Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tracing Gujarat's history, post-1960

Unfortunately for most people in India, history stops at 1947. Few school textbooks talk about the developments post-Independence and moments that made history.  This is a tiny attempt to highlight some of the most significant moments in Gujarat's history post-Gandhi.
Mahagujarat Movement
The term Mahagujarat encompassed the whole Gujarati speaking area including Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kachchh. In 1948, a Mahagujarat conference took place to integrate the entire Gujarati speaking population under one administrative body and on 1 May, 1960, the Bombay State split into the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. For the first time after the Sultanate, Gujarat was once again autonomous.
After the formation of the new state in 1960, Gujarat’s elite, as a new political entity, had the freedom to initiate their own ideas for development. Many took to modernization and technology as the instrument for change and encouraged the tapping of human and natural resources to develop agriculture and promote industrial growth in the state.

Green Revolution
Gujarat saw a growth in the agriculture sector in the 1960s and 1970s due to extensive cultivation, expansive irrigation facilities and the Green Revolution that brought in high-yield seeds and increased used of fertilizers. Farmers started cultivating cash crops such as cotton, tobacco, groundnut and oilseeds. Unfortunately, the change in the cropping pattern, coupled with erratic rainfall led to a decline in food crop agriculture in the 1980s and 1990s. Since 1999, the state has experienced rapid growth in the agriculture sector propelled by government inititatives, biotechnology, groundwater economy and improved market access. Judicious use of water for farming got a major fillip in 2003 when the state government floated the Gujarat Green Revolution Company to encourage drip irrigation. From 105 lakh hectares in 2000-2001, the state's cultivable area now stands at 120 lakh hectares.
Sachivalaya at Gandhinagar
Conflict over the Rann of Kachchh (yes, that and not 'Kutch' is the official spelling)
Although Kashmir has been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan, other border disputes have also existed, most notably over the Rann of Kachchh. In 1965 fight broke out between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kachchh when the latter started building up in Kanjarkot about 1.3km south of the Indo-Pak border. Initially involving border police from both nations, the disputed area soon witnessed skirmishes between the countries' armed forces. British Prime Minister Harold Wilson persuaded both countries to end hostilities and set up a tribunal to resolve the dispute. The verdict, which came later in 1968, saw Pakistan awarded 900 square km of the Rann of Kachchh, as against its original claim of 9,100 square km. However, there was no ruling on the demarcation of Sir Creek, a 100-km-long estuary between the Rann of Kachchh and Sind in Pakistan. The area abounds in very good fish and is the scene of numerous arrests of fishermen after they stumble into either the disputed areas or the territory on the other side of the border. Sir Creek is one of eight major issues on the Pak-India composite dialogue agenda for the peace process they launched in 2004.

White Revolution
India’s milk revolution began in Gujarat with the birth of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation in Anand in 1973, also known as the Amul Cooperative. India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) replicated the Amul model and launched Operation Flood, a rural development programme to create a nationwide milk grid. Operation Flood, often referred to as India’s White Revolution, helped reduce malpractices by milk traders, in alleviating poverty and in making India the largest producer of milk and milk products.

Silos of milk at the Amul factory, Anand

Discovery of Oil
Gujarat currently accounts for 62% of petrochemicals produced in India. While Cambay had been the focal point of geophysical surveys since 1947, Lunej in Anand district was where the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. (ONGC) made its first oil discovery in 1958. When the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Cambay in 1960, a few drops of the black gold sprinkled on his immaculate white sherwani. A visibly impressed Nehru declared that the spots on his sherwani symbolised the aspirations of a nation and carried the “souvenir” back to Delhi.

Since the discovery of oil at Ankleshwar and Kalol in the 1960s, ONGC alone has pumped in $3 billion into the state paving the way for other petrochemical companies to do the same. With Soviet help in 1961, the Indian Oil Corporation set up the Gujarat refinery at Kayoli near Vadodara, the largest public sector refinery in India. The Reliance Group’s set up the world’s largest refinery at Jamnagar in the 1990s while Essar in 2006, too set up another big refinery at nearby Vadinar.

A water-constrained region with limited cultivable land, the newly formed Gujarat could not depend on agriculture for economic development. Instead, policy-makers in the 1960s developed a strategy for rapid industrialisation that has enabled the state to triple its economy every 10 years for the past five decades. 
In the 1960s, business was concentrated on cotton textiles, with entrepreneurs investing in yarn spinning, fabric weaving and processing and in supportive sectors of chemicals, dyes, bleaching agents, textile spares and equipment in the engineering sector. Thereafter, with the successful exploitation of hydrocarbon discoveries in the mid-1960s, a foundation was laid for investment in petrochemicals, plastics and several man-made fibres.

