Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday inaugurated the first phase of the Ghogha-Dahej roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry service connecting Saurashtra and south Gujarat, weeks ahead of the Assembly elections. Inaugurating the project, Modi attacked the previous UPA government for “delaying the venture” over environmental issues. The Prime Minister, who is visiting Gujarat for the fifth time since September, also took the inaugural trip of the ferry from Ghogha to Dahej with divyangs (physically-challenged people).
“This Ghogha-Dahej ro-ro ferry service will not only make the lives of crores of people of Saurashtra and south Gujarat easy, but will also bring them closer. The journey which used to take seven to eight hours will be now done in one hour or so. It is said time is money. Nobody can extend the day to 25 hours. It is only the central government and the Gujarat government which can help you complete within the journey within one hour,” Modi told a public meeting after inaugurating the ro-ro ferry service between Ghogha port in Bhavnagar and Dahej port in Bharuch district.
The PM said successive governments in Gujarat since 1960s had proposed the ferry service, but only he could make it a reality. “When I was a school student and Balwantrai Mehta was chief minister of Gujarat, I had heard that there’s a proposal that Gujarat was to launch a ferry service between Ghogha and Dahej. Many governments came and went away. Many heavyweight leaders from Bhavnagar also came and went away, but it seems it is only in my fortune to do all the good works,” he said.
Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, had led the foundation stone of the ro-ro ferry project in January 2012, around 11 months before the state went to polls.
The originally Rs 296-crore-project was to be completed within 15 months, but the ferry service could be rolled out only after five years, just before the state is headed for another cycle of Assembly election. The project cost has also more than doubled.
The PM, however, put the blame for delay on the previous UPA government at the Centre.
“I had come here in 2012 and laid the foundation stone of this project. But in those days, we were dependent on the Central government in maritime matters. There were a few people in the Central government at that time who had banned development on Gujarat coast from Vapi to Mandavi in Kutch. All our industries were facing lockout in the name of environment. I know how hard it was to take Gujarat forward in such an environment,” said Modi, accusing the Congress-led previous government of obstructing development along the 1600-km long coastline of Gujarat.
Modi claimed that the scenario changed after he was elected Prime Minister in 2014.
The PM also said the ferry service will being back glory days of maritime history of Gujarat. “It’s a matter of debate if the humanity first invented the wheel or started using boats to cross rivers. It’s difficult to decide this. But for centuries, humans have thought it convenient to cross rivers on board boats. Gujarat has maritime history dating back to thousands of years. Flags of 84 counties used to flutter at Lothal (now a site of Harappan civilisation near Dhandhuka in Ahmedabad district). Children of numerous countries used to study at Vallabhi Vidyapith (near modern-day Vallabhipur town in Bhavnagar district) 1,700 years ago. But, don’t know what happened? Everything got buried like history… Today’s programme is an occasion to bring back those old glory days of Ghogha-Bhavnagar and entire Gujarat,” he said.
Modi said: “Today’s event is primarily for Ghogha and Dahej, but it touches entire India. In a sense, it is a new milestone in south-east Asia and therefore curiosity in the country to know about it is obvious.”
The PM said around 12,000 people travel between Saurashtra and south Gujarat every day and average 5000 vehicles make this possible via road. The road distance between the two regions is 360 km, but the ferry service across the Gulf of Cambay will reduce it to merely 32 km, saving fuel and time as well as reducing vehicular traffic on highways, he said, adding that transportation via waterways was the cheapest as compared to road and railways.
He added the ferry between Ghogha and Dahej will accommodate around 500 passengers and around 100 trucks and cars.
In the phase-I, the passenger ferry service will be provided while in the second phase, the ferry service will be available for vehicles also. The Gujarat Maritime Board officers say they will launch the phase-II of the project by end of this year.
The PM also inaugurated Rs 66-crore cattle-feed plant of Sarvottam Dairy of Bhavnagar.