No model state

In Gujarat, growth relies on indebtedness. And relegates development.

The Gujarat pattern of development has often been arraigned from the left because of its social deficits. Indeed, the state's social indicators do not match its economic performance. With 23 per cent of its citizens living below the poverty line in 2010, Gujarat does better than the Indian average — 29.8 per cent — but it reduced this proportion by less than 10 percentage points in five years. This poverty reduction rate has something to do with the wages of casual workers. According to the 68th round (2011-12) of the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), Gujarat has among the lowest average daily wages for casual labour (other than in public works) in urban areas: Rs 144.52, when the national urban average is Rs 170.10. This kind of poverty goes with malnourishment. One of the social indicators where Gujarat shows the most dramatic lag is the hunger index — only about 43 per cent of children under ICDS in the state are the normal weight, according to an Indian Institute of Public Administration report.

These indicators are aggregates. Their break up is particularly enlightening. The urban/rural divide is pronounced in Gujarat. This is evident from NSSO data, including estimates of the average monthly per capita expenditures (MPCE). The urban MPCE was 49 per cent higher in towns and cities than in villages in 1993-94. Fourteen years later, the urban MPCE was 68 per cent higher. In 2011-12, the difference stabilised at 68.1 per cent. Certainly, the operationalisation of the Narmada dam has improved circumstances for some people living in rural areas, but only in part, because the canals have not reached the fields, especially in Saurashtra. This has happened not only because of bad planning, but also because the supply of water to cities (including industry) was prioritised. Second, cash crop farmers have been affected by the low level of agricultural prices. Cotton is a case in point: prices did not go up, whereas inputs became costly because of inflation. Third, prime agricultural land has been given to industry and the latter's activities have affected the natural environment. In Mahua, where the Nirma group had been given 3,000 hectares for mining activities and a cement factory, BJP MLA Kanubhai Kalsaria objected that the water tank the villagers depended on would be badly damaged. He was sidelined and subsequently, he resigned from the party to fight the government's policy.

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