Policies of successive state governments, establishment of industrial estates with all infrastructural requirements by the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), continuous availability of power and water, developed rail links between important trading centres, finance facilities and the enterprising people have favored the growth of manufacturing, engineering, pharmaceutical and diamond sectors in the state.  
Though the decline of the textile industry in the 1980s led to the closure of many mills in Ahmedabad, the economic reforms of 1991 paved the way for new models for development and growth. The state government aggressively promoted investment in Gujarat though tax concessions and incentives. The state saw a growth of 35% in 1992-93, in just one year post-liberalisation. Since 2003, the biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor’s Summit has managed to attract investment proposals worth over $370 billion.

While industrial growth has boosted Gujarat’s economy, it has come at a great environment cost. Some of the major industrial centres such as Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Ankleshwar, Vapi and Surat have much higher pollution levels than the norms allow. Excessive quarrying by cement industries has also led to the depletion of some of the greenest regions of Saurashtra.  

The Swarnim Gujarat Logo

The development of industries in the state, paved the way for rapid urbanisation of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Rajkot and later, other parts of Gujarat as well. The migration of people from the dry northern and eastern tribal regions of the state and other states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to these industrial centres for their livelihood has pressed the demand for more homes, better infrastructure, electricity, water and other facilties. Around 6.5% of all urban households in Gujarat are of migrants from within the state, which is the highest in the country. More people have moved from agriculture to non-agriculture occupations and choose to settle down in urban centres. According to Forbes Magazine, Ahmedabad is the third fastest-growing city in the world.  This rampant urbanisation has also led to the creation of slums, unhygienic living conditions, stressed water supply and conversion of fertile agricultural land into non-agricultural land for construction, disruption of ecological habitats.

IIM Ahmedabad
At the time of its inception, the literacy rate in Gujarat was around 30.5%. The increase in the overall literacy rate to 69.14% (as per the 2001 Census), girl child development and decrease in dropouts from schools and colleges has been due to several governmental, NGO and corporate initiatives in the field of education over the last 50 years. The 1960s and 1970s marked a period of substantial growth in institution building in Gujarat. Academic institutes such as National Institute of Design (NID), Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), Center for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Institute of Rural Management and Agriculture, three government CSIR laboratories, Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) and several colleges and universities were born during this period and Gujarat has become a hub for higher and technical education in India.

Migration and Diaspora
Gujarat’s proximity to the Arabian Sea has been responsible for the ceaseless mercantile and maritime activities of its people. At the turn of the 19th century, many South Asians were imported by the British to work as indentured labourers in the construction of East African railways. As towns sprang up around railheads, Gujaratis of Patel, Lohana and Visha-Oshwal castes began migrating to East Africa and Madagascar where they established themselves in business. Within a couple of generations, they became very rich, lived by their caste and kinship ties, spoke Gujarati at home and their business and even set up Gujarati schools. After several African states gained their independence, a deliberate policy of Africanisation made life increasingly difficult for Gujaratis and in the 1960s, they began to leave for Britain. Racial attacks, harsh economic conditions and the imposition of more stringent immigration laws in England resulted in many of them moving to Canada, US and Australia, joined later by refugees fleeing from the Idi Amin regime in Uganda. Intially, discriminated against for good jobs, the Gujaratis gradually settled with jobs in sales, insurance and real estate. Some, with the advice and financial help of their kingship networks, were able to set up small businesses. This kind of chain help among relatives and friends with caste and village ties has resulted in the dramatic expansion of the Patel community’s hotel and motel business in the US where they control nearly 30% of the industry. In the 1970s and 80s, Jains from Palanpur migrated to Antwerp in Belgium where 90% of the world’s diamond trade is concentrated, successfully breaking the 500-year monopoly of Jews by taking over nearly 65% of the diamond trading market. Since the 1980s, many Gujarati students, professionals, doctors, lawyers and businessmen have migrated to the US seeking better jobs and opportunities. One in five Indians in the US is Gujarati. The Gujarati Diaspora maintains its emotional, cultural and economic relations with its motherland by establishing hospitals, schools, colleges, cultural and religious institutions and successfully lobbying in their host countries for foreign investment into Gujarat.

