Success by Lorry Loads
Ghanchi Muslims of the tiny town of Modasa in Gujarat show the way to economic success by organising their age old transport business. Maqbool Ahmed Siraj stumbles upon the development model during his visit to Gujarat.
From bullock carts to lorries, it has taken just four decades for the Ghanchi Muslims of Modasa in Gujarat to be catapulted to the fast track of success. The little town in Sabarkantha district today hums with roars and buzz of over 900 lorries. All owned by the enterprising Muslim townsfolk who were either selling bullock carts or owned small oil expelling mills, an occupation that gave the community its name,
For a normal visitor, Modasa does not leave any extraordinary impression. The town bus stand on the busy Ahmedabad-Jaipur National High is a picture of squalor and filth. Camel driven carts and trucks clog the road. Chaotic rows of buildings and shops line the dust filled markets on two sides. But once inside the town, enterprise and consequent prosperity stares into one’s face. Most houses are fortified behind strong iron grill gates. Minarets of numerous mosques rise into the sky. Vast number of children could be seen streaming out of schools in uniforms.
The Ghanchis owe their prosperity to the hold they have come to establish on the goods transport business in the region. The lorries run by the community ferry goods between Delhi in north and Bangalore in south via Mumbai. Thanks to their enterprise, Modasa is today home to India’s most successful cooperative of transport operators.
It all started in the latter half of the 1960s when the Ghanchi Muslims decided to organize the transport business. Till then they were either selling bullock carts or dealing in old army trucks. Exploitation at the hands of dealers of petrol, tyres and auto spares led a few of them to set up the Modasa Road Transport Cooperative Society (MRTC). The society was started in a 8 ft by 8ft wooden cubicle by pioneers such as Ibrahim Sabaliya, Yousuf Suthar and Ibrahim Anarwala who were enthused by the nationalisation of banks by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi and their expanded role in public financing. A wave of communal riots hit Modasa and the wooden cubicle was burnt down. It was restarted in 1973.
Since then the Gujarati-speaking Ghanchis have never looked back. Last year the MRTC had 1200 owner-members who together owned 900 trucks. The number had peaked to 1,250 in 1996 but recession has made a dent into the business which is currently low yielding.
The gleaming new building of the Modasa Road Transport Cooperative Society (MRTC) welcomes the visitors to the town. The cooperative has today a share capital of Rs. 150 crore and deposits worth Rs. 12 crore. Last year, the Society earned Rs. 62 lakh in profit. Besides trucks, the society supports several allied businesses such as auto spares, petrol bunks and tyre shops. The Ghanchi Arogya Mandal’s 100-bed general hospital is the latest civic facility the upwardly mobile townsfolk have added to the town.
Around 1980, the Ghanchi truck operators set up the Sarvodaya Sahakari Bank to facilitate financing of their businesses. Two decades later its deposits stand at Rs. 14 crore. The town has another half a dozen credit societies. They finance a number of schools and hospitals.
Says chairman of the Society Yousuf Bhai Tadha, “90 per cent of the truck owners have pucca houses and the town has witnessed a construction boom during the last decades with nearly 20 housing societies vying with each other for a toehold in the market.” According to the All India Transport Congress, income from a truck supports nearly 22 individuals including driver, cleaners, body builders, and the spare sellers. The community was able to set up and fund five high schools, a residential school, and two libraries. Significantly, the All India Transport Congress awarded the Society “Transport Ratna” in 1977. Ghanchi Mahila Mandal imparts skills to women.
The new prosperity has spurred the urge for education. The 22,000 strong Ghanchi Muslim community has nearly 1000 graduates. The six community-run high schools have 4,000 students, 60 per cent of them girls. They together send nearly 30 students to the state’s medical and engineering colleges annually.
The town has 35 Muslim doctors and 10 chartered accountants. 50 children are helped through educational stipends. The Ghanchi Arogya Mandal also provides ambulance service. Nearly 120 Modasa Muslims boarded the Haj flight from Ahmedabad this year. The Muslim membership in the local Agricultural Produce Marketing Society (APMC) has steadily risen to nearly one-thirds of the total. A few other industries too have come up in the town.
Says Mujeebur Rahman Bhayla, a medium scale truck operator: “Though Modasa has few crorepatis, the organisation of the business by the MRTC enabled a large number of Ghanchi entrepreneurs to achieve a decent standard of living in a short time.” In fact, no one in the town owns more than eight trucks.
The Society has taken care to group insure drivers and cleaners. Nearly 300 of them benefit from the scheme. Last year 25 families received upward of Rs 2 lakh each after death or accident of their bread winners.
The Ghanchi Muslims self help initiative has transformed the life in Modasa. Yusuf Tadha feels that but for the cooperative society and the sahakari bank, the transporters would have still remained in bullock cart age. Says he: “The town’s Nagarik Sahakari Bank would though collect deposits from Ghanchi community, but only 2 to 3 per cent of the loans were disbursed to them. Today our Sarvodaya Sahakari Bank directs 15 per cent of its charities to the Sarvajanik Hospital and schools run by other communities.”
|1. Mr. Yusuf Tadha, Chairman, MRTC
2. Modasa Lorries : Signs of upward mobility
3. Sarvodaya Sahakari Bank set up by Ghanchi Muslims
4. Petrol bunks run by MRTC
5. Ghanchi Arogya Mandal Hospital
6. Modasa Road Transport Co-op Society building grand success