tridip Suhrud's Mahatma

By Rajiv Shah
It was a lovely evening in Ahmedabad, and I decided to go to Gandhi Ashram with a friend to have a chat with a senior Gandhi scholar who sits quietly in a modest, less than 10x10 room – Tridip Suhrud. Suhrud is currently involved in digitizing anything and everything related to Mahatma Gandhi. “We have already digitized nearly five lakh pages and put them online, including Gandhiji’s complete works. Once we have finished digitizing around 25 lakh pages, which would include works by all those who have worked and interacted with Gandhi, you wouldn’t need to go anywhere to do research on Gandhi. All you would need to do is to go online”, he tells me modestly as I begin talking to him.
A reputed social activist, Achyut Yagnik, known as an expert on Gujarat and Ahmedabad (Penguin has published his books on the cultural history of both), introduced me to Suhrud in mid-1990s. At that time, Suhrud was a faculty at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. Thereafter, I would …

Gujarat govt "drops" its own plan to develop Bhavnagar port to help Dholera SIR off Gulf of Khambhat

By Rajiv Shah
In a major decision, the Gujarat government has dropped its plan to develop Bhavnagar port as an alternative to the Dholera port in the Gulf of Khambhat. It had had given up Dholera port following its decision to go ahead with the Kalpasar project as a huge sweet water lake by damming the. The state government had offered the top state industrial group, Adanis, to develop Bhavnagar port as alternative to Dholera port, which the Adanis were to develop in association with the JK Group, to provide Dholera special investment region (SIR) a major boost. Dholera SIR, to be developed south of Ahmedabad district, off Gulf of Khambhat, is proposed as a modern industrial-urban centre. To be developed in three phases, each of 10 years, so far no investors have shown interest in Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's ambitious SIR.
In 2011, in an effort to provide a major boost to the future of industrialization along the Gulf of Khambhat, the state government had decided to alloc…

Gujarat PSU laying down cross country gas pipeline sans tieup, banking on LNG terminal off Andhra coast

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat State Petronet Ltd (GSPL) – the foremost subsidiary of the state’s former bluechip public sector undertaking (PSU), Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) – is not sure about the source of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) which should flow into the 4,000 km long gas pipelines it is currently involved in laying down between Kakinada, off Andhra Pradesh coast, and Bhatinda in Punjab and beyond. A well-placed source in Gandhinagar Sachvivalaya has told Counterview that the GSPL, which is laying down the pipeline at the cost of Rs 13,700 crore, “as of now has no captive gas to bank upon that could flow right up to Punjab.”
A top state official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “Reliance, which was involved in gas exploration off Andhra Pradesh coast, is not in a position to supply gas, as it was earlier. It is not sure about its actual reserves in the KG basin, hence it has sharply curtailed its production. Worse, GSPC’s own estimation of getting about …

What if Modi comes to power? Workers may have to further tighten their belt, social security net may be diluted

By Rajiv Shah
In case Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi comes to power and takes over reins of Prime Ministership, which many believe is most likely, India’s working class should be prepared to further tighten its belt under an aggressive liberal economic regime. Also, few of the social security steps, such as for guaranteeing rural employment, taken by the Government of India in the recent past, albeit to “woo” the electorate, would start losing their sheen, and may even been dropped. And if proof is needed for this, say informed sources, one finds an outline of this happening, as reflected lately in the views expressed by two well-known economists known to be close to Modi.
Prof Jagdish Bhagwati and Prof Arvind Panagariya, known worldwide for their thinking on reviving an era of laissez faire at a time when even the US, one of its firmest protagonists, is seeking to move away from it, in their book “India’s Tryst with Destiny: Debunking Myths that Undermine Progress and Addressin…

Saheb's Soviet misadventure

By Rajiv Shah
The recent decision of the Gujarat chief minister’s office (CMO) to “bar” the entry of accredited journalists to enter the Swarnim Sankul – the swanky complex built to house Narendra Modi’s office and of his Cabinet colleagues – wasn’t surprising. Only those journalists who had prior appointment or were “invited” by officials sitting inside had to be allowed in. The decision was implemented for about a week, but was lifted because, to quote a Modi aide, it was imposed because of a “misunderstanding.” While the aide didn’t explain what this “misunderstanding” was, it left me wondering whether it reflected the suspicious character of the man who has come to known as “Saheb”.
The “official” reason forwarded for not allowing scribes was, there was an intelligence input which said a terrorist might enter into the Sankul in the garb of a journalist.
However, circumstantial evidence suggested that the “ban” was imposed in the wake of the snoopgate which is rocking Modi’s image. C…

Greenpeace targets Adani Group's $10 billion Australian coal mining project, says it is "uncommercial"