Natural Calamities
Gujarat is in a geological and geographical crossroad that makes it very vulnerable to disasters. Massive cyclones regularly batter the region, and drought has become a way of life in north Gujarat. But even the commonness of calamity couldn’t have prepared its citizens for the earthquake that shook the state on 26 January 2001 which flattened entire villages in Bhuj, Anjar and Bhachau in Kachchh and killed around 20,000 people, injured 167,000, destroyed nearly 400,000 homes and damaged $5 billion worth of property in the state. Around 21 districts were affected and 600,000 people left homeless by the quake which had a magnitude between 7.6 and 8.1 on the Richter Scale and epicentre at the Chobari Village in Kachchh. In Ahmedabad, as many as 50 multi-storied buildings collapsed and several hundred people were killed.

Volunteers, food, medical aid and relief material poured in from all corners of the country and abroad as relief and rescue operations were conducted by the state and NGOs. While scars of the seismic tragedy still linger, the Gujarati spirit remains indomitable.

The 2002 Riots
The long tradition of peaceful co-existence between religious communities in Gujarat was nearly completely wiped out in 2002, when large-scale Hindu-Muslim violence broke out leading to massive damage to lives, property and the state’s secular image. On 27 February 2002 at Godhra, the Sabarmati Express train was forcibly stopped and attacked by a large Muslim mob. 59 Hindu passengers — mostly women, children and seniors returning from the holy city of Ayodhya — were burned alive. The attack prompted retaliatory massacres against Muslims across the state. Places of worship and properties belonging to Muslims were damaged in the ensuing carnage. 61,000 Muslims and 10,000 Hindus fled their homes. The nature of the events remains politically controversial in India. Some commentators have characterized the massacres of Muslims as a genocide in which the state was complicit while some government sources have countered that the Muslim dead were victims of mere "riots". Islamic Mujahideen groups often cite the riots as example of Hindu progrom against Muslims to justify their acts of terrorism in India such as the 19 bomb blasts that rocked Ahmedabad in August 2008 and the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai the same year.

While there is peace in Gujarat now, tension between the two communities still exists and post-riot community ghettos have formed in Ahmedabad, Mahesana and Vadodara districts.


Anonymous said...

Fine work!
I.E has great skill of picking topics and converting them into interesting subjects to read and learn with researching attitude and command over words

-So suggesting topics -

Earthquakes and surviving.
Labels:Bhuj,indian plate ,quake proof building ,circular structures,destruction by second major shock like Christchurch,water table alteration,speed of quake spreading from epic centre,Japanese way to deal quakes,techniques to be adopted us with Indian style brick structures,great work done in kutch after quake,quake history in Gujrat,maharastra,himalaya,pakistan and world,sunami-possibly destroyed lothal ,Cambay

Amul-success of a cooperative society
Labels:basic cooperative society,members,when they are successful and when they are failures,grid /selfless services of directors and chairman,a collection of farmers or collection of farmers running small businesses with business mind,
why co-operative can be successful in farming

Rivers and lakes of Indian subcontinent

Ramesh Narendrarai Desai said...

Enjoyed reading this article. Being a Gujarati, I liked it as many adulatory references were made to the spirit of its people. I have a theory. It is :- As are the people, so is the government. From this follows - As are the people, so is the governance. As are the people, so is the development. As are the people, so is the Aatank - not merely in the sense of terrorism but also in terms of perpetual rebelliousness.In addition to the nature of the people, diversity is required. Everybody should not be intellectuals. Nor should all of them be soldier type, businessmen,farmers, engineers, mechanics and so on. The right mix of various types is needed in the populace. Instictive inclusiveness, lack of corrosive jealousy (iealousy if used for one's advancement to the level of the envied person is a positive kind of jealousy as against jealousy that tries to bring down the envied person to one's own lower level is a corrosive jealousy), welcoming outsiders, integrating them emotionally, adopting positive aspects of their culture, adapting to the changing times and circumstances,converting threats into opportunities, are some of the other complementary attributes required in an ethnic group for continuous progress. In support of my theory, I would cite two ethnic groups, The Japanese and the Pakistanis. A brief reflection on their attributes would explain all. I would request the esteemed blogger to make a SWOT Analysis of the Gujaraties as a collective. I have made a similar one of theople of Poschim Bongo and Bihar available in my blog

Alankar Mishra said...
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