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Face of farmers that paved Nano path

Face of farmers that paved Nano path - A new breed of pro-industry tillers has helped Gujarat bag Tata project

Sanand, Oct. 11: When Ratan Tata praised Narendra Modi for getting things done in Gujarat, he could well have been doffing his hat to Ravubha Vaghela.

Born on the day India made its tryst with destiny, Vaghela symbolises Gujarat farmers’ entrepreneurial spirit that helped the government snatch the Nano from other suitors.

Vaghela, 61, who was willing to give his 30-acre land “free of cost” to the government for the mother plant in Sanand’s Chharodi village, 35km west of Ahmedabad, ensured that the project did not face any resistance from local farmers.

The government, which transferred 1,100 acres of its own land that was with the Anand Agricultural University to the Tatas for the Nano plant, had to acquire a little over 50 acres from farmers for building an approach road from the site to National Highway 8, which connects Mumbai with Delhi.

Vaghela is part of a new breed of entrepreneurs who have made a successful transition from agriculture to industry, though he still describes himself as a “humble farmer”.

The face of local farmers, he is the president of the Sanand Industry Association, which he helped set up in the nineties to promote an entrepreneurs’ estate at Sanand, which had been neglected until then. His family looked after farming, while he dabbled in real estate and worked in a bank before setting up Raviraj Foils Limited in 1995 with an investment of Rs 5 crore.

The company has an annual turnover of Rs 100 crore and employs nearly 275 people, mostly local villagers and skilled workers from the two Industrial Training Institutes in Sanand. The plant is located bang opposite the proposed Nano site.

Vaghela still owns 170 bighas, approximately 100 acres in Sanand, even after signing an agreement to give away 30 acres for the road.

An additional 20-odd acres have been acquired from six other farmers, including village sarpanch Nazir Pathan. “There will be two entrances. The main entrance, a magnificent one, will be on my land,” says Vaghela.

It was he who persuaded the others to part with their land. “I told them about the benefits of the project. I also pointed out that the price of the land they would continue to hold would appreciate like anything. They agreed,” said Vaghela.

Pathan said there was “no question” of opposing the project. “This has come as a huge blessing for Sanand,” he said.

Like the others, Vaghela will be paid Rs 44.5 lakh per acre for his 30 acres, which, real estate agents say, is far less than the projected market rate of around Rs 1 crore for an acre. Vaghela admits that his land, touching the highway, is “too precious” but he is willing to make a sacrifice for the sake of the state and the farmers, who will benefit from the project.

“The government will develop infrastructure. The small-car project will generate huge employment opportunities even for the landless agriculture labourers who get seasonal work. The project will provide additional income to farmers, many of them may become entrepreneurs like me,” he said.

Though he claims to be an “apolitical farmer” and “businessman”, Vaghela has been careful to maintain good relations with both the BJP and Congress. He shares a good rapport with chief minister Modi and the Congress’s Union textile minister Shankersinh Vaghela, who belongs to his community.

The entrepreneur has ensured that one of his sons works for the BJP and the other for the Congress, demonstrating that pragmatism, not idealism, is the mantra that works in Gujarat.

Content by: Telegraphindia