Located in the vicinity of world-renowned Gir forest and a ‘Jyotirlinga’, Somnath temple (BJP veteran LK Advani had embarked on his historic Ram Rathyatra from Somnath Temple on September 25, 1990); lies an energetic Municipality of Veraval. Located in Gir Somnath District of Gujarat, the Port town of Veraval was founded by a Rajput, Rao Veravalji Vadher in 13th or 14th century. It was a fortified port owned by the royal Junagadh family until 1953 when their territory was merged with India.
Before the Port of Surat emerged, the Port of Veraval was the major stop for pilgrims going to Mecca. Today, the Port of Veraval is home to a large fishing port where fishing boats and sea-going dhows are still built at the shore without any scientific tools beyond a tape measure.
The local fishery has always been the town’s dominant industry, and the community of Kharwa (fisherfolk) is its largest subpopulation, using traditional trawlers and boats to land their catch. The Port of Veraval also has a healthy boat-making industry. Around 90 fish processing factories are located there that export high-quality seafood to the United States, Southeast Asia, Japan, Europe, and the Gulf. Although started by the Indian government, the modern seafood industry is now flourishing, attracting many importers from around the world. In addition, research centers located in the port town of Veraval have done much to develop the state of Gujarat’s fisheries.
All along Gujarat state’s 1,600 km long coastline – the longest in India, the vibrant fishing activity has remained a focal point of the economic metamorphosis witnessed in the region in the past few decades. Traditionally dominated by valiant and rich Kharwa community residing across Veraval-Porbandar coastline, fishery has also bolstered the financial landscape of Veraval – the small town that has witnessed a steep rise of land prices in the past few years. Swanky cars and palatial bungalows owned by affluent and politically well-connected Kharwas are not uncommon in the port town of Veraval. Veraval Municipality’s current President, Manjuben Suyani belongs to Kharwa community.
“Kharwa’s business enterprises continue to stimulate Gir Somnath District’s economy as annual turnover of seafood exports from the port town of Veraval is currently estimated at Rs 3000 crore,” said Piyush Fofandi, President, Seafood Exporters Association.
Rajesh Chudasama, Member of Parliament (Gir-Somnath-Veraval constituency), said, “The scheduled up gradation and expansion of Veraval fishery harbour under Phase-II Project will give a huge fillip to the sea food exports form the port town of Veraval.”
The closely-knit Kharwa community of the port town Veraval is constantly nurtured under the aegis of Sagar Putra Foundation. It’s President, Lakham Bhesla said, “Over 35,000 Kharwa members of our Foundation presently own 3000 fishing boats – the backbone of Veraval’s economy.”
Passionate, purposeful, religiously inclined and known for his courageous endurance; indeed, a Kharwa is undoubtedly considered as a valiant voice of Veraval.