From dust to dawn: Kutch's story
Exactly 17 years and three days ago, Kutch suffered one of the worst natural calamities. The earthquake of January 26, 2001, left more than 15,000 dead, and loss of property running into crores. But, what has happened after that is truly a miracle. Kutch has emerged as a key investment destination. Estimates suggest it has attracted Rs1.40 lakh crore in investment. DNA's
utch was an important centre for trade right from the days of the Indus Valley civilisation. Mundra, Tuna, Mandvi, Jakhau and Lakhpat were among the leading ports in the region. Since Kutch comprises mainly vast swathes of desert, and is also drought prone, agriculture, animal husbandry and handicrafts were its traditional professions. Work on building the
rail line in Kutch was started by Maharaja Khengarji in 1900. In 1965, Asia's first Free Trade Zone was set up at Kandla.
IFFCO set up its fertilizer plant in 1975, and till the dawn of the new millennium, the other industries included Welspun's textile unit in Anjar and a facility of Ashapura Mine-chem. This was pretty much the industrial scene in the district.
nvestments started flowing in, and today the cumulative figure is pegged at Rsl.40 lakh crore. It is home to two of the country's largest ports, viz. Kandla and Mundra. It has more than 10,000 MW power generation capac-
generation capacity. Also present in Kutch are steel cement and pipe manufacturing facilities, besides agro processing, among others.
"Kutch is not just about large industries. While there are over 250 medium and
ombination of government support, availability of land and ports ensured that long term rehabiliation took place. Now it has large steel, cement and textile manufacturing units. Industrialisation boosted the income and living standards of residents. There are good schools, healthcare facilities, and also places of recreation. —Ravi Sanghi, CMD, Sanghi Cement
T he industrial and economic development in Kutch l has also ushered in a sea change in social infrastructure. Kutch now has its own university, named after revolutionary Shyamji Krishna Verma. There are also institutions offering management, engineering and even medical education. Availabi-ity of healthcare facilities has also improved in the past few years.
he earthquake of January 26, 2001, flattened Kutch and left behind a trail of destruction besides more than 15,000 dead bodies. What followed was a Herculean task to resurrect the district. Aided by tax holidays and other financial incentives by the state and central governments, Kutch emerged as an investment magnet, and embarked on its turnaround journey
hen we started here in the late 1990s, we had to travel several kilometres for eating out. All this has changed over the years, and such facilities are now easily available. Earlier youths from Kutch had to migrate in search of greener pastures, but now lakhs of workers from other states are now finding employment here. —Chintan Thaker, head - Corporate Affairs, Welsoun Grouo
utch's industrial journey over the past 16-17 years has been spectacular, the road ahead seems to be bumpy. Phadke of FOKIA said that fresh investments had slowed down in the past couple of years, owing to various issues.
"One issue is land availability. Locals feel industries are taking away their land, especially fertile land. The revenue administration is another bottleneck. Land related laws in Kutch are different from rest of the state, and some rationalisation is now needed to ensure investments continue," said Phadke, adding that some players are looking at expanding.
hile the tax incentives expired in 2006, Kutch did not look back even after that. Its geographical location, land availabiity and presence of major ports, ensured that the invesments have continued to flow.
"Kutch is ideal for industries which are dependent on imports, or which are export oriented. Coal imported from Indonesia works out cheaper than that brought from Jharkhand or Chhattisgarh. It is not surprising that both Adani and Tata built large power projects in Kutch," Sunil Parekh, corporate consultant and advisor to government of Gujarat, said.
Ravi Sanghi, chairman of Sanghi Cement, cited land availabiity and good connectivity as the other reasons for Kutch's emergence as an investment destination.
"Industries do not have to face bottlenecks in expansion plans due to availability of land. Moreover, Kutch is well-connected with Ahmedabad and other places via road, rail and air. This has also helped," Sanghi said.
game changer for Kutch over the past few years has been its promotion as a tourist destination, most famously by Amitabh Bach-chan with the 'Kutch Nahin Dekha, To Kuchh Nahin Dekha" (If you haven't seen
transport services, and also come as a shot in the arm for local handicrafts. Employment opportunities have gone up as a result," Sunil Parekh said.
Chintan Thaker of Wel-spun said that spurt in tourism has led a large number of housewives to become working women.
utch has attracted an investment of Rs1.40 lakh crore in the past few years. Most of this investment has happened after the 2001 earthquake to mark a dramatic transformation of Kutch. Kutch is now among the key investment centres in India.