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History of Gandhidham

History of Gandhidham

When India became independent in 1947, Gandhidham was a barren piece land under the Princely State of Kutch.  The place at that time was full of poisonous creature like snakes and scorpions and was totally unsuitable for human habitation.  Yet, the Sindhis from Pakistan chose to live here and turn it into a prosperous city.

Sindhi Settlement in Gandhidham

Sindhis, as we know, were the inhabitants of the Sindh province of undivided India.  However, with the creation of Pakistan, most of the Hindu Sindhis were forced to leave their native land and come over to India empty handed.  Just as most other refugees from Pakistan they had to leave everything they owned in their native place.  What they brought with them were their inherent entrepreneurship and a will to surmount all odds.

At the same time, long before India was formally partitioned the leaders of the community were aware of the fact that once Pakistan was created Hindus would have to leave their native land and search for new home. Therefore, as Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, formally announced the creation of Pakistan, they began to look for places where they could relocate the entire community. Since Kutch is contiguous with Sindh and had a linguistic and cultural affinity, it was a natural choice for them.  Bhai Pratap Dial Das was one of those leaders who played an active role in this regard.

Bhai Pratap Dial Das of Gandhidham

Bhai Pratap Dial Das

Bhai Pratap Dial Das was born in Hyderabad, Sindh, on 14 April 1908 in an affluent Bhaiband family. He was a successful businessman, a philanthropist and a freedom fighter. He was also a close associate of late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Ballav Bhai Patel.

Bhai Pratap first approached Gandhiji for a piece of land for reallocation of Sindhi refugees.  The Mahatma advised him to approach Maharaja of Kutch, Maharajadhiraj Mirza Maharao Sri Sir Vijayaraji Khengarji Sawai Bahadur for that. The Maharaja welcomed him whole heartedly and promised him 15,000 acres of land near the Gulf of Kutch.

Problems Over Land Allotment

However, the process came to a halt as the Princely State of Kutch merged with India in June, 1948. Bhai Pratap had not yet received the land deeds and when he approached the Maharaja he was told to contact the Government of India.  In another setback, the government of India passed a law, which made all allotments of lands made one year prior to the merger null and void. In effect Bhai Pratap had to start from the very beginning.

In the end his efforts bore fruit. The Government of India allocated 2600 acres of land out of the initial 15,000 acres; the rest was earmarked for the development of a port at Kandla.

Sindhu Resettlement Corporation Ltd in Gandhidham 

Gandhidham in 1978

To establish a new township at Gandhidham the founders chose a novel path. They had two fold aims; they not only wanted to provide homes to the displaced persons, but also wanted make sure that they earn their livelihood in a respectable manner. So they set up a Joint Stock Company called Sindhu Resettlement Corporation Ltd. The new township of Gandhidham was to be established under its aegis.

While Bhia Pratap was the first managing director of the company, the board of directors was headed by Acharya Kripalini.  All profits from the sale of shares were utilized for development of the township. In addition, Ministry of Rehabilitation granted a loan of one crore and ten lac rupee for building of 4000 houses.

More interestingly, all the materials required for building the city was manufactured by the Corporation. It trained the displaced persons in different sciences and thus enabled them to earn a decent living. For instance, a hollow cement block making factory was established to make 10000 blocks per day. RCC Spun and Pole Factory was established to produce all the pipes required for drainage system and water supply in the city. Similarly, carpenters’ workshop and saw mills were opened to meet the city’s requirement for woodwork. Auto workshops were opened to repair machines used in the constriction work. All these employed a large number of displaced persons and at the same time provided materials for construction work in the city.

In addition to these the Corporation also started an agricultural farm, a poultry farm and a diary.  These not only provided income opportunity for the displaced persons, but also supplied food materials to the city at a very reasonable rate. Profit making was never the motto of this establishment.

Establishment of Gandhidham

The work on the township finally began in 1950.  The foundation of the town was laid with the blessings of Mahatma Gandhi and that is one of the reasons why this new township was named Gandhidham. Initially, the Corporation hired the services of a reputed Italian town planner, who provided many basic tips. However, the detail plan was developed by an Indian planner.

According to the Master Plan, Gandhidham was divided into self sufficient districts, which in .their turn were divided into number of neighborhoods, each having its own schools, temples and dispensaries. The houses were initially given on rent, but later they were sold on hire purchase basis to the displaced persons. The terms and condition were so easy that people with very little money could also afford them.

Very soon Gandhidham became one of the most prosperous cities of this area. Since Kandla Port was located close by most of the industries here were based on shipping. Trade and commerce was also highly developed in this town.

Gandhidham after 2001 Earthquake

Gandhidham in 2001

Then in 2001 a severe earthquake shook whole of Kutch district and Gandhidham was one of the worst affected cities. However, disaster of this magnitude could not defeat the spirit of the residents. The city was not only rebuilt, but facilities were improved upon. The government also offered tax incentives for setting up industries here. Taking advantage of this many industrial houses as well as corporations set up their units there. This in turn opened up more economic opportunity and the town soon became a centre of trade and commerce. Today Gandhidham is considered the financial capital Kutch.

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