Friday, December 29, 2006

UPA dislikes Gujarat's progress: Modi

Press Trust of India
Posted online: Friday, December 29, 2006 at 1927 hours IST


Rajkot, December 29: Chief Minister Narendra Modi criticised the Centre's anti-Gujarat policies and said the UPA government disliked his state's progress.


"The Congress-led UPA government dislikes the state's progress and is making every possible attempt to create hurdles for development," Modi told a gathering at the Race Course ground.
The state government has demanded 2.75 lakh metric tones of fertiliser for the state's farmers for their winter crops in September, but only 30 per cent of the demand was met. The season is coming to an end in a next few days, he said, criticising the Centre's attitude.
Modi claimed the state's agriculture income was Rs 9,000 crore in the past but touched Rs 34,000 crore after the Jyotigram Scheme, under which villages get electricity round-the-clock, was implemented.


The state faced a power crisis after the Central government diverted 200 MW of power from Gujarat's quota to other states, Modi alleged.
Modi felicitated sarpanches of Saurashtra and Kutch region who were elected under the state government's 'Samras' scheme.
According to officials, 1,477 Gram Panchayats in 28 villages in the region accepted the scheme and elected village heads unanimously, and 41 per cent of them were women.


Modi's new year gift for rural sector

New Delhi: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Friday had a new year's gift for the underprivileged girls of the state.

All gifts received by the Chief Minister through the year have been deposited with the state treasury and will be auctioned soon. The money collected from the auction will be used for education of these girls.

Modi also announced the setting up of an unique Gram Sachivalaya, a local set-up which will address issues at the village level, in the state. He claimed that Gujarat was the first state to set up such a body.

The Chief Minister also said that five Gram Mitras (village friends) will also be appointed to assist the sarpanches in problems like education, health, drinking water and others.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Not a grad? No bride for you in Gujarat

Author: Radha Sharma

Publication: The Times of India

Date: December 20, 2006

Two essentially Gujarati virtues of owning land and running a business
may no longer be enough to get the enterprising Gujarati boy a bride!
What women in Gujarat now want is a better educated boy, who preferably
does not dwell in a smaller town.

Who would know this better than Ashwin Patel at Udhna in Surat. This
hard working 32-year-old has it all - 65 bigha land between three
brothers, a rewarding textile business and a paying job to boot. His
problem-he is just class XII pass and this has wreaked havoc on his
marriage prospects. Ashwin's family has seen almost 25 girls and all
want a boy who is at least a graduate. "My brother earns more than any
BA, MA pass and does not have any bad habits. But girls these days are
hung up on highly educated guys, even if they earn peanuts," Ashwin's
brother Hasmukh said. Such is the desperation that the family is even
ready to consider a divorcee if she fits the bill!

Vipul Dave (31) of Dakor is sailing in the same boat. "I earn a decent
Rs 10,000 to 15,000 per month, but girls do not want an undergraduate
boy," he said.

Vipul has sent proposals to over 30 girls, but in vain. "They want
highly educated grooms, who earn big salaries in big cities, which has
become a bane for at least 70 to 80 boys like me in the community,"
Vipul added. Marriage bureau managers confirm that there is a problem at
hand. In Vina Mulya Amulya Seva marriage bureau in Vasna, there are
2,000 applications from undergraduate boys that are pending. There are
also proposals from 2,000 graduate boys with just 50 graduate girls to
choose from. There are over 500 girls, who are chartered accountants,
engineers, doctors, MA, PhD, who would not even look at an
undergraduate or a graduate, according to Natubhai Patel of the
marriage bureau.

"I am not ready to compromise on education. Even if he runs a good
business, poor education means conservative, narrow thinking," says
Rashmi Johri (30), Who has done her BCom, LLB from Maninagar and is
looking for Mr Right. "I have got many offers from boys in Botad,
Dwarka and Amreli, but I do not want to settle in small towns as it
would be the end of my career dreams," says Kalpana Darki (28) an MA,
who aims to be a fashion designer.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Teesta Behen READ THIS :::: Shining Gujarat

Shining Gujarat

Author: Shrikant Modak
Publication: Business India
Date: December 17, 2006

Introduction: Deftly managing its resources, Gujarat's apex power body has overcome power shortages and losses

Gujarat's glowing. The state's apex power utility has not only staged a recovery, it's now the only one in India to guarantee three phase 24 hours electricity supply to the rural households and eight hours uninterrupted supply to agricultural consumers. Gujarat Electricity Board (GEB), which had been reporting losses until 2004, came to black last year. The board's financial losses were Rs. 1,900 crore in 2003-04. In 2004-05 these were down to Rs. 935 crore.

