Varachha, a Patidar-dominated neighbourhood in Surat, played host to the state government’s flagship programme for handing out benefits to the poor under Garib Kalyan Mela, for the first time since its launch in 2009, on Friday.
To avoid any showdown with the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti ( PAAS), which had put up banners opposing the state government’s decision to host GKM in Varachha, strict security arrangements were made for the event, presided over by state tribal development minister Ganpat Vasava.
The event came two days ahead of Delhi Chief Minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal’s public meeting in Yogi Chowk area, around three km from this venue, on Sunday.
Recently, PAAS activists had booed out Surat unit secretary of BJP Kisan Morcha Animesh Mali from a garba event in Varachha. In September, the outfit had disrupted the felicitation of BJP president Amit Shah and other BJP Patidar leaders during an event in Mota Varachha.
However, its opposition at the GKM, held in Mini Bazaar area, remained subdued.
Garib Kalyan Mela covered beneficiaries from Katargam, Varachha, Limbayat and Udhna. Katargam has a mixed population of Patidars and OBCs , while Udhna and Limbayat areas are dominated by migrants from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.
At least 1,200 out of 8,439 beneficiaries were given assistance and kits under 20 different schemes of the state government at Varachha GKM. Out of these, most beneficiaries were from Katargam zone. Sources said that SCs/STs and OBCs dominated the list of beneficiaries.
Saiyed Zafar (31), a resident of EWS awaas at Kosad in Katargam zone, got subsidy cheque for a new autorickshaw, which he had purchased on loan. He said, “Earlier, I used to drive an authorickshaw owned by my friend on rent. Everyday, I had to give him Rs 300. Now, I will earn more as even during the night I can run the rickshaw and earn more money. This will definitely help my family members and even now my children will study.”
Another beneficiary, Jayentibhai Devipujak (35), of Varachha, sells soft toys and articles on the roadside. Jayentibhai had got bicycle with carrier. He said, “I have been selling kids’ toys on the roadside to earn my daily bread, but with this new cycle I can go anywhere in the city and sell toys. Many a times, I have to face problems from the police department and shopkeepers as they don’t allow me to sell toys outside on the main road, but now I can sell the toys in my own bicycle. I will earn good money and even the lifestyle of my family will also change.” Surat PAAS co-convener Dharmik Malaviya said, “The BJP government could have picked another area to host this fair. We have not physically protested the event as the beneficiaries were poor.”
Surat Municipal commissioner M Thennarasan said, “Under the Garib Kalyan Mela, many people got houses under EWS scheme. The second phase of Mela will be held in Nanpura on Saturday.”