Creating ripples, senior Congress MLA Arjun Modhwadia attended a pre-Vibrant Gujarat 2024 event in his constituency of Porbandar on Wednesday, appealing to the state government to create an atmosphere so that big industrialists find Porbandar attractive enough for investments.
Modhwadia joined Water Resources and Water Supply Minister Kunvarji Bavaliya, Rajya Sabha MP Ram Mokariya and former Porbandar MLA and minister Babu Bokhiria on the stage of ‘Vibrant Gujarat-Vibrant Porbandar’, an event organised as a precursor to the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors’ Summit in January. Modhwadia, who has served as the leader of Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, was seated beside Mokariya.
The MLA, who managed to shore up his political fortunes by defeating BJP’s Bokhiria after 10 years at the 2022 Assembly election, in his address, said that industrialists chose to set up big oil refineries in neighbouring Jamnagar district whereas in Porbandar, only a couple of large industries are functional and nine have wound up.
“There used to be 11 big industrial units in Porbandar but only two are surviving today. There was a time when people from across Saurashtra used to come to Porbandar to buy timber and rooftiles. But today, we go to Upleta to purchase timber, to Keshod to buy furniture, to Gondal for purchase clothes and to Rajkot or Surat to buy jewellery… Porbandar is known for its fishing industry but seafood processing units are in Veraval… Porbandar also had a flourishing industry of building fishing boats but today, the job of building fibre boats has been taken over by Mangrol,” Modhwadia said.
Due to lack of value addition and not being vocal for local, Porbandar fell behind, he added.
At the event, 456 memorandums of understanding (MoUs), pledging cumulative investments of Rs 449 crore, were signed. They include Rs 176 crore for animal husbandry and fisheries sector, Rs 63 crore for industrial manufacturing sector and Rs 35 crore for agro and food processing sector.
But Modhwadia underlined that the companies that signed the MoUs already have a presence in the area and these are mostly pledges for expansion of their existing capacity. He urged that efforts be made to bring in new investments.
“The MoUs were signed today by all locals (industries). But I would like to say this to all (businessmen) friends and people running the administration that unless investors from outside come here, the scope (of industries) won’t expand. You see who made Surat what it is today? It has been architected by people from outside. Suratis were there for years but because people from across India are going there, Surat has become Asia’s fastest developing city,” he said.
“As the collector mentioned, let’s persuade people from outside to come here and extend them a welcome. It is everyone’s responsibility to create a good atmosphere in Porbandar, make Porbandar investment-friendly, increase ease of doing business. Everyone will have to participate and cooperate,” he added.
The state government has been organising pre-Vibrant Summit in districts since early this month to prepare stage for the main biennial event. However, Congress MLAs have been keeping away from such events. In fact, Modhwadia had criticised the event, terming it “waste of taxpayers’ money”.
But on Wednesday, Modhwadia said that he attended the event to raise “people’s issue”. Speaking to The Indian Express, he said: “In Porbandar, the burning issue is lack of employment opportunities, forcing people to migrate. No new big industry has come up since 1995 (when BJP formed government for the first time and has been in power almost uninterrupted since). No new estate of GIDC has been developed here.”
“I decided to attend the event, as it offered me a stage to raise these issues concerning people of Porbandar and to appeal to the government to have a law and order situation, which will reassure industrialists to invest here,” said, adding that everyone at the gathering agreed with his suggestions.
Modhwadia further said, “As per convention, local MLAs get invited to government events… But Opposition MLAs keep away from events where political propaganda is likely to be pushed.
However, in the past, I have shared stage with (Narendra) Modi at occasions like all-religion prayer meetings at Kirti Mandir (Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace in Porbandar) as well as Unioin government programmes when there was an UPA government at power at the Centre.”
Bavaliya said that it was a positive move that Modhwadia attended the event. “Not only that, he also gave suggestions” he told The Indian Express.