for farm house in the green fields? Or a bungalow with a
garden? An evening with a play and [sic] dinner thereafter?
An art class? A plunge in a cool pool? A sun-drenched afternoon
watching cricket? We have a suggestion: Live in Gujarat.
- “Vibrant Gujarat” website
CHIEF minister Narendra Modi’s sustained campaign
to project himself as an efficient administrator whose priorities
lie in development rather than communal politics has garnered
approval from the national media since 2002. That Gujarat‘s
development indicators seem better than the “Bimaru”
states helps. The December 2007 elections, then, could also
be a referendum on these claims of development.
However, a lot of these claims are related to industry and
private sector investments and even if they make a difference
in people’s lives, they are often exaggerated in Modi’s
speeches. The claims are often belied by the Gujarat government’s
own admissions in the Assembly or in response to RTI applications.
An unpublished report by development worker Avinash Kumar,
based until recently in Ahmedabad, pins these lies. For
instance, the chief minister likes to say that the state’s
growth rate is 12 percent, three percent higher than the
national average of nine percent. But a report by the Gujarat
government, Review of Socio-Economic Status in Gujarat:
2006-07, puts the growth rate at 8.11 percent. Besides,
Gujarat is one of the highest indebted states of the country
as its liability swelled from Rs 70,228 crore in 2005 to
Rs 95,000 crore this year, an average of Rs 19,000 debt
per citizen (Gujarat has a population of five crore).
has only regained a high growth rate in the last few years,
just like the national growth rate,” says Prof Darshini
Mahadevia, who teaches at CEPT Ahmedabad, “The Gujarati
middle class is happy with the path Modi is taking Gujarat
on,” she adds, “but the picture might be different
for farmers and the poor.”
According to the third round of National Family Health Survey,
anaemia and malnutrition in Gujarat have in fact increased
from the second round by a sharp 60 percent. For instance,
in the 6-35 month age group for children, the percentage
of anaemia has gone up to 80.1 percent in 2005-06 from 74.5
percent in 1998-99. Incidentally, Gujarat is taking the
lead in privatising public health infrastructure.
The state has found a simple way of showing a decline in
poverty figures. It has redefined poverty lines for both
rural and urban areas. So you would be counted as poor in
a Gujarat town if you earn Rs 541.16 a month ($0.45 a day)
or less. In a Gujarat village, the figure is even lower
— Rs 353.93 a month or 30 cents a day. Most of the
other states, including the poor ones like Jharkhand, keep
the poverty net wider. The internationally accepted figure
is a dollar a day. This removes large numbers from the BPL
list and prevents them from receiving the benefits of poverty
alleviation and development programmes.
Commission figures show that the gulf between the rural
and the urban population in Gujarat is only widening. The
state has 63.49 lakh (19.1 percent of the rural population)
BPL people in rural areas as compared to 27.19 lakh (13
percent of the urban population) in cities. Thus, despite
the jugglery of BPL figures, Gujarat’s rural BPL population
is greater than that of urban areas, both in percentage
and absolute terms, just like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or Jharkhand.
to the census of 2001, roughly 46 percent population of
the state is dependent upon agriculture (27.67 percent cultivators
and 17.91 percent agricultural labourers). Together they
contribute only 15 percent to the state’s GDP, while
industry and services contributes 39 and 46 percent, respectively.
Consequently, there has been a gradual decline in food grain
production (from 65.71 lakh tonnes in 2003-04 to 51.53 lakh
tonnes in 2004-05), raising doubts about the food security
of small and marginal farmers. An NSSO survey in 2005 found
40 percent of the farmers saying that given an option, they
would give up agriculture.
NSSO 2005 figures say that Gujarat’s farmers are reeling
under an average debt of Rs 15,526. The official government
policy about the agrarian crisis has been of denial, but
Modi finally admitted in the Assembly that between January
2006 and January 2007, 148 farmers had committed suicide.
His reasons were, however, attributed to anything but agrarian
debt. Last month, in response to an RTI application the
government admitted to as many as 403 suicides in five years.
The real numbers are much higher, as NGO surveys reveal.
by the Vadodara-based Centre for Culture and Development
says that between 1997- 2004, two million people in Gujarat
have been displaced in the name of developmental projects.
Displacement from land for industries only intensified with
Modi’s policy of wooing industries at any cost.
Gujarat government repeatedly advertises that it is the
country’s only electricity ‘surplus’ state,
even selling power to neighbouring states. But the Gujarat
Urja Vikas Nigam Limited said in April 2007 that the state
was facing a shortfall of 900 mega - watts. While cities
continue to get uninterrupted power, rural areas often face
shortfalls. Many rural areas get only 4-5 hours of power
supply a day, badly affecting irrigation during the sowing
also face irrigation problems as the canals of much-hyped
Sardar Sarovar Pariyojana carrying the Narmada waters hasn’t
reached them and is unlikely to be operational in the drought
prone areas of Kutch, Saurashtra, northern Gujarat and Panchmahal
before 2021. The Comptroller and Auditor General’s
report has objected to an unauthorised sub-plan being added
to the Sardar Sarovar dam scheme. Under this sub-plan, 255
MLD (million litres per day) water is to be diverted to
Gandhinagar and to the water intensive industries of Kutch.
While the need for Gandhinagar was estimated to be around
49 MLD, it was allocated 90 MLD water.
Gujarat has been marketed as an ‘already prosperous’
state that’s becoming even more prosperous with investment
worth lakhs of crore, it has three of the 100 most backward
districts of the country, as listed by the Planning Commission.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme allocated
Rs 22 crore for Gujarat but the state government has barely
used half of it, stating shortage of officials to implement
the scheme. The chief minister did announce early this year
a combined package of Rs 39,000 crore for the upliftment
of specific segments of the poor. But no money was actually
being allocated in this year’s budget of Rs 43,000
crore. The plans, nevertheless, look good in Vibrant Gujarat.
“Vibrant Gujarat is nothing but event management,”
says Ahmedabad- based activist Gagan Sethi.
THE JUGGLERY of figures extends even to the most hyped aspect
of “Vibrant Gujarat” — investment from
corporates. Modi claims that MoUs worth Rs 4,60,000 crore
have been signed with private industry and investment worth
two lakh crore has been received. But these declarations
take a long time to materialise. For instance, in a written
reply to the consultative committee of the General Administration
Department, the chief minister admitted that out of a total
of Rs 66,068 crore worth of MoUs signed during 2003 and
Rs 1,06,16 crore during 2005, only Rs 25,450 crore worth
of investments till January 2007 and only Rs 13,170 crore,
respectively, have fructified so far.
these investments, employment has remained stagnant. That
is because Gujarat has as many as three lakh small-scale
industry units. Many of them are languishing as only a paltry
Rs 115.20 crore has been invested in them in the past five
The figures about Gujarat prove how it is just another socio-economically
vulnerable state. In that sense the “Vibrant Gujarat”
campaign is reminiscent of the NDA government’s “India
Shining” campaign of 2004, which the Congress countered
with the “aam aadmi” rhetoric. This is why the
Congress in Gujarat wants ‘development’ to be
the key issue in the elections. Modi is likely to use the
Ram Setu issue. Even after TEHELKA’s exposé,
the VHP is once again distributing communal CDs to foment
polarisation in the state and use it as its trump card.
Gujarat’s voters have time till December 9 to decide.