Gujarat and the Illusion of Development: Shipra Nigam

This Guest post by SHIPRA NIGAM is a review of a volume of essays edited by Atul Sood Poverty Amidst Prosperity: Essays on the Trajectory of Development in Gujarat (Aakar Books 2013).


Thousands of farmers protested in March this year in Ahmedabad against the state’s industrialization policies

This volume of essays is the outcome of a detailed study by a team of contributing research scholars led by Atul Sood. This timely evaluation provides an insight into many crucial questions: What are the constituent elements of Gujarat’s growth story? To what extent can the successful features of Gujarat’s growth story be attributed to the political regime fashioned by Narendra Modi? Is it possible to replicate even this limited success story at the national level – as Modi’s starry eyed upper and middle class following would like to believe? More significantly: what are the implications of Gujarat’s Development Model in terms of its sustainability and its desirability? What happens when we assess this development through a set of comprehensive   measures, judge its implication for the average citizen’s material wellbeing, and see what it means for the political and economic rights of citizens? 

The study proceeds through a meticulous examination of existing official data sources on investment, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing , employment, poverty , inequality, education and health expenditures and a set of other indicators of development.  These are then used to explain various developmental outcomes in the state in relation to national averages and the performance of other states which have also experienced high growth rates recently, such as Maharashtra, Haryana and Tamilnadu. Atul Sood’s cogently argued and insightful introduction brings together the different strands of the study, weaving the detailed findings into a coherent narrative. The picture that emerges interrogates both the normative implications of the ‘Gujarat development model’, and offers a powerful critique of its actual performance even judged in terms of its own self projections.

Unsurprisingly there is little that is new in Gujarat’s developmental model.  Its market led growth operates within the new-liberal paradigm that has for some decades been touted by the IMF, World Bank and inc as the panacea for all ills in developing countries. It is a frame that has been widely contested, critiqued and discredited for its abysmal failure in bringing in sustainable, equitable and participatory growth within the developing world. In fact, the paradigm has been held responsible for inducing and aggravating the enormous difficulties faced by many of the developing countries.  As the analysis in the book confirms, the ‘Gujarat Development Model’ is nothing more than a fervent adaptation and implementation of this chosen path favoured by the Indian state itself since the mid-1980s.  Hence, along with the imminent candidature of Narendra Modi as BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, the celebration of this developmental model by India Inc assumes omnious significance .

An Investment Fatigue?

The initial chapters by Ruchika Rani, Santosh Kumar Das, Pankaj Vashist and Gaurav Arya explore various aspects of Gujarat’s  GDP growth, investment flows and infrastructure development. While  Gujarat’s average  GDP growth rates in the past decade are higher than the national average and slightly above those of other high performing states, the gap has been narrowing overtime, which also coincides with an ‘investment fatigue’ that has set in recently. Since Gujarat’s infrastructure is not markedly different from other industrially competitive states, the substantial difference in investment levels is frequently attributed to the ‘investor friendly governance structure’. For instance, the biannual ‘Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit’ is often highlighted as an example of the state’s proactive role in promoting investment. However its success seems to be waning in recent years. Out of the total MOU’s signed under these successive summits, the share of projects implemented and under implementation have continuously declined from about 73 % in 2003 to 13% in 2011. Moreover, the state’s share in investment intentions in terms of IEMs ( Industrial Entrepreneur Memorandum), letters of intent (LOIs )and Direct Investment Licences (DILs) has declined from early 20’s in percentage in  2005 to less than 10 % in 2011.  A slowdown in overall investment climate, saturation of best investment opportunities and a more realistic assessment of the ‘efficiency’ of the state administration – are all posited by Sood as the possible explanations behind this decline in both investment and output growth in the most recent years. So the sustainability of even the much vaunted higher growth rates and investment flows has increasingly become suspect. To put it another way: the investors are also suspicious of the sustainability of returns.

Whose developmental vision is it anyway?

Far more damning is what the book reveals about the growth story itself.  It shows how the state renounces any responsibility of ensuring growth with equity when it relies entirely on the play of the market forces and on private investors to meet its development needs. As Sood points out, In Gujarat this has entailed that the investor is no longer just the source for resources but the one who determines the priorities of  development and this has had serious consequences for the sustainability and distributive justice of the entire growth process. The path of growth, its trajectory, is not defined by the state, or any planning body of economists; it is decided by investors, financial institutions, and corporate firms. The book shows how the economy of Gujrat has been given over to the corporates. They invest in it and they also sing all the praises of the development model.                                  

