The recent article in a national newspaper by a Columbia University professor about the economic advances of Gujarat under the chief ministership of Narendra Modi has overlooked many hard realities that may not suit the later at a time when he is seeking votes.
During the period 1960–90, Gujarat had already established itself as a leader in various industrial sectors – textiles, chemicals, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, engineering, cement, dairy and gems & jewellery, etc. The Congress’ economic liberalisation policy further boosted the state’s economy. Between 1994-2001, Gujarat's state domestic product grew at 10%-13%, much higher than the all-India average. In manufacturing sector during 2000-01, Gujarat's share at the national level was an impressive 28.71%. All these happened before Modi took the charge of the state.
In terms of annual rate of growth, Gujarat under Modi regime (2001-10) stands third at 8.68% after Uttarakhand (11.81%) and Haryana (8.95%)during the period.
On industrial growth front, too, Gujarat with 12.65% growth between 2005-09 lagged behind smaller states like Orissa (17.53%) and Chhattisgarh (13.3%) during the period.
There are many more indicators like malnutrition and literacy rate, where ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ story looks hollow. According to latest government data, about half of Gujarat's children under five are short for their age or have stunted growth. Modi, who is aspiring to become prime minister, recently gave a childish and immature reasoning of ‘beauty conscious’ behind this problem. Does anyone know in which part of the world five-year-old girls are known to be figure-conscious?
Further, the argument that Gujarat’s progress in literacy rate, compared to its low literacy level during Independence, looks more impressive than that of even Kerala is another example of good PR skills. The truth, however, remains that in literacy rate, Gujarat today remains below Kerala and Maharashtra.
The Gujarat's growth story as propagated by Modi and his cronies deserve to be countered as it is not the story of all-inclusive. How can one beat the drum of his own success when many sections of the society -- tribals, dalits, Muslims, women and farmers -- suffer due to his government’s indifference?
Despite all the claims, it is a truth nothing but a truth that the 10 most backward talukas in the state are the tribals. Apply any indicators and parameters and you can find that the tribal regions and people there are the most backward in Gujarat.
What Mr Modi’s slate say about the suffering of cotton farmers? The Maharashtra government declared a package of Rs 2,000 crore for the cotton-growing farmers, but the Gujarat government’s silence on helping them deserves to be condemned. Prior to Modi, the state government used to purchase cotton from the farmers through state federations. But Modi government has closed down all the federations.
The conditions of women, too, in the state have deteriorated during the last decade. According to a recent report, the percentage of women suffering from anemia in the state has risen from 46.3% in 1999 to 55.5% in 2004.
While there is not much development in tribal areas of Gujarat, many Muslim pockets in the state lack even basic amenities. The Muslims claim whether it is the state’s biggest Muslim pocket Juhapura in Ahmedabad or Muslim localities in smaller towns of Nadiad and Godhra, all are being denied safe drinking water, street lights, drainage facilities and good roads. Many of them believe that the state government discriminates these pockets in opening up schools and dispensaries.
Post-Godhra riots, Muslims are still struggling to regain some space in the state’s socio-economic fabric. The government’s inability to protect them and their businesses during the riots is still fresh in their mind. Prior to the riots, Muslims dominated the state’s textile, diamond cutting & polishing, pharmaceuticals and processing industries etc. But their share in these manufacturing and organised sectors in the state is now just 13%, compared to all-India level of 21%. The Gujarat figure is much lower than Maharashtra (25%) and West Bengal (21%).
Does Modi not bother about their safety and growth? Is he simply trying to rehash the pages of history to project himself as “Vikas Purush”.
The recent court verdict on Gujarat riots and the accusation from the likes of ex-cop Sanjeev Bhatt about the state government’s role in perpetrating the riots in 2002, have embarrassed Modi on many occasions. Modi is, perhaps, trying to omit that blot from his head.
The best description of Mr Modi’s recent condition comes from an old village man, whom I met recently. He said that the post-Godhra riots had put the pitcher of sins on Modi’s head. The life sentence to his former minister Maya Kodnani in the Naroda Patiya riots case has now smashed the pitcher on his head.