Makeover of a City


India Today - - SAFAIGIRI - —Uday Mahurkar

Saya­ji­rao Gaek­wad, the ruler and so­cial re­former of the erst­while princely state of Vado­dara, left it a mod­ern city when he passed away in 1939. Over the years, though, the city de­te­ri­o­rated due to lop­sided de­vel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties. Seventy-eight years later, Vado­dara is set to re­gain its po­si­tion as an at­trac­tive mod­ern city, thanks to the mis­sion­ary zeal and vi­sion of one per­son—41-year-old mu­nic­i­pal com­mis­sioner Vinod Rao.

Rao has turned this project into a yagna of sorts, with many of the city’s lead­ing res­i­dents mak­ing sac­ri­fices—pri­mar­ily agree­ing to cur­tail their com­pounds so roads can be widened. The area around the city’s rail­way sta­tion has been cleaned, while seven of the city’s 32 lakes have had en­croach­ments re­moved and are now cleaned and beau­ti­fied. Over 40 wa­ter tanks and sumps are also now clean. Sa­mar­jitsinh Gaek­wad, the tit­u­lar ma­haraja of Vado­dara, says, “Rao has put life back into the city.”

The green­ing of Vado­dara goes on with equal zeal too. Close to 500,000 trees have been planted on road di­viders and along the sides of roads. Bhu­pen­dra Sheth, as­sis­tant mu­nic­i­pal com­mis­sioner, says, “The great suc­cess is the sur­vival rate of the trees—95 per cent.” When Rao was posted in Vado­dara in June 2016, he made his in­ten­tions known by stat­ing he would be­gin with a 100-day Swachh Vado­dara cam­paign and aim at a Smart Vado­dara at the end of 1,000 days. Many felt it was bom­bas­tic talk that bu­reau­crats of­ten make and then for­get. Not this time.


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