Modiís hometown adds progress to heritage

NAT

Vadnagar in Mehsana has a rich heritage, dating back 4,500 years, but it is only of late that it has started to chart a growth story, one that has been boosted by its identity of being home to Narendra Modi.

Six trains halt at the railway station everyday, ferrying workers and relatives to Visnagar with its copper industries, and Mehsana town. It is easy to miss the brief halt but the heritage is visible all around the station. In a town influenced by Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, the places of interest include the Sharmishtha lake, the Kirti Torans (victory arches), the Tana Riri garden, a fort with six city gates, the Hatkeshwar temple and a recently excavated Buddhist monastery site.

Industry had largely ignored Vadnagar until April this year, when the Himachal Pradesh-based Himalaya International opened a food processing unit over 55 acres in Sultanpur, investing Rs 200 crore, employing 2,000 people and entering into contracts with local farmers. It has rolled out eatables such as mushroom, milk cheese, potato chips and french fries for Suway and McDonald's. "We also plan to start hydroponic farming and produce lettuce and strawberries," says Manmohan Malik, chairman and CEO of Himalya International Ltd.

A medical college is coming up alongside Vadnagar's two ITIs, arts and commerce college and government polytechnic college. "A budget of Rs 90 lakh has been sanctioned for a medical college," said Rajesh Thumar, mamlatdar of Vadnagar. "There has been talk of a Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation wing too."

"Property prices have risen 20 per cent in the last two years," says Ehsaan Ali Momin, real estate developer of Kesimpa village. Shia Muslims of nearby Kesimpa and Badalpur run most of Vadnagar's businesses, including restaurants, guest houses and shopping complexes. "A lot of money has been pumped into real estate by unskilled labourers from Vadnagar who have come back richer from Saudi Arabia," says Momin.

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