In April 2005 the state unbundled its electricity sector with that GEB became Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd (GUVNL), a holding company with six unbundled companies under its umbrella (generation and transmission companies and four distribution companies). The improvements in the utility continued even under this new avatar. GUVNL posted Rs. 187 crore profits in 2005-06. If this year's projections are to be believed it will report even better profits around Rs. 400 crore.

The entire process, "Started five years back," says Saurabh Patel, Gujarat's energy minister of state with the independent charge. "Then we were placed seventh in the power sector rankings of utilities in India and now we are second, behind Andhra Pradesh, "says Viiaylaxmi joshi, CMD Of GUVNL. What's contributed to this success? There are several factors in fact. "One that stands out most recently is the state's Gujarat Jyotigram Yojna that assures 24 hours three phase power supply to the rural residential consumers and eight hours guaranteed supply to the agricultural consumers," claims a GUVNL official.

The state very recently announced the completion of this Yojna (covering 18,000 villages and 9,700 hamlets) at a function attended by President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, near the heritage site of Chapaner town. Its impact! "A fact that more than 1,50,000 rural public came for the event will have obviously boosted Modi's political image," say chief minister, Narendra Modi's, admirers. But, in more mundane economic terms, "its impact on technical parameters like the T&D losses has been large," say GUVNL officials.

At a demographic level, a survey carried out by IRMA at the behest of CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) reveals a reduction in rural to urban migration. "The assured availability of electricity has opened up income earning avenues to the rural public that weren't there earlier," explains Patel. Even consumer durable companies have felt its impact. For example, John Verghese, proprietor of Ahmedabad-based consumer durable retail chain, Sales India, says, "There has been a significant increase of rural consumers to our showrooms in the last year." Haier regional manager, Sanjay Ghadial affirms a similar trend. "Our sales to rural areas have gone up significantly," he says.

Political opportunity
Patel says, "Wherever we toured in the rural areas, people were demanding 24 hours electricity supply." He adds, "The question before us was then how to provide this? A simple answer, since agriculture consumers were subject to load shedding, was to separate the residential consumers by putting them on separate feeder. However, sceptics within the administration dismissed this as unfeasible. But Modi having spotted a political opportunity wasn't the one to let it go. A sample of 50 villages was chosen to test the viability of the proposal.

Its success eventually convinced everyone that this was the only way to assure 24-hour power supply to the rural households. In a short period of two-and-a-half years, the state spent Rs. 1,000 crore to erect 12 lakh poles to connect rural household to a separate feeder. Modi, avers, "jyotigram is the only solution for the survival of rural India. It can create millions of jobs." Though his detractors dismiss this as a political-speak the scheme itself has proved a blessing to the state's electricity board. Joshi says, "By shifting power supply to the agriculture, which constitutes 40 per cent of the state's load, from peak to the off-peak hours, the state's power supply scenario has changed significantly." Among its several benign effects, the most important is the end to load shedding in the state in the last couple of years.

No power thefts
Earlier there was only one feeder catering to both rural residential and agricultural consumers. Since agricultural tariffs were subsidised there was a general tendency to draw electricity from the same connection even for residential usage. Separating the feeder lines and restricting supply to the agriculture to the off-peak hours has not only reduced this, it has, in fact, done much more. "When there is no current in the lines not only can there be no thefts but also no line losses," says a GUVNL official. While theft may not have gone away entirely, the incentive to steal power has diminished. Further, all the feeders now have electronic meters, which makes it possible to attribute losses more accurately to the theft and deal with it.

