BHAVNAGAR: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday inaugurated a Rs 650-crore roll on-roll off (Ro-Ro) ferry service that reduces travel time by six hours between Saurashtra and South Gujarat in the election-bound state.
Addressing a gathering here after the inauguration, Modi blasted the Congress saying the previous Congress-led government in the Centre had stalled all Gujarat development projects by creating procedural hurdles in the name of environment.
"When I was the Chief Minster, I faced hostility from the then central Government. People at the Center were like that. From Vapi to Mandvi in Kutch, they (the UPA government) had banned development in the entire coastal area of Gujarat. They had threatened to lock all our industries in the name of environment."
He said this had changed since he took power in Delhi and gave importance to the Gujarat development.
"It seems implementation of all good works are my luck. Changes don't come from cliched attitude but by new thinking. We changed the way of thinking."
He said the ferry in the Gulf of Khambhat of the Arabian Sea would reduce the travel time between Bhavnagar district in western Gujarat's Saurashtra region and Dahej in Bharuch district in south Gujarat from seven hours to one hour, cutting the distance between two places to 31 km from 360 km.
"It is a landmark project not only for India but also for the entire South-East Asia. It is a dream come true for the people of Gujarat."
The Prime Minister said the Ro-Ro ferry was like an "amrit" - the drink of immortality - bestowed upon to the people Gujarat as a blessing from Hindu god of oceans Varuna.
The dream of 6.5 crore Gujaratis had come true as the ferry service would lead to social and economic development in the region and bring thousands of new job opportunities, he said.
The Prime Minister said besides making the lives of crores of people easier, the service also brings them closer and saves fuel by decreasing the number of vehicles on the road.
"Imagine how much time and petrol this ferry service will save," he said, adding the facility would not be restricted to just one route.
"We are planning to link other places," he said, noting that plans were afoot to expand the service to Hazira and the union territory Diu-Daman at a later stage and various places in Saurashtra.
Calling coastal areas as gateways to progress, he said over the last three years, his government had been trying to develop coastal infrastructure that would "create over a crore employment opportunities".
The ferry service that had been getting delayed for various technical and financial issues since 1995 was first thought of in the early 1960s. The foundation stone for the current phase was laid by Narendra Modi as the Chief Minister in 2012. It is meant for passengers and would carry 500 of them at a time.
The second phase would ferry vehicles and even cruise boats would be made available later on.
Modi later travelled on the ferry to Dahej with many differently-abled children whom he called his "special guests".
The Prime Minister also inaugurated Sarvottam Dairy Cattle Feed Plant. He later flew to Vadodara to address a public rally and inaugurate more projects.
Election to pick a new 182-member Gujarat assembly is due before January 22, 2018 when its term ends. The Election Commission has not announced the poll dates as of now even citing it would bring in the imposition of the model code of conduct that would disrupt relief operation for flood-hit victims.
The opposition parties have alleged that the poll panel has given time to the ruling BJP to announce sops for the people of Gujarat.