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Jasbhai Gohil says his mobile phone has not stopped ringing ever since state Finance Minister Saurabh Patel announced that his village, Chokari, will host Gujarat’s largest “knowledge hub”, as part of the state budget 2014-15 presented on Tuesday. “People who know me and even those who don’t have been calling me to inquire about the village and the prevailing land rate here. They show interest in purchasing the land because they believe the region will soon become an important centre of learning,” Gohil says.
One of Padra taluka’s largest villages, Chokari has a population of around 14,000. The villagers mostly depend on cotton and vegetable farming. Situated about 20 kilometres from Padra and 35 kilometres from Vadodara, the village lies along what could be termed as state’s chemical and pharmaceutical hub, with a number of factories producing chemicals dotting the region, including pharmaceutical majors such as Sterling Biotech, Sun Pharma and Alembic Pharma.
Now, as per the state government’s latest proposal, the village’s backyard will host a central university, a children’s university, a teacher’s university and a sports university, all of which are to be shifted from the state capital in Gandhinagar to a “special education-cum-sports zone” here, as Patel put it during his budget speech.
The district administration had started scouting for the land for the proposed education hub around a year back and earmarked over 1,000 acre of government land which is situated along the Mahisagar river touching the village,
Vadodara Collector Vinod Rao said.
“We have earmarked around 1,000 acres of government land for the proposed knowledge hub and a proposal regarding the same has been sent across to the government,” Rao said. Villagers hope the new development will finally draw the attention of the government towards their plight they have been facing because of the polluted water that the chemical factories cause.
“The borewell throws up red-coloured water which is not worthy of any use, not even for irrigation, as it burns crops. We have been complaining about this since ages, but nobody paid any attention. Now, as people from outside will come here, the government will take a look at the water and will stop factories from exploiting the land to dump dirty water,” Gohil, the husband of village sarpanch Kokilaben, says.
Villagers say the change has already started showing. Just a few days before the announcement, some officials set up a reverse-osmosis (RO) plant at a cost