In a poignant example of Gujarat’s ‘model’ of inequality and discrimination, while Ghogha village in Bhavnagar district will host the Rs.614 crore Ro-Ro ferry service at its Saurashtra end, the village right next to it gets drinking water once a month, that too for just one hour.
Ghogha is a fishing and salt mining village, situated on the mid-western bank of the Gulf of Khambhat. Machchiwada, an adjacent village, with only Muslim residents, does not even have water to drink.
The residents Machchiwada, majority of whom are in the business of fishing, complained that they get water from municipality “once in a month and that too for an hour”. They say they cannot use ground water because it is saline, with the village located just a few metres from the sea shore.
The Roll-on Roll-off ferry service between Gogha and Dahej in Bharuch was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid much fanfare on October 22, 2017. It connects South Gujarat and Saurashtra, reducing road travel time from nine hours to one hour. To facilitate the service, two passenger terminals have been constructed, one at Dahej near Surat, and the other at Gogha.
Yusuf Qasim, whose livelihood depends on fishing, told Newsclick, “The area was developed but out village was left untouched. We don’t even get water to survive. The water supplied by the civic body comes in a month for an hour.”
Asked how they manage without water, Aslam, another person from the village said that they have to call tankers and pay for the water. “Since we cannot afford spending Rs 150 everyday for buying water from the tanker, we have to depend on a pond situated 200 metres away from the village for water,” he added.
The fishermen are not allowed to go far in the sea and because of high currents near the ship yard, big fish are not found in that part. “Only small fish such as local prawns get caught in our net in the area and that too in small quantity. We sell them in the local market and manage to earn around Rs 3,000 a month. This is the only source of livelihood,” he said.
The village does not have any concrete road. It becomes difficult, say residents, to enter the village during rainy season. There is only one hospital in the neighbourhood for a total population of around 15,000 villagers.
“The hospital only provides emergency services. If a woman goes into labor, she has to be shifted to a hospital in Bhavnagar, which is 25 km away from there,” said another resident.
Asked if any leader comes to seek their votes, the villagers added that no one ever visits them to find out what condition they live in.
Samir, who passed class 10th, wants to study further to become a scientist. But he will have to shift to Bhavnagar because there is no college in the area, except a high school. “I cannot fulfil my dreams because my parents don’t have money to fund my education in town. Though I do not want to enter into my parental business of fishing, I am left with no option but to adopt it to support my family,” he told Newsclick with despair.
The villagers complained that, but locals were not given preference in job opportunities when the RORO service was launched. The service has many job opportunities such as loaders, attendants, supervisors, etc. But there is allegedly no offer for locals.
“We should have been the first beneficiary of the project, but it did not happen. Only outsiders were given jobs,” said Usman Ghani, an AC mechanic who works in Dubai.
When the ferry operation was inaugurated, it was said that there will be huge economic benefits to the region at large and Bhavnagar in particular. The service will not only ease travel but also help businesses grow, connecting Saurashtra to the golden quadrilateral and to major commercial centres like Vadodara, Surat and Mumbai.