JHUNJHUNU : It has produced some of the biggest names in Indian industry. From steel king L N Mittal and G D Birla to Ajay Piramal and Jamnalal Bajaj, all of them trace their roots to Rajasthan’s semi-arid Shekhawati region. But the area itself is devoid of a single big industry worth the name, forcing its people and voters to look for employment opportunities elsewhere. “Barring the Tatas and the Ambanis, all big industrialists have their roots in Shekhawati and most of them are from Jhunjhunu. Yet it lacks employment opportunities,” rued Ramdev Singh Garhwal, 63, a retired school teacher.
“The people are mostly employed in government service or are engaged in farming. Neither the government nor industrialists paid any attention to the region’s development. People have to go out for work,” he added.
The three biggest towns in the Shekhawati belt are Jhunjhunu, Sikar and Churu. While Mittal may have his cut teeth in the steel business in Kolkata, he originally hails from Sadulpur in Churu. Ditto Birla. His business empire has its roots in a jute mill set up in Kolkata but he was born in Pilani in Jhunjhunu. Piramal made Mumbai his base for his textiles business but he was born in Bagar in Jhunjhunu.
The Ruia, Dalmia, Goenka, Poddar and Singhania groups also have their roots in the region. Why these industrialists have not made the region of their birth as their karmabhoomi is difficult to say but some attributed it to lack of water and government support.
Shekhawati residents rue lack of job opportunities in the region
“Water scarcity in the region makes this region unfavourable for opening industries. The government has hardly done anything to improve the situation,” said political analyst Ashfaq Kayamkhani. According to him, they could also have lost interest in the region after their defeat at the hustings. “After some of them lost in the elections, they felt a bit let down. None of their family members live here now.
The people connect has decreased,” Kayamkhani said. KK Birla contested the Lok Sabha elections from Jhunjhunu in 1971 and lost. Kamalnayan Bajaj met the same fate from Sikar in 1952. That Jhunjhunu district is largely agrarian is clear from the government’s data. While the Gross District Domestic Product in the agriculture sector is 25.58%, higher than the state average of 19.13%, the GDDP in the business sector is 9.65%, much lower than the state average of 31.83%. Also, only 1.51 % of Jhunjhunu’s population are household industry workers while the state average is 2.41 %.
A large number of its men are in the armed forces, perhaps because of the lack of employment opportunities here. “My brother is a jawan in the Army. There are not many job avenues too,” said Rajesh Baser, who works at a roadside eatery in Churu. Besides its contribution to the armed forces and industry, the Shekhawati region is also known for its majestic havelis. Centuries old havelis, especially in Mandava, have often caught the attention of Bollywood but residents complained that successive governments have not exploited this. “Mandava has been declared a heritage city.
Boll ywood stars come here to shoot films but the government has hardly done anything to promote us,” complained 32-year-old Bharat Kumar Chayal, who runs a shop of handicraft and jutis. Zaheer Abbas, who was a history teacher but is now a senior manager at the famous Alsisar Mahal said: “Because of its ideal location, Shekhawati was part of the silk route and the region’s wealth flourished during this period. It was at this time that havelis were built for the convenience of traders.”
Abbas said the havelis were getting damaged because of lack of maintenance and blamed the government for this. Though the region lacks job opportunities, it fares well on the education parameter. While state’s literacy rate is 66.11%, that of Jhunjhunu and Sikar are 74.13% and 71.91%. Some credit for this goes to the industrialists. “Many industrialists have been running educational institutions. The standard of education is good because of this,” said Kayamkhani.