Sunday, July 21, 2013

Gujarat Shining…..but Gujaratis?

Today’s TOI brings out more facts and truths about Gujarat – not tainted by any PR spin –seriously questioning just how good the vaunted development model of the state is (Gujarat slides in both rural and urban spending). NSSO data over the last ten years (most of it covering Modi’s tenure in the state) shows that the state has slid on a key economic variable – Household spending. Gujarat’s rural rank has slipped to 8th from 4th and urban to 9th from 7th. It is these kind of statistics that help bust the myth that Modi’s spin doctors keep putting out.

The India Shining campaign – based on a false understanding of how India was faring – had bombed in the BJP’s face in 2004. Even back then, the BJP was always more of a “talk more, do less” kind of party. It did do some good work in its period of rule, but then every party does that. The amount of hype that the BJP generated then is what got people really upset. If India was shining, why weren’t they? In a similar, but much bigger way, Gujarat Shining has been thrust on the people of India. The hype about Gujarat being like Singapore has made people believe that Modi will make all of India like that island-state. People all over India now believe that Gujaratis are rich like the Europeans. And have become rich in the last ten years thanks to Modi. Well, the NSSO data shows it’s not true.

If the people are not spending, they are surely not doing well. If quality of life is measured by consumption, then consumer spends have to rise. The expected BJP lie will go something like this: the incomes are rising, and the inflation is so low in Gujarat, that the spends are rising less! Well, that’s hardly true. Take the data readily available on the GDP of Indian states. As per Wikipedia (the most public of all sources!), (, Gujarat is ranked 5th in terms of GDP size. It’s ranked 10th by population, which explains why it is called a developed state (nothing to do with Modi). But look at growth between 2011-12 and 2004-5 (coinciding with Modi’s and UPA’s tenures) and one finds that Gujarat’s GDP has grown by 3 times over this period of time (in nominal rupee terms). But Maharashtra’s – whose economy is nearly twice of Gujarat’s) has also grown smartly by 2.8 times. And yet, we hardly find the Maharashtra CM crooning about his achievements the way Modi does! TN and AP have also grown 2.9 and 3 times – and both are bigger economies than Gujarat.

Of course, if we add on any social dimension to this discussion, the Gujarat story pales even more. Take simple ones like “decadal population growth” and Gujarat at 19.2% is closer to wayward UP’s 20.1% than to Maharashtra’s 16.0%. TN (15.6%) and WB (13.9%) both do better than Gujarat. Data with respect to health care is already well known to most readers now. It’s shocking really. Even the sex ratio of Gujarat (918) is worse than all in the top five states, except UP (Maharashtra: 946. TN: 995, AP: 992, WB: 947 and UP: 908). So what are we really talking about here?

It’s not difficult to explain why Gujarat is shining, but Gujaratis aren’t. The state has made a lot of noise over its industrial growth. But take the case of the two poster boys of Gujarat. Mukesh Ambani (though his is hardly a Gujarat-based group, one of his biggest investment is in Jamnagar, Gujarat) is amongst the largest private groups in India with a revenue base of US$ 73 billion and assets of US$ 61 billion. Gautam Adani’s group has revenue of US$ 7.8 billion and assets of US$ 19.0 billion. Both of these are the biggest showpieces of Modi. They hug and kiss him at every Vibrant Gujarat event. And yet, both of these groups employ merely 23,500 and 10,400 people. How many of these are in Gujarat is another question. In contrast, older generation (pre-Modi) companies like Nirma and Arvind Mills employ 14,000 and 25,600 people respectively, even though their turnovers are far smaller (Rs 3500 crores and Rs 5250 crores respectively). Just imagine. Modi’s biggest showpieces hardly do anything for the people of the state. This is the tragedy of Gujarat’s shiny growth.

If this is true in the urban areas, it’s worse in the rural areas. Because largely of Modi’s brand of politics, the state has shunned NREGA in large measure, destroying the lives of the poor. (When the state is trying to foist the myth of being rich onto the world, in order to propel the ambitions of its CM, what else can we expect?). Gujarat generated only 2.8 crore person-days of employment under NREGA covering just 6.8 lac HHs (source: NREGA website). In contrast, West Bengal generated 20.1 crore person days for 58 lac people. If you thought this was because WB was poor, then consider TN (41 crore person days over 71 lac HHs) and Maharashtra (8.5 crore person days over 16 lac HHs). Gujarat and Maharashtra are almost similar in per-capita income with TN just marginally behind.

The only reason Modi has been able to tomtom his state’s achievements is because of the big ticket investments in the form of Tatas and Maruti. Land has been doled out at cheap rates with gay abandon. With no Lok Ayukta in place, Modi has shielded himself from the kind of criticism that no other state or central government can possibly do. Wait for the newly appointed Lok Ayukta to do its job. The muck will start to emerge. The CAG does bring out the state’s goof ups every now and then, but with a brute majority in the state assembly, Modi simply ignores the comments.

The real truth is that Gujarat may be shining, but Gujaratis aren’t. Oh, I am not talking of the Ambanis and the Adanis, nor the Mehtas (Torrent) and the Pankaj Patels (Cadila). I am talking of the lay Gujarati, who in the personal battle of the state’s CM, is getting crushed every year…..Why does he continue to vote for Modi? We know the answer for that. Godhra…..

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