37% of the total investment in Gujarat in the last two and a half decades has been in infrastructure development. The state’s infrastructure development strategy involves two basic components: 1)promoting private intergrated investment to develop ports, rail, road and power sectors and 2) developing large enclaves for industrial and service sector growth as ‘greenfield sites’ with world class infrastructure.  In all cases this is sought to be done through massive concessions, rebates, subsidies and even direct handing over of financial control over revenues to attract the private sector.  These include initiatives like the Investor Support Systems (ISS), the Public Private partnership (PPP) model, establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Special Investment Regions (SIRs) to create ‘world class infrastructure’  and several mega projects (units with minimal investment of 1000 crores in core industrial sectors and 5000 crores in infrastructure projects). The 2009 industrial policy of the Gujarat state locates these initiatives within a larger central government framework to create Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), utilizing its coastal proximity and geographical location within this project.  The DMIC plan itself is full of references to setting up industrial areas and infrastructure in Greenfield sites at Dhar, Pune, Alwar, Surat, Rewari and Muzzafarnagar and is integral to Gujarat’s own infrastructure and development strategy.

So what’s the big problem over here? – the same as with all such green field projects which instead of strengthening infrastructure where it is needed , prefer to establish development  enclaves  neglecting existing human habitations, with serious implications for equity and huge environmental and human costs. For instance, the DMIC plan on groundwater indicates that Gujarat would have to allocate water for industrial uses by diverting water away from irrigation and domestic purposes. Further, the plan envisages migration figures of 94 million workers by 2039. But nowhere in its sweeping grandeur does the plan state how the consequent multiplication of urban demand for scarce water and other resources would be met, how would the water be distributed and who would pay the price ? But the answers are not difficult to guess.

In implementing this development strategy Gujarat has sought private investment across the board. Key sectors – traditionally held to be the preserve of the state – such as ports, roads, rail and power have been handed over to corporate capital. This has meant, inevitably, that the government has abdicated all decision making powers, as well as functional and financial control over such projects. Nowhere else in the country has this abdication of responsibility been so total, nowhere else has the state given over the economy so entirely to the corporates and private investors. For instance, the BOOT (Build Own Operate Transfer) policy initiative for port development involves royalty holidays instead of revenue sharing, permission to investors to adjust royalty against capital costs, freedom to developers to collect charges and tolls, land acquisition for private investors, 30 year window to make profits, special arrangements of forward linkages to private consortiums and SIRs and so on. The policy   restricts  the role of government to minimum and allows complete operational and tariff freedom to the investor. Not surprisingly, Gujarat leads the country in terms of private investment flows in projects implemented and underway for port development. Private initiative is similarly promoted in case of development of roads and railways under the PPP mode. Most of the investment in expanding the communication networks has gone into  improving access of new ports, SEZ’s and SIR’s falling in rural areas, with most connectivity gains from the vantage point of human habitations coming from Central funds (under PGSY). Similarly the upgrading of 630 km of rail tracks from narrow gauge to broad gauge has also meant improved rail connectivity to ports.

Again in the case of the power sector, huge concessions in terms of tariff and transfer of operational control to private sector through legislative changes has resulted in substantive private investments in power plants and a 34% increase in overall power generation. But this has been achieved largely through an increase in the capacity of private captive power plants for industrial use. The power tariff structure also favors commercial and industrial use over agriculture when compared with national averages. Thus, as Sood points out:

“Road and rail expansion is less focused on increasing access of human settlements  but more about improving and strengthening access to SEZ’s and minor ports… In addition the private investment in infrastructure is dovetailed and integrated with the industrial corridor, which in itself is suspect in terms of gains it will bring to the local people and its implications for groundwater in water scarce regions… Gujarat seems to have internalized the two falsehoods mentioned earlier, to turn to private sector for addressing infrastructure and second to give preference to ‘Greenfield sites’ rather than address the aggregative challenges of infrastructure inadequacy.”

