Kutch Rann Utsav: How then Gujarat CM Modi turned a tragedy into opportunity for the desert region

Mayank Kumar

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's envisioned plans have finally borne fruit which has turned around the fortunes of an area that appeared down and out after the tragedy of the 2001 earthquake in Gujarat. The Rann Utsav of Kutch, that started as a two-day event has transformed itself into a full-fledged flagship event of the Western state that spans across four months from October to February every year. The Rann Utsav has brought with it spurring economic and employment opportunities to the region.

The catastrophic earthquake of 2002 had demolished the demography and the economy of Gujarat, especially the Kutch district in 2001. With an ambition to reverse the apprehension of the world about the region in the aftermath of the earthquake, Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, with inspiration from then President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, had formulated plans to host a festival in Rann of Kutch to attract tourists from the other parts of the country and the world. The Narendra Modi-led government in the state had three prime objectives such as creating economic opportunity, promoting natural and cultural beauty of Kutch and lastly to induce the social development in the region that had hardly any infrastructure and population.

Serious challenges such as lack of skilled human resources, infrastructure and extreme weather conditions in the area posed major risks for the ambitious plans chalked out by Narendra Modi. To counter the inadequacies, the government had roped in a Public-Private partnership model to meet the skills required before implementing the plans. The Modi-government emphasized renewable energy, reduction and recycling of food wastes, garbage and water to make the optimal use of the resources. The government also introduced Adventure sports such as Paramotoring, Water Zorbing, and ATV ride to package the event as an extravaganza. The move to rope in Amitabh Bachhan with a targeted campaign of 'Kutch Nahi Dekha to Kuchh Nahi Dekha' also proved to be masterstroke going forward.

The numbers of tourists have seen an exponential rise to 14.80 lakh till 2018-19 from the 2.85 lakh gathering recorded in the inception year of 2005. The marquee event has enriched the state’s treasury by Rs 81.15 crore as well as the event has provided a platform to the local arts and crafts vendors to sell their products. They have sold items worth Rs 16.28 crore! The event has also enabled farmers to explore a wider market for their milk and farm products. The villagers of Kutch district have also reaped rewards from the flourishing festival in their region. The literacy rate in the region has increased to an unprecedented high of 90 per cent while expanding banking services have made their life easier to live. The escapade had created 2.46 lakh employment opportunities for the local youth in its 2016-17 edition.

Subsequent state governments have empowered the gram panchayats as well as individuals in the Kutch district to run the commercial business like resorts and tent houses to make the most of the opportunities. The subtle precautions which have been taken by the government and the organising management have made sure the events have upheld the norms of Zero Emission and Zero Waste.