Anand, Gujarat

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

The world's surrogacy hub

The Times of India, Nov 01 2015

Parth Shastri

Anand's baby boom threatens to go bust

From lawyers who draw up contracts to hotels that house foreigners chasing the parenthood dream, Anand has an entire economy built around surrogacy. Now, it's bracing for the mother of all blows.

The cafeteria at Hotel Rama Residency on Station Road resembles an inter national campus couples from the US, Nigeria, Russia and Cambodia speak dif ferent tongues yet bond over the Gujarati thali. The couples are in Anand, a town in Gujarat which was known as the milk capital of India until it also became the surrogacy capital, chasing the dream of parenthood. Down the road from the café where they are tucking into sweet dal and dhokla farsan is Akanksha Infertility Clinic, which delivered its 1,001st surrogate baby last month.

In the past decade, Anand has cemented its place as the world's surrogacy hub, thanks primarily to Dr Nayana Patel of Akanksha Infertility Clinic, which averages about two surrogate deliveries a week. She is a cornerstone of India's Rs 1,300-crore-plus surrogacy industry, though she's got her share of critics who dub her clinics baby factories.

But now the Centre's recent submission in the Supreme Court that it plans to ban foreigners from hiring local women to have their babies has cast a shadow not only on Patel's practice but also on the town's thriving surrogacy economy .

Apart from the staff of Akanksha, close to 3,000 people in the town depend on the surrogacy industry for a living. This includes the 1,000-odd-strong army of surrogates who earn between Rs 4 lakh and Rs 11 lakh by offering their wombs for rent, donating their eggs and playing nanny to babies born to foreign and NRI couples. Apart from them, restaurants, hotels, cab drivers, rickshaw owners and malls thrive on the business that nearly 200 couples bring in yearly. These couples -about 70% are foreign nationals, non-resident Indians or non-resident Gujaratis -stay here for periods ranging from two to six months.

Uday Londhe, a travel agent in Anand who handles the travel of more than 100 foreigners to and from Anand specifically for surrogacy every year, says the chain starts at the airport.“After hiring cabs to get from the airport to Anand, there is accommoda tion and food. While waiting for treatment, the couples explore the state and boost tourism. During their stay , they require everything from mineral water to barbers. This has created a peripheral industry,“ he says. Needless to say, locals speaking English find employment easily.

Dhirubhai Patel, owner of Rama Residency, admits that he decided to build his hotel five years ago solely to cater to the foreign traffic coming for surrogacy . Pointing to the large group of foreigners in his cafeteria, Patel says that the 31-room hotel would not survive on Indian visitors alone.

“Foreigners for surrogacy account for 90% of occupancy. The meals are planned as per their requirement,“ says Patel. In this largely vegetarian town, the hotel serves non-vegetarian platters to suit foreigners' tastes. The hotel even has cradles handy for newborns. The average room tariff is Rs 2,000 a night for a double bed, and a foreign visitor spends more than Rs 1.5 lakh on food and stay at the hotel on every visit. At the upscale resorts around town, the amount shoots up 10 times.

Hansa Patel, 35, a former surrogate mother, has now found employment as a nanny.With two children of her own, she has ample experience that the `new mothers' lack. From getting the required medicines to running errands at the hospital -which she now knows like the back of her hand -she does it all for the foreign couples.

“The Rs 5 lakh from surrogacy provided a roof over my family's head, and now the clinic has provided me a steady job,“ she says.Patel is among the 50-odd women who work in the surrogacy sector in various capacities other than carrying babies. Many surrogates have even bought property in and around Anand.

At Seven-Eleven Kids -a name that harks back to the famous convenience store chain in the UK and Canada -one can find racks of imported baby products, ranging from feeding bottles and diapers to lotions and strollers.“We refurbished the store five years ago realizing the potential, and started stocking imported goods on the basis of the requirements of the new mothers. We source our goods from across the world, something which we wouldn't have done if we had to cater to local consumers. There would be little business if foreigners did not come,“ says store owner Nitesh Patel.

