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Showing posts from December, 2013

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…