In Sanand, Home To Tata Nano, The "Gujarat Model" Is Under Strain

About 40 km away from Ahmedabad, Sanand is in news these days because of the Tata Nano car factory which was set up almost eight years ago.

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In Sanand, Home To Tata Nano, The 'Gujarat Model' Is Under Strain

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Even for those who got work at the Nano factory, it's not been a completely smooth ride

Sanand:  Championed by the BJP during the 2014 general elections, the famed "Gujarat model" of development is now facing a trial in Sanand, ahead of state polls this month.

Sanand, which is about 40 km away from Ahmedabad, is in news these days because of the Tata Nano car factory which was set up almost eight years ago.

The government of Gujarat, then under Chief Minister Narendra Modi, had given 1,100 acres of land in 2009 to Tata Motors. "Tata had asked for 350 acres of land but CM saheb gave them 1,100 acres of land. And also a loan of Rs 9,000 crore with no interest," said Pankaj Singh, General Secretary, Gujarat Congress.

According to him, the terms agreed between the state and Tata Motors not only gave the company an interest-free loan but also gave Tata 22 years before the company has to start repaying the loan. 

But villagers surrounding the Nano plant that NDTV spoke to largely have no problem with the terms of the deal granted to Tata. Their only complain is that the state government does not provide them with even the basic amenities.

"Modern cars might be getting manufactured in this Nano city but the future of residents in North Kotpura is all dark," Ghanshyam Singh Vaghela, a former village head or sarpanch said.
 
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Villagers surrounding the Nano plant said the government wasn't providing them with basic amenities

North Kotpura is a village which is more than 100 years old. Today, it's not on the map for any contesting parties. The residents say the state government does not even provide them drinking water.

"The biggest problem is that of drinking water. We have to get water from a kilometre away on a cycle," complained Asha Devi, a resident of the area. North Kotpura village has been home for her three previous generations. "I have stayed here all my life. How can I move away from this place? People who wanted better life have moved away," she said.

Decades after Indian politicians made them into election cliches, bijli (electricity) and pani (water) remain the main issues for families who have stayed behind. Most villagers have migrated from here due to poor infrastructure.

"There is no water to drink, no light; how can one survive here? Is this the Gujarat model of development the PM speaks about?" said young Yogender.

The residents say even lack of education for their children would be a key issue this election.

The village has only one primary school that has been functioning since 1858 but now only 25 students study here.
 
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Lack of education will be a key issue this Gujarat election for residents of Sanand

And that's mostly because of the efforts of Padmaji Patel who has been teaching here for the last 17 years. "This is a very old school but villagers went away from here after the Nano plant came. They want to remove this also but where would these students study?" she told NDTV.

She, along with another teacher, commutes every day from Ahmedabad to teach the children.

Next to the Nano factory is another village Chharodi where residents complain of lack of healthcare and education facilities as well.

Farmers here have been demanding access to the Narmada River water to irrigate their fields for close to two decades. They say the canal water for irrigation does not reach them.

"We only get water three times a week and due to scarcity of water our animals die and our crops perish," said one villager of Charodi village.

For those who got work at the car factory, it's not been a completely smooth ride either.

"My son was a farmer but the land was taken over by the Nano factory. Now he is employed there but he works as a gardener," a mother complained.

"The ones who are employed by the Nano factory are only for ancillary jobs and get paid around Rs 7,000 to 10,000," a resident of Khoda, a village near the Nano city said.

"When the Nano plant came, we all were excited but now almost eight years later, our problems have compounded," says another villager.

Although Gujarat has the second-lowest unemployment rate in the country, the average wages are lower than states such as Maharashtra, Haryana and Delhi. Even the kind of employment generated here is inferior as compared to other states. In Sanand, the numbers are more discouraging. Estimates show every second youth in the town is unemployed.

These problems along with the troubles for the Nano car have drawn opposition attacks on the BJP's record in Gujarat.
 
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Farmers in Sanand have been demanding access to the Narmada River water to irrigate their fields

"Loan was given to 'poor' Tatas at 0.01 per cent while the interest levied on farm loans is 18 per cent," alleged Congress leader Randeep Surjewala.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi picked a news report about dwindling Nano sales to attack PM Modi and his 'Make In India' scheme.

Insecurity about jobs coupled with rising aspirations and ambitions were also reflected in the social unrest like the Patel community's agitation for reservation.

For its part, Tata Motors however has clarified that they received a loan of Rs 584.8 crore and not a grant and the loan came from "taxes paid by Tata Motors". Also, after the Nano plant was set up, economic activity and employment in the state grew, the company said.

The BJP said there is no controversy concerning the Nano. "There is no controversy in Sanand. It's all Congress' projection," BJP leader and Gujarat in-charge Bhupinder Yadav told NDTV.

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