Monday, June 4, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Kutch gets five-year tax holiday
Black flags greet Prime Minister
Geetanjli Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Bhuj, June 3
Acceding to the public demand, Mr A.B. Vajpayee declared a five-year tax holiday for the residents of Kutch region here today, while asking the people to join hands for rebuilding a modern Kutch.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee flags off the Kutch Express on the newly extended broad-gauge line from Bhuj to Mumbai while Railway Minister Nitish Kumar and Home Minister L.K. Advani look on in Bhuj on Sunday.
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee flags off the Kutch Express on the newly extended broad-gauge line from Bhuj to Mumbai while Railway Minister Nitish Kumar and Home Minister L.K. Advani look on in Bhuj on Sunday. — PTI photo

During his two-day visit to the quake-torn district, Mr Vajpayee was speaking on the occasion of the foundation stone-laying ceremony of a Centre-funded hospital and flagging off of a train between Bhuj and Gandhidham.

Stating that the tax holiday was an incentive to attract industrialists, he said the Centre was ready to render any help the state needed in rehabilitating the people. Later, the Chief Minister, Mr Keshubhai Patel, added that the state would lift excise duty in accordance with concessions given by the Centre.

Mr Vajpayee also demanded that the state government fix a deadline to clear debris of buildings which had collapsed during the quake, an issue which had irked the people on account of tardy progress.

Addressing the acute problem of water paucity in Kutch, the Prime Minister assured the public that the distribution of the Narmada waters would be amicably resolved and that the Centre was alive to the water problem of the district.

Recalling his last visit to the state nearly four months ago, he said the death and devastation had moved him considerably. “The stone-laying ceremony for the hospital, the flagging off of the train are all indicators that life is moving towards normalcy, however, slow the pace be,” he said.

Appreciative of the Gujarati spirit, which had helped people fight back, Mr Vajpayee said the same enthusiasm would rebuild the economy. “While all individual efforts have set the ball rolling, a collective effort would do a word of good to our mission of a rejuvenated Gujarat,” he added.

While admitting lapses in the quick despatch of relief material to the interiors of the state during the quake, Mr Vajpayee criticised those propagating discrimination in the distribution of the relief material. “We are a secular nation and no discrimination on the basis of caste or religion has been brought to our notice. In the face of calamity, these are the last things on anybody’s mind,” he contended.

Attacking the Opposition, Mr Vajpayee said natural calamities were not the times to play games. “Allegations and counter-allegations can be kept reserved for the election times. At that time the public will decide our fate,” he said.

Continuing in the same tenor, Mr Vajpayee, referring to the black-flag welcome by the Indian Youth Congress activists, made light of the situation. “They have fulfilled my desire to witness such a protest. Anyway, if we have faltered somewhere or they have suggestions to make in public interest, they are welcome to bring these to our notice,” he remarked.

He applauded the efforts of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which assisted official agencies engaged in the relief work, and the NRIs who had pumped in funds generously to rebuild Gujarat. The hospitals set up by the Army within hours of the quake when others were gearing up to rise to the occasion, found special mention in his speech.

Earlier, the Union Railways Minister, Mr Nitesh Kumar, said the inauguration of a train between Bhuj and Gandhidham was long overdue and its inauguration by the Prime Minister today was bound to benefit the people. He added that the train between Gandhidham and Mumbai was being extended up to Bhuj.

He said the change-over from the metre gauge to the broad gauge would improve freight transport facilities.

Others present on the occasion included the Union Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, the Union Cabinet Minister, Ms Jaywantiben Mehta, Gujarat Governor Sunder Singh Bhandari, among a number of Central and state ministers.




  • The Prime Minister flagged off a train between Bhuj and Gandhidham with the touch of a button and the waving of a green flag from the dais while the train was nowhere in sight. To everybody’s amusement, almost instantly the sound of a train chugging out of the station filled the air and a visual of the train leaving the station appeared on a specially propped up screen.

  • For the convenience of the Prime Minister, the foundation stone of the hospital was laid with the pressing of a button also from the special dais.

  • The black-flag welcome by activists of the Indian Youth Congress brought out the lighter side of the Prime Minister. “I had always heard of such a welcome and it was my long cherished desire to have one. The activists fulfilled my desire today as they waved black flags and supported black badges,” he said.
  • In a similar announcement Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel also announced a five-year sales tax holiday for the Kutch district on the occasion.


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