By Ajay Umat
In a recent election rally, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi advised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, one of the country’s top economists, to follow the Gujarat model of development , to cure the country of its ills. “Mr Prime Minister, if you try to follow the path of Gujarat state, the condition of the country will be transformed.” Modi, who is projecting himself as the champion of economic growth in a bid to shun his poster boy-of-Hindutva image, said. But what exactly is the Gujarat growth model if you strip it of the rhetoric?
Both Modi baiters and Modi supporters are unanimous on one count — that Gujarat is one of the fastest growing states in the country. Endorsements have even come from the British government which has revived diplomatic engagement with Modi after more than a decade of the 2002 riots. But ask baiters and supporters if the growth is equitable, sustainable and broad-based , and a war of words breaks out with many claiming that only a small portion of the population has gained from the boom.
According to the Planning Commission report of 2011, Gujarat’s high growth rate over the years has not percolated to the marginalized sections of society, particularly scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST). Good rains in the past decade, the Sardar Sarovar project, introduction of BT cotton and efforts by enterprising farmers have fuelled high agriculture growth. However , it has contributed only 15.5% to net state domestic product (NSDP) even as the sector employs a high 52% people.
In fact, Gujarat fares the worst in terms of overall hunger index among high per capita income states, the report adds. Gujarat ranked 13 out of 17 major states on the hunger index, below Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam to name a few. So, who is accruing the benefits of the booming industries? A very small percentage of the population, according to some experts.
Well-known economist and former Union minister Y K Alagh says Gujarat has much to show for economic development, but it can’t ignore the ugly truths either. “Given the fast rate of urbanisation in Gujarat , a clear land use plan, with communication strategy built-in should be an essential part of the development strategy. We should develop long-term plan for education , health and skill development for eastern tribal belt. As per National Sample Survey data, high levels of poverty are visible in the tribal region.”
Indira Hirway, director and professor of economics at Centre for Development Alternatives says that in spite of a slightly higher workforce participation rate compared to other states, the quality of employment is extremely poor in Gujarat with the result that a large part of the workforce does not have enough purchasing power.
“About 89 per cent of men workers and 98 per cent of women workers in Gujarat are employed in the informal sector (all India 90 and 96 per cent). They usually earn low wages, have poor working conditions and low social protection ,” she says.
As per the latest NSSO statistics, the daily wage rates of casual men and women workers in rural areas are lower than the corresponding rates in India, with the state ranking 14th (Rs 69) and 9th(Rs 56) in men’s and women’s wage rates among the major 20 states. There are problems with the functioning of major special schemes for nutrition too. Till recently, Gujarat was providing much less than the stipulated 35 kg food grain to below poverty line families on the ground that the number of BPL households in the state was much more than what the Centre had estimated. “The state was not willing to use its own funds to meet the deficit,” Hirway adds. No wonder activists were up in arms when Modi told an American newspaper recently that malnutrition in Gujarat had more to do with young girls dieting to look slim and pretty. Gujarat’s Human Development Index (HDI) was 0.466 in 2000, and it rose to 0.527, showing an improvement of just 0.061 in 2008. The state ranked almost at the bottom (18th among the major 20 states) in terms of improvement in HDI during this period . Also, overall rank of the state HDI declined from 6th in 2000 to 8th in 2008. In the case of literacy, the state showed an improvement of 18.02 percentage points during the past decades, but this improvement was much less compared to other states. In fact, the state is 16th among the major 20 states in this improvement.
Courtesy : http://www.timesofindia.com