Growth stories from Gujarat
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However, there is also a dark side. Increased purchasing power, even for the poor, does not guarantee that nutritious food is consumed. The purchase of mobile phones and recharge coupons may have priority. In 1997, reportedly, there were only 4,100 mobile connections in Gujarat. In 10 years, the one-crore mark was reached. It was two crore in the next 17 months. By January 2010, Gujarat had three crore mobile phone connections. Gujarat's per capita income of $ 3,290 in 2008 was higher than the Indian average ($2,753) and those of Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya and Sudan (all less than $2100), yet the hunger index, calculated in an IFPRI study for Gujarat, was way higher than even poor African countries, at 25 per cent. Gujarat was ranked 13th among 17 major states in the hunger index. The index is calibrated with the proportion of the population not consuming adequate calories, the proportion of underweight children under five, and the mortality rate among children under five. This is clearly a reflection on human development in Gujarat. Amid the plenty, many still perish.
In an IIM Ahmedabad study monitoring millennium development goals, it was found that Gujarat was relatively efficient in converting its health-related output indicators to outcomes during 1998-01, but relatively inefficient in the same by 2006-09. It was similarly less efficient in converting inputs to outputs. The education situation is no different, with for-profit education gathering force. There is evidence to show that access, expansion and quality for the poor and vulnerable have seriously suffered in primary, secondary and higher education.
The exclusive focus on economic growth has produced another major setback. Environmental health has deteriorated in Gujarat, and continues to do so, as these concerns are brushed aside. Gujarat is home to several environmental and ecological hotspots. However, the environmental costs are being disregarded, and some of the resultant damage is irreversible. The spirit and pace of industrialisation and urbanisation have destroyed prospects for sustainable land use. Small and marginal farmers, tribal populations, pastoral communities, salt-pan workers, and specific sections of other minorities have become the invisible half of Gujarat. They are losing land commons, forest produce and being progressively marginalised. The cash compensation to land at market rates has been tempting, and before the money comes, the expenditure plan is already in action, eventually turning many into paupers. Livelihood issues will soon become a serious problem in Gujarat, which does not augur well for social health. This popularity, gained by dancing on the waves of economic growth, is soon going to turn its society into one with severe inequities. Gandhi is absent wholesale from Gujarat.
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