CK Patel, an advocate who helps draw up contracts between foreign parents and surrogate mothers, is keeping a close watch on the PIL seeking a ban on surrogacy for foreign couples. “Surrogacy is one of the most important sources of employment here. Everyone from autorickshaw drivers and medical store owners to paediatric clinics gets steady business in the surrogacy capital,“ he says.

In Dr Patel's hospital, a Canadian lawyer who identified himself as Anthony is meeting the surrogate mother who delivered his baby boy two weeks ago to get some breast milk from the 31-year-old. He and his wife have been in touch with the surrogate since the first tests were done. This is his second child through surrogacy in the past five years from Anand. “I wish the ongoing debate over surrogacy goes the positive way for couples like us who can't conceive,“ he says. “Anand is our last hope.“

Solar energy cooperative

As in 2022

Prashant Rupera, Oct 29, 2022: The Times of India

Five years ago, Mahesh Manibhai Patel, a farmer with 11 ‘vigha’ land in Gujarat’s Anand district, used to spend sleepless nights because his village got electricity for only eight hours, often late in the evening or at night. Now, he can draw water 12 hours a day in the daytime. He not only gets a good night’s sleep, but also earns a couple of lakh rupees every year by selling surplus electricity.

The revolution in Maheshbhai’s life is part of a new cooperative movement sweeping through Anand, which is home to Amul and the birthplace of India’s White Revolution. 

Small Beginning

In 2018, the world’s first solar cooperative – Petlad Sojitra Saururja Utpadak (PSSU) Sahkari Mandali Limited – started in Anand with a seed capital of just Rs 1,100. The idea was to replicate Amul’s cooperative model in the solar energy field. Four years on, PSSU’s turnover has touched Rs 12 crore.

importantly, it has inspired seven other solar ‘mandalis’ (cooperatives) in a cluster of 18 villages covering 22 sq-km in Anand district. 
After meeting the villages’ irrigation needs PSSU has enough solar power left over to supply the state grid. It has also started taking commercial contracts for installing solar panels in the region. PSSU’s three agriculture feeders at Ishnav (Mahesh-bhai’s village), Trambovad and Ashapuri villages generate 24,000 units daily and supply electricity to 388 farmers. In 2019, the Ishnav feeder was India’s first agriculture feeder run by a solar cooperative.

“We had started with the motto to replicate the success that the Amul model has achieved in the milk business. Amul Dairy too started its journey with just 250 litres of milk,” said Tejash Patel, founder and chairman of the PSSU mandali.

“We utilised the Surya Shakti Kisan (SKY) scheme launched by the Gujarat government in June 2018. The SKY scheme enables farmers to generate electricity for their captive consumption and sell the surplus power to the grid. Under the scheme, solar panels are provided to farmersas per their load requirements,” Tejash-bhai said. 

Win-Win Formula

The farmers got 30% subsidy each from the Gujarat government and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). They also got 35% of the funds as a loan from Nabard. They had to pay the remaining 5% themselves, so they took a loan of Rs 3. 5 crore from the Kheda District Madhya Sahkari Bank.

Tejash-bhai said they paid off the loan four months after launching the pilot project. Now the farmers will get free electricity from their solar systems for 22 years and also earn from the sale of surplus units. The cooperative’s members can expect to earn Rs 45,000-Rs 2. 5 lakh per annum from electricity. 

Life-Changing Power

The solar movement is changing people’s lives. “Since availability of both electricity and water to irrigate farms was an issue, I used to cultivate only wheat or millets – crops that do not require much water,” Mahesh-bhai said. “But since I have installed a 50hp solar pump, I can draw water for 12 hours during the day. I have started cultivating highyielding crops like tomato, chilli and tobacco, and earn Rs 7. 5 lakh per annum, as against Rs 3 lakh from wheat and millets earlier. ” That’s not counting his earnings from the sale of surplus electricity units.

The solar cooperative is also generating employment. “We have 23 employees, including engineers, who have executed many commercial projects in Gujarat. Our major clients are the dairy cooperative societies of Amul Dairy in Petlad, Sojitra, Tarapur, Khambhat, Umreth and other villages of Anand and Kheda districts, apart from Panchmahals District Agriculture Produce Market Committee and Panchmahals District Co-operative Milk Producers Union Limited,” said Tejash-bhai.

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