Gujarat Assembly Elections: 21 years after the earthquake, BJP campaigns on development in Bhuj

Gujarat Assembly Elections: 21 years after the earthquake, BJP campaigns on development in Bhuj

Two decades after the devastating earthquake in Gujarat's Bhuj, the Kutch district may have witnessed unprecedented industrial development, but environmentalists and old residents of the city have a question of whether Bhuj has learned its lesson and whether it can recover from such a natural disaster. Ready to deal. In January 2001, a devastating earthquake struck Bhuj city and Kutch district, killing over 20,000 people, destroying thousands of houses, and leaving millions homeless. After the earthquake, the Gujarat government announced a major reconstruction and rehabilitation policy, under which the district has seen unprecedented industrial development in the last two decades.

Scientists and environmentalists feel that Kutch is an earthquake-prone region, and the administration should be extra careful while carrying out development activities like industrialization and town planning. As the election approaches, earthquake victims and scientists urge political parties to focus on sensing danger before it's too late.

Bhuj assembly seat will go to polls on December 1 under the first phase. Professor MG Thakkar, head of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at KSKV Kutch University, said there are many 'active fault lines' (susceptible areas in terms of earthquakes) in Kutch. Thakkar told 'PTI-Bhasha', 'There are many research papers in which we have mentioned these fault lines. After 2010, the Ministry of Science allotted us various projects to map those fault lines. But the issue is that we are not considering these scientific findings while planning the city.” He asked whether even after two decades, the district is well prepared to face the devastation of the 2001 Bhuj earthquake in the future.

Thakkar, a victim of the Bhuj earthquake, said, “Are we ready to face such a natural calamity? The answer is no. Even after two decades, we are not ready. If something of this magnitude happens again, disaster management is still not strong enough. We have to keep the public prepared for any eventuality.” He said development projects should be approved only after consulting detailed research work regarding seismic 'fault lines in the area. District Magistrate of Kutch, Dilip Rana, said that town planning and industrialization are being done keeping in mind the ecological balance and the earthquake-proneness of the area.

Adam Chaki, a social worker who did relief work during the Bhuj earthquake, said that the administration should be more proactive in sensitizing the public about protecting themselves during an earthquake. He said, “Most of the houses do not have earthquake kits. There has been unprecedented development after the earthquake but we need to be prepared to face any natural calamity in the future. Bhuj constituency with around 2.80 lakh voters is one of the most minority-populated areas in the district. It has traditionally been a Congress seat since the late 1960s but was wrested from Congress in 1990 by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the wake of the Ram Mandir movement. However, after the 2002 riots, the BJP lost from here and then won in 2007 and since then it is known as a BJP bastion.

This time the BJP has not given a ticket to two-time sitting MLA and Assembly Speaker Nimaben Acharya. Instead, the BJP has fielded party leader Keshavlal Patel, who is known for his organizational skills. According to BJP sources, there is a lot of discontent in the district unit over Acharya's removal. Acharya has a lot of clout at the party. BJP's Bhuj constituency president Ghanshyam Thakkar said, “We are confident of victory. The kind of development that has taken place in Bhuj in the last 10 decades under BJP's rule is unique. It will take at least 100 years for backward areas of the country to develop as much as Bhuj.'' On the other hand, Congress is running a stealth campaign in the area and is riding on an anti-incumbency wave against the BJP government in the state to capture the seat. Congress has given a ticket to Arjan Bhuria.

However, the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM has turned it into a four-cornered contest and could dent the prospects of the Congress, which polled 42 percent of the total votes in 2017. AAP's candidate Rajesh Pandora is campaigning door-to-door on issues like water, health, and education. AIMIM has given a ticket to Shakeel Sama and the party has made every effort to reach out to minorities by projecting itself as an alternative to Congress.