As for the agriculturist electricity is guaranteed for eight hours at a fixed time of the day in each area. Since supply hours are restricted, many have gone for drip irrigation wherever agricultural pattern has suited them. Rural revenues have gone up not only because rural residential consumers now pay for what they consume but also because they pay the same tariff as the urban consumers. 'There has been an increase of 13 per cent in the total revenue of GUVNL, although the total demand itself has gone up only by 7 per cent in the last two years," according to a GUVNL official.

However, there are other factors, which too have contributed to the reduction in the sector's losses. For example, on the central side GEB took its issues with NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) to CERC (Central Electricity Regulatory Authority) and got it to streamline the former's cost structure. It also negotiated with the IPPs (Independent Power Projects) and got them to streamline their cost structure.

As far as its own cost reductions initiatives are concerned, as said earlier, it reduced T&D losses by 9 per cent; cost of finance by 2 per cent (from 10.67 per cent to 8.6 per cent by substituting costlier loans with the cheaper loans); improved PLF by 3.44 per cent (to 72.28 per cent); and brought down auxiliary consumption at its generating stations by 4.84 per cent, adopting efficiency improvement measures. It also got Rs.231 crore and Rs. 148 crore in incentives from the Union power ministry respectively in 2003-04 and 2005-06 for reducing its balance sheet losses. Similarly, improved load management left it with a surplus, which it sold in the interstate market at higher rates.

A misfortune of being successful is that the Union power ministry soon diverted Gujarat's 200 mw power share in the central power utilities to the neighbouring Maharashtra that's been reeling under power shortages since last year. The total financial implication of this to GUVNL in the current year will be Rs. 562 crore, as the state's own demand has grown and it now has to buy power from the market at Rs. 6.6 per unit against Rs. 3 earlier. Though the decision to transfer power was meant to be ad hoc the state officials fear that this may acquire permanent status.

Whatever, a remarkable aspect of GUVNL'S turnaround is that it has achieved what it has without any general tariff increase in the last six years. Moreover, improvements have come while preparations were on for unbundling in the latter phase of the recovery. Unlike neighbouring Maharashtra, unbundling went through smoothly with complete cooperation from the unions.

So far the state has managed its power scenario by judiciously balancing its resources. But, as demand's growing, these options will soon run out. "To maintain the tempo of economic development we are planning to make Gujarat power surplus," says Patel. How? Additional 11,563 MW generation capacity addition is being planned over and above the 9,000 MW currently available to it from its own, NTPC and IPP sources in the next five years (Gujarat State Electricity Corporation and the state PSUS together will add, 4,000 MW; IPPS, 4,900 MW; wind power, 500 MW; and NTPC the rest).

Monday, December 11, 2006

GUJARAT --- The Great Run of Kutch

Author: Abhishek Kapoor

Publication: The Indian Express

Date: December 10, 2006

URL:


Introduction: The 201 Gujarat earthquake his Kutch the hardest, killing
more than 10,000 people in the district, flattening towns and ravaging
lives. Nearly six years later Kutch has risen from the rubble to become
the state's industrial hub.

BUSY highways, a landscape decorated with busy windmills and Punjabi
dhabas on Gujarati roads. This is the new Kutch, risen from the dust,
literally.

In 2001 the picture couldn't have been more different. When the killer
quake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale hit Gujarat, it left 15,000
people dead in the state. Kutch's toll was the grimmest at over 10,000.
The temblor destroyed 90 per cent of Bhuj, and ruined lives in the towns
of Bhachau, Anjar, Gandhidham and Rapar. In all, more than half a
million lost their homes and over 150,000 people were injured.

With the region reduced to a concrete rubble, the economy was literally
pushed back to the Stone Age.

But six years later, India's second largest district (the largest is
Leh) Kutch-one-fourth the size of Gujarat-has reemerged from the ruins
to become a major industrial hub. Fuelled by post-quake investment that
toted over Rs 28,000 crore at last count, the district's throbbing
economy is leading Gujarat's industrial march to a double digit growth.

The investment is likely to touch Rs 50,000 crore within the year. The
leap is huge considering investment pre-quake, since independence, had
never crossed Rs 2000 crore.

Now overloaded trucks block national highways coming out of Kandla and
Mundra ports, as industrial towns of Anjar, Bhachau, Samakhiali, Adipur
and Gandhidham pulsate to the clink and clamour of industrial growth.