Of Corporate Agriculture, Landgrabs and Capital Intensive Manufacturing

And rife in this story is the speculation in land fuelled by legislative changes brought about ostensibly to promote infrastructural and agricultural development. Sucharita Sen and Chinmoyee Malik’s chapters map the increasing emphasis on corporatization of agriculture which has made agriculture a highly profitable activity with an average growth two-and-a-half times faster than the national average. Improved market access, technological dissemination, infrastructure development and a filip from the growth in other areas, have all contributed to this growth. However its distributive effects largely depend on land ownership and land use patterns and small farmer participation in high growth crops.  It also comes with crop specific and area specific challenges thrown in by a growth driven by privatization and liberalization of agricultural procurement, pricing and marketisation policies. There has been a shift in cropping patterns away from food to non-food and high value crops in terms of acreage, output and value. Data on land allocation and farmer participation reveals that cotton cultivation and high value crops have benefited large farmers disproportionately. If we look at farmer groups by land size, in Gujrat, the number of households of the smallest farmer group has increased, but not the acreage they control, while the largest farmer groups have gained in acreage, indicating worsening inequalities. This is contrary to the trend at the all-India level. The position of STs and SCs has also deteriorated overall except in case of SCs in the highest income size class leading to a rise in intra-caste inequalities within the latter. While incidence of landlessness has reduced overall (though starting from a much higher initial base as compared to national averages), it has increased in tribal areas ( in particular in Panchmalal, Dahod and Dang regions ). These also happen to be the most underdeveloped regions in the state lying largely outside the loop of the recent agricultural growth.

These changes could be indicative of worse times ahead given the recent modifications and amendments in land legislation. The rise in overall profitability of agriculture comes with a shift in land policy from ideas of ‘ Land to the tiller’ (a legacy of the post-independence era uptil the days of the KHAM alliance) to those of ‘land de-regulation and liberalization’ over the past two decades. As has been widely documented, even the earlier phase of land reform policies (land ceilings, surplus distribution etc) had come in Gujarat with measures like a complete ban on tenancy which led to the middle peasantry benefitting at the cost of lower peasantry and dalit farmers. Progressive measures over time, such as the Jinabhai Darji Commision suggestions through a KHAM alliance initiative in the early 1980s, never took off in the state. Now, with rapid upward mobility of the same peasantry in this story of privatization and liberalisation, the stakes in land have risen and legislative changes relating to land use which began under BJP-Janata alliance reflect the changing power dynamics and new ground realities (this includes the lifting of the 8-kms ban on land purchase and allowing non-local, non-farming groups to enter the rural land market). These have been brought in under the pressure of the rich farmer/agro-industrialist lobbies – who wanted speculative gains from land markets in the Narmada Valley Projects’ proposed command area – and the demands of builder lobbies for land for non-agricultural purposes. The policy shifts were consolidated and further strengthened under Modi’s regime by 2005. Legislative measures under his regime also facilitated the transfer of village commons and wastelands for private use, displacing marginalized communities who lost their de facto and de jure rights over pastoral lands. As sociologist M. Levein points out, the idea of Greenfield sites combined with the privatization of land within the SEZs, has together been responsible everywhere for ‘a thinly guised land grab for urbanization by the private sector’. Nowhere has this been more manifest than in the case of Gujarat.

If we turn to the experience of industrialization we have another story of skewed development. As the chapter by Sangeeta Ghosh brings out, manufacturing also witnessed high growth rates in Gujarat. In recent decades, the share of manufacturing within the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), has been higher in Gujarat when compared to national averages as well as other high performing states. Yet at the same time, if we look at employment, the picture is the reverse. In Gujarat the share of the manufacturing sector within total employment is below the national average and has been declining rapidly overtime. Growth has been highly capital intensive in nature and concentrated in some sectors, incomes and regions. It favours the more developed regions and has weak backward and forward linkages between the unorganized and the organized sectors. There has been a shift away from the employment generating textile sector to refined petroleum, petrochemicals, chemical, metal and fabricated products marked by very high capital intensities.  This shrinks opportunities for ancillarization and sub-contracting and has also raised serious concerns about its environmental impact. Significantly, this growth trajectory links well with the infrastructure story in several ways. For instance, the need for proximity of well developed ports helps in the case of petroleum and chemical industries given their high import content, and surplus power generation the state fosters comes in handy for  the highly energy intensive metal related industries.

So the story of corporatization of agriculture and the growth of selective capital intensive manufacturing completes the loop of Gujarat’s recent growth experience. Along with the tale of ports, roads, rail and power, this turns out to be a fable ‘of the private investor, by the private investor and for the private investor’. What about the average citizen then? And where do the workers, the underclass, the poor, the tribals and other minority groups figure in this haven for investors?

