When the Gujarat government was bracing for the ninth edition of its high-profile biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit which sees a veritable Who's Who of the State and Centre attending it, there was one person missing.
When the summit began on January 18, Union Minister of State for Roads, Transport and Highways, Shipping, Chemicals and Fertilizers Mansukh L. Mandaviya was already two days into his week-long Padyatra to propagate the ideology and values of Mahatma Gandhi.
The 150-km route of the yatra covered 150 villages. In Mandaviya's own words: "The theme of the Padayatra is: Towards Gandhian Principles and Values." And also the route was not randomly chosen. We designed the route through the villages which have institutes of 'Buniyadi or nai taleem' envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi during the freedom struggle."
Mandaviya was on Tuesday honoured by the Unicef and others for his contribution to women's menstrual hygiene. Through the 5,200 'Jan Aushadhi Kendras' distributing medicines at subsidized rates initiated by his Chemicals and Pharmaceuticals Ministry, as many as 10 crore 'Suvidha' sanitary pad packets were sold for a negligible Rs 10 a packet.
According to his Ministry, the Suvidha brand of sanitary pads are the first in the country to be manufactured with 'oxo-biodegradable' technology.
A Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat, Mandaviya, 45, was inducted in the Union Council of Ministers as a Minister of State in 2016. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2012 and re-elected in 2018. He became the Chairman of Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation in 2011 when Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister.
Born to a middle class farmer family in a small village Hanol in the Palitana taluka (tehsil) of Saurashtra's region Bhavnagar district, Mandaviya became the youngest MLA at the age of 28 years in 2002.
His love for animals led him to study veterinary science at the Gujarat Agricultural University's Dantiwada campus and later did his masters in political science.
His Gandhi 'padyatra' was not a one-off idea, it was only a continuation of several such events to connect with the people. And Mandaviya has always picked up themes of social relevance. He organized his first yatra as a legislator in 2005 when he walked 123 km through 45 educationally backward villages in Palitana to advocate girls education.
The second yatra in 2007, under the theme 'Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao' and 'Vyasan Hatao' (remove addiction) covered 127 km criss-crossing 52 villages.