As trucks whiz past giant windmills on the Bhachau-Samakhiali stretch,
the buzz on the Bhachau-Bhuj road is that there's an urgent need to put
in place a four-lane road to facilitate the traffic.

Kutch, it appears, has shaken off the last of the dust and arrived,
finally.

Kutch has a brand equity now. The two ports (Kandla and Mundra),
combined with government support, have played a great role in polishing
Kutch post-quake. The Central government announced excise exemptions. An
emotional Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had then promised a Naya
Kutch, and the state government chipped in with tax sops. Promises were
made, some too tall to see implementation. Aided by international donor
agencies, good roads have come up, carpeted from edge to edge to give
dust-free cities. With the old gone, the newness of Kutch is a sight for
sore eyes. ''The change is visible in the lifestyle of an average Kutchi
as well. Though the industrial development is not directly translating
into jobs for resident Kutchis, the ancillary and service industry
growth in Kutch means there is now a four-wheel vehicle even in remote
villages. Farmers have good price for their land which otherwise was not
very productive," says Chandrakant Dedhia, chairman of the Kutch
Development Council, an industry supported NGO, working to focus
attention on development.

Kutch boasts of being the world's largest maker of Submerged Arc Welded
(SAW) pipes, it has the largest single unit making vitrified tiles (by
ORPAT) in Samakhiali, scrap and roll steel units, coking coal industry,
large cement plants like that of Sanghi's at Abdasa (two more are in the
pipeline), even as a Japanese business delegation led by the country's
ambassador scouted for opportunities in the district last month.

All this has sent prices shooting with parts of the coastal corridor
commanding a premium of up to Rs 1 crore for an acre. A two-room
accommodation in Mundra village, 10 km from the port, can come for Rs
5,000 per month.

With the economic change has come social change. Financial growth has
fostered cosmopolitanism. Punjabi dhabas are now as ubiquitous as
Kathiawadi food joints.

The growth story has an emotional thread to it as well. Originally from
Kutch, Talakshi Nandu was a trader of vitrified tiles based at Mumbai.
The post-quake sops announced by the government brought him to his
homeland, with Nandu setting up the Euro Ceramics unit at Bhachau, now a
Rs 150-crore business. "Before this, I did not know anything about tile
making. Now it's big for me. There is still a lot of promise of growth
in Kutch," says Nandu, who now divides time between his business in
Kutch and his family in Mumbai.

Adds Kutch Collector Dhananjay Dwivedi: "All this transition has come
after the earthquake. A lot of focus on facilitating this growth is
showing results now."

Last month also saw the state government clearing land for the Union
government supported 4000 MW Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) worth Rs
20,000 crore. The Sanghi group is setting up another 1200 MW power
plant, with both projects adding more than 2500 MW to Gujarat's kitty.

But Kutch's sparkling sprint does have a few tarnished facets. Already
the chorus in the district is growing shriller over the incentives not
being enough to keep business going. Industrialists of the region have
sought an appointment with the Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram this
month to discuss this issue.

While states such as Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, J&K, and those in
the Northeast were allowed tax incentives for a period of 10 years,
Kutch was given a long rope only for five years-till December 2005. The
sops were not offered to existing units if they planned expansion,
unlike other regions where any expansion exceeding 25 per cent of
existing capacities became eligible for the exemptions. Industrialists
say the state government is failing to keep its promises.

Kutch businessmen also complain that the concessions are biased in
favour of large-scale units, leaving the small-scale sector to fend for
itself. "There has been no income-tax exemption, nor any capital
investment subsidy. Units in Himachal and Uttaranchal enjoy IT exemption
between 30 and 50 per cent up to 2012. In fact, even before
industrialisation could take strong roots, some of the units in the
pharma sector have migrated to Himachal already," says Nimish Phadke,
general secretary, Federation of Kutch Industries Association (FOKIA),
an umbrella organisation of Kutch's industries.

State bureaucrats shrug off the complaints as usual business greed.
"Every businessman wants more. How much more can one give? It's at least
better than what they were getting in Ahmedabad," is how Gujarat's
Principal Chief Industrial Advisor R J Shah puts it.

That's one claim not many would dismiss