By Rajiv Shah
Top international environmental group Greenpeace in a new report has targeted premier Gujarat-based business group Adanis, saying that one of its overseas operations in Australia for mining coal may have become “uneconomical.” Titled “The Adani Group: Remote Prospects. A financial analysis of Adani’s coal gamble in Australia’s Galilee Basin”, and prepared by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Cleveland, Ohio, US, for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, the report states, “We view Adani Enterprises’ development of the Carmichael deposit as an uneconomic proposition. The low energy and high ash content are major constraints to the value of the coal.”
Adanis term Greenpeace report “shortsighted” The Adanis have termed the Greenpeace-commissioned report as “short-sighted”, prepared by “vested interests” who “ignore the long-term fundamentals that underpin Adani’s project in the Galilee Basin and the development of the country (Australia) at large.” Issued by A…

Gujarat's six districts among 42 India's "laggard" districts with very slow fall in under-five mortality rate

By Rajiv Shah
A high-level study, carried out by a group of scholars led by Prof Usha Ram of the Centre for Global Health Research, St Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, “Neonatal, 159 month, and under-5 mortality in 597 Indian districts, 2001 to 2012”, has found that Gujarat’s six districts figure among 42 of India’s top laggard districts showing very slow fall in under-five mortality rate (U5MR). Published in Lancet, the reputed international health journal, the study shockingly suggests that two of the six districts has majority tribal population – Dahod and Valsad – while the rest have tribal population but not in majority. Gujarat accounts for nearly 15 per cent tribal population.
U5MR is the sum total of child mortality under two different categories – neonatal mortality rate (NNMR), based on infant mortality of less than one month old, and the mortality rate of children between one month and 59 months (1-59mMR). The 42 districts out of 597 Indian districts chosen by the…

Gujarat has higher percentage of households without any assets than national average: Crisil report

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst considerable hallabaloo around top rating agency Crisil’s rating of Gujarat as No 3 – next only to Punjab and Kerala – both in prosperity index and in equity index (click HERE), what appears to have been missed is an important observation in its new Insight report, brought out in November 2013. The report says that, in Gujarat, 18.7 per cent of the households do not have “any assets”, which is less than the national average of 17.8 per cent. For the sake of analysis, Crisil – which bases its data on household survey of the Census of India 2011 – has divided households into two categories, those who have “all the assets” and those who do not have “any assets.”
Those who have “all the assets” must have television, computer or laptop, telephone or mobile phone and two-wheeler or car or jeep; and those who do not have “any assets” neither radio nor bicycle in addition to the above four assets. Also significant is that, Gujarat’s 6.3 per cent of the households are found…

Top Gujarat PSU "forfeits" its claim of going multinational, withdraws from Egyptian misadventure

By Rajiv Shah
In its first major decision to take the former state blue-chip public sector undertaking (PSU) out of the red, the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) has taken a formal decision to withdraw from its most important overseas adventure – Egypt. A well-placed source in the Gujarat government has told Counterview that the GSPC board took the decision to withdraw from Egypt after dilly-dallying on the matter for above a year. “The board met recently. It decided to withdraw following a discussion, in which GSPC managing-director Tapan Ray insisted that withdrawal was essential to bring the GSPC out of the red and also in view of unstable political atmosphere in Egypt”, the source said.
The decision to withdraw followed a recent communication by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry, Government of India, to the Ministry of External Affairs that the Indian consortium led by the GSPC, with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) and Oil India Limited (OIL) as junior…

Fresh note on data manipulation suggests Gujarat's annual farm growth in 1998-2013 was merely 0.82%!

By Rajiv Shah
Fresh facts have come to light suggesting that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for agriculture and allied sectors in Gujarat during 1998-99 to 2012-13 has been 0.82 per cent, and not “around 10 per cent”, as claimed by the state government. A top note, prepared by a senior state bureaucrat who retired as additional chief secretary, Gujarat government, has said in a note that the analysis is based on taking 1998-99 as the base year for calculating CARG. This was contrary to the “wrongful” practice of the Gujarat government to calculate CARG by taking 2000-01, a drought year, as the base year. The note, prepared by CJ Jose, says, even if the CARG is taken by making 2001-02 as the base year, when Narendra Modi came to power, the CARG till 2012-13 comes to 2.93 per cent!
Suggesting that manipulating statistics appears normal with the Gujarat government, Jose says, “A slightly better CAGR would be thrown up if the comparison of 2012-13 is made with the worst ever year in…

Rejected by MP, "main purpose" of Garudeshwar weir across Narmada is to supply water to industry

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst fresh controversy over the Gujarat government’s decision to go ahead with the construction of Garudeshwar weir across the Narmada river, allegedly without environmental clearance (click HERE to read), a top official in Gandhinagar Sachivalaya has confided to www.counterview.net that the “real purpose of the weir is to supply Narmada water to the industrial complexes in the nearby regions, especially in Bharuch district.” The official, who did not want to be named, said, “The state-owned Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) has been asked to work out final details of the industrial areas that would need the water.”
In fact, the official said, already the GIDC has begun the process of laying down a 128 km long pipeline to one of the biggest projects up to the area – the Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Region (PCPIR) in Dahej, with an investment of Rs 70,000 crore in alliance with the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC). “Initially, it h…