On Jobless Growth, Widening Inequalities and Social Exclusion

As it turns out, their story is integral to understanding the missing pieces of this puzzle.  To begin with, the chapter by Ruchika Rani and Kalaiyarasan map the stagnant and socially discriminatory employment conditions that persist in this period of high output growth.  There has been a significant mismatch between sources of income and employment leading to low employment elasticities of output and ‘jobless growth’. Employment growth in manufacturing and services turned negative in the last 5 years. Whatever growth in employment occurred in the last decade was largely in the category of casual- and self-employment indicative of rising informalisation. There were sharp regional differences in employment outcomes with rural Gujarat experiencing negative growth rates in the last five years.  Employment was also unevenly spread across social groups and minorities. Upper caste hindus and a small proportion of SCs had a proportionately large share in regular employment within manufacturing and services, with most of the rise for SCs in services being in casual employment. Meanwhile OBC’s, Muslims , other minorities experienced a shift towards traditional sectors when growth was located in modern capitalist structure, indicating a stagnation and even a worsening of their employment conditions. The share of STs in Industrial employment had risen in the earlier decade, but it declined rapidly in the last five years. This decline was absorbed by the agricultural sector at a time when growth was shifting to the Industrial sector, indicating possibly ‘distress migration’ to agriculture.

Where measures of income, poverty and inequality are concerned, despite its spectacular growth, Gujarat’s performance has been average as compared to national averages and it lags behind competing states like Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Haryana on different counts. Certain features stand out in the chapter by Nidhi Mittal who maps the changes in average per capita consumption expenditure, and calculates the Gini coefficient and headcount ratios for Gujarat. First, the earlier decade 1993 to 2004-05 compared better than the last five years of the decade ending 2010, and these were the years when Narendra Modi’s  ‘growth and development’ agenda was unleashed fully. Second, urban inequality has risen much more at a time when most of the rise in growth rates and per capita expenditure is located in urban areas.  This implies opposing trends in terms of rise in consumption levels and rise in inequalities of income in areas of high growth, questioning the dynamics of the recent growth process itself.

This assumes further significance given the increasing gap in average consumption levels between Hindus and Muslims over 2005-10 in urban areas. Also while urban poverty levels for Muslims stagnated, those for Hindus declined by around 4 percentage points. Again, while per capita expenditure grew by 2.5 % p.a in the last five years, the increase for STs was a mere 0.14%, with an exponential widening of gap in growth rates of per capita income levels between STs and the rest. In urban areas poverty has increased for both SCs and STs while rural poverty has declined.  However the extent of poverty for STs in rural areas is still two-and-a-half times higher as compared to others . While overall poverty for SCs as a group has declined and they seemed to have gained more than STs, intra group inequalities within SCs have again risen substantially.

Privatising Health and Education the Gujarat Way

Change in the quality of life is always indicative of the nature of economic development. Nowhere is this reflected more clearly than in the case of improvements in health and education, as brought out in the chapters by Sourindra Ghosh and Sandeep Sharma. As Sood points out , these estimates are significant in their ability to  capture the influence of a wide array of factors such as quality of food and water, the quality of housing and clothing, ability to earn livelihoods, household decision making, social and health outcomes in any population group. Not surprisingly, in keeping with the larger development vision, the roots of Gujarat’s experience lie in an unswerving faith on the private sector even in these areas where today even ardent advocates of free markets would tread with care.  Accordingly, the share of expenditure in development, health and education in total NSDP has been falling continuously over the past decades. This is also reflected in lower access to and utilization of government services and a move towards private service providers with rising per capita health and education expenditures.

In terms of aggregate health parameters – such as Infant Mortality Rates (IMRs), male and female life expectancy, vaccination and antenatal care –  Gujarat has experienced very average performances vis-a-vis national estimates. In most cases it compares unfavorably with other high growth states such as Tamilnadu, Haryana, Maharashtra over the past decade despite leading them in terms of growth in per capita GDP. What is worrying is that it lags behind even national averages in IMRs and under-five mortality, as well as in the mortality rates for women and people in rural areas. This obviously affects poorer sections disproportionately and social disparity in health has had a more regressive impact on health indicators for the marginalized, in particular the STs.

Again where education is concerned, average figures do not tell the full story. The figures for average literacy levels in Gujarat are higher than the national average.  But its ranking in terms of literacy levels has deteriorated between 1999-00 and 20007-08, and fewer children in the age group of  6-14 attend school in Gujarat than the numbers suggested by the national average.  For the same age groups – i.e  for above primary and secondary school education –  the access of women, SCs, STs, Muslims and other minorities is again lower than the national averages, and markedly behind those of comparable states. While Gujarat has experienced higher rates of decline in share of state expenditure on education than national averages, the proportion of people dependent on government aided and government and local bodies run institutions is higher or the same, much more so in rural areas, indicating that the far costlier private-sector-run institutions were unable to substitute the educational needs of people at large. This brings out a clear mismatch in government’s policy to rely on and encourage unaided private sector in education and the people’s capacity to afford the same.

Economics of Growth and the Political Culture of authoritarianism

So what does the Gujarat Model have to offer to the people of Gujarat and the country at large ? To begin with, Gujarat’s success story is crucially linked to its history, its people’s entrepreneurial skills, its farmers, its globally recognized and gifted artisans and the legacy of a social reform and cooperative movement which wove together many of these strengths within its social fabric. This history along with a favorable geographical location provided a strong base for the recent growth experience in terms of human capital, social infrastructure and natural advantages. On its own terms, it remains questionable if even this limited success achieved could be replicated or extended as a ‘growth model’, and whether the policy assumption ‘one size fits all’ can offer solutions to problems of the rest of India, with its regional specificities, and the diversity of the historical growth trajectories which exist elsewhere. This is something Modi’s urban middle-class following seems blissfully unaware of in its mooting for the ‘new messiah’ of development on the horizon.  Especially at a time when even the future trajectory of this story itself is in serious doubt, given that most recent estimates suggest a petering out of existing growth rates and the setting in of an investment inertia.

More significantly, as Sood points out, even this limited success story is questionable in terms of its desirability for Gujarat’s own development trajectory. The painstaking analysis in the book reveals how the regime of governance unleashed in the last decade has at its heart an unabashed dependence on the private sector, and state support and policies prioritizing growth in infrastructure and investment aimed at strengthening the requirements and profitability of the private investor. The developmental model has meant neglect of human habitations and needs of ordinary citizens in improving access through rail, ports, road for Industry, SIRs, SEZ’s; promotion of selective and capital intensive manufacturing  growth; jobless growth and falling share of wages in total income; corporatization of agriculture, neglect of small farmer and privatization of village commons; legislative changes in land-use norms reinforcing speculation in land; neglect of public policy and expenditure and a misplaced dependence on private initiative to even address inadequacies in social infrastructure. All of which is manifest in deeply exclusionary social and economic outcomes as reflected in extensive environmental degradation, widening regional disparities, neglect of the rural sector and increased marginalization of workers, women, STs, Muslims and minorities in social and economic outcomes within the state. The book then offers us a damning indictment of this path to development.

As Atul Sood concludes, the roots of these uneven outcomes lie in the ‘ neoliberal framework’ within which  this  development  trajectory itself is located, which ‘inherently negates the possibility of a level playing field.’    However, while the social and economic manifestations brought out in this study are the classic hallmarks of the ‘market led’ path to development , they have been renewed in the last decade in Gujarat with a zeal stamped all over by Narendra Modi’s authoritarian style of governance itself. In crucial ways it  represents a fundamental shift away from Gujarat’s own history of Gandhian humanism, liberal welfare programmes and democratic social engineering of the KHAM ( an experimental alliance between Kshatriyas, Harijans, Adivasis and Muslims in the 1980s) days.

It might be illustrative to conclude with a reference to the mention of industrial unrest in Sood’s introduction over here. Where workers are concerned, the state witnessed not merely jobless growth but also the lowest share of wage income in total income, one of the highest use of contract workers in organized manufacturing and rising trends of casualisation of workforce.  Not surprisingly, Gujarat topped the list as the  ‘worst state’ for labour unrest in the Economic Survey 2011, witnessing the maximum incidences of strikes, lockouts and other forms of unrest on various financial and disciplinary grounds (wage and allowances, bonus, personnel, discipline and violence) at a time when these were actually declining in the rest of the country. At the same time, investors and industrialists from  all over, be it Maruti or Tata, are vying with each other to shift their production  plants and activities to designated sites within Gujarat. Under such circumstances, an investment boom and Industry’s soaring confidence in Modi government’s ability to control any undue disturbance by establishing the ‘rule of law’ is indicative of the crucial link between the ‘Gujarat Development Model’ and, what some might see, as the totalitarian roots of Modi’s governance regime.

Parita Mukta has traced the genesis of this rule of law in Gujarat right from the times of resistance to development projects like Narmada Valley Project. She brings out how this acquired a distinct flavour with the invocation of the