10 years on....

The desert has bloomed after the dance of death and destruction. Kutch is a story of a decade of Gujarati resilience and enterprise etched in the sands of time. The earthquake on January 26, 2001, helped Narendra Modi become chief minister a few months after some shoddy rescue, relief and rehabilitation work threw his predecessor Keshubhai Patel out of power. But before Modi arrived on the scene, a five-year tax holiday had been offered by the A B Vajpayee-led NDA government to boost Kutch’s economy — a move that has now transformed Kutch into an industrial hotspot and a feather in Modi’s vibrant cap. What was once a vast, arid desert is now a business hub, which manufactures almost everything under the brilliantly shining sun — cement, trucks, bikes, biscuits, ceramics. Kutch is emerging as a power hub with Adani and Tata planning to generate over 8,000MW in next few years. Since 2001, 296 projects have been made fully operational with investment of Rs 17,097 crore, while 467 projects are under implementation for Rs 2.04 lakh crore. In the past decade, Rs 2.22 lakh crore worth of industrial entrepreneurs memorandums (IEM) have been filed for setting up projects in Kutch, which is 26 per cent of Gujarat as a whole. “The tax holiday transformed Kutch. Development in the last decade has been faster than the whole of the previous one century,” says Vidyut Buch, vice-president of Gandhidham Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). Many feared the concessions would bring in fly-in and fly-out operators who would pack up once the tax holiday ended. But, two growing ports – Kandla and Mundra — proved the apprehensions wrong. “When they saw profit through easy exports, they stayed invested here,” said Ashok Chawla, former president of GCCI. One of the most glowing examples of the enterprise that a new Kutch has bred is an auto company born soon after the concessions were offered. Asia Motor Works, the maker of large trucks, was drawn to the quake-ravaged land in 2002 because of the incentives. “When we came in here first, there was hardly any infrastructure. But, in the past five years, the state government has created excellent infrastructure — airport, roads, power and even water,” says Anirudh Bhuwalka, MD & CEO of AMW, which has lined up future investments in and around Bhuj. The steady stream of investments gave a big boost to local industries as well. Ashok Sharma, 50, had raised huge debts to build a hotel in Gandhidham. The newly-built property came crumbling down on January 26. Some assistance from the government and loads of courage has seen Sharma construct a larger resort in the same town. “Traffic increased phenomenally and we get much more business than what we used to get pre-earthquake,” he says. Many investors clearly identified Kutch as the location for new projects during the Vibrant Gujarat meet earlier this month. The district was promised the maximum investments. investment of Rs 1.13 lakh crore has been pledged in projects worth Rs 5,000 crore or more. Of the major projects planned in Kutch, the most important are by the Adani Group, which has invested Rs 30,000 crore in Mundra port, special economic zone and power. Tatas are setting up an ultra mega power plant for Rs 20,000 crore. The project is under construction and the first phase is nearing completion. Adani is building world’s largest terminal to import coal. The Rs 2,000-crore terminal has a capacity to handle 60 million metric tonnes a year. Work is on to expand its capacity up to 100 million metric tonnes. Coal will land here from all over the world, including Adani’s newlyacquired mines in Australia. Three big-sized cement plants have been put up in Kutch district – by Sanghis for Rs 3,000 crore, ABG Cement for Rs 1,200 crore and JP Corporation for Rs 1,500 crore. Reliance plans to set up a plant here. Kutch accounts for 10,000 million tonnes of limestone deposits, which is more than 10 per cent of the country as a whole – 93,623 million tonnes. Other important projects include those by Welspun in textiles and engineering for Rs 5,000 crore; Asia Motor Works for Rs 2,000 crore in heavy commercial vehicles; Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation in power and lignite mining for Rs 2,000 crore; Jindal in pipes and pig iron for Rs 1,000 crore; Ajanta Group in ceramics and electronics for Rs 900 crore; and Eletrotherm for Rs 800 crore.

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