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Home > News > Report

In Gujarat, BJP hopes to strike gold out of waste

Saubhadra Chatterji | December 10, 2007 16:12 IST

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Recycling waste can do scientific wonders. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images] is waiting to see if it can do political wonders as well.

The Bharatiya Janata Party government has allowed making of coal from the Babool tree, which is easily available in the rural Kutch. This plan, money-churner for thousands of rural poor, has become a key poll issue in this area, where the BJP is trying to win back the ground it has lost to the Congress in recent years.

Modi's own 'rural employment guarantee scheme' has boosted income in rural areas while getting rid of the shrub.

Environmentalists are crying foul but many families have found a steady source of income. Vast areas of Kutch are full of these short, thorny trees, commonly known as Gando Baval (Mad Babool). Almost three years back, when this tree cover increased alarmingly, the Modi government licensed what was an age-old illegal practice.

In Nani Virani village, a two-hour drive from Bhuj, at least 30 families depend on manufacturing coal. For Saale Jumaa and his wife Raima, it has been their full-time profession since last year. "It takes two days to make 40 kg coal, which earns us Rs 200," says Jumaa.

On the way to Khavda, many villages like Mowarband have road-side coal units. Business is so good that middle-men have employed contract labourers. Jai Singh and his brother are such workers.

"We get Rs 50 to make a bagful of coal. Earlier, we used to do this secretly. Our income then was as low as Rs 20 per bag of coal," said Singh.

The method is simple. A babool tree is cut into small pieces. The woods are heaped under sand and allowed to get half-baked. The charred wood, looking like pieces of coal, are sold as coal.

Chandan Sinh Rathod, BJP general secretary in Nakhtrana sub-division in Kutch, boasts: "Incomes have increased. This government has done wonders." And the Congress doesn't have any political answer to this except saying that the environment is getting degraded.

Modi's move has also marginalised many schemes of the Congress-led central government. The returns are higher here and people prefer to stick to this. "Never in my life did I hear of any scheme like this," says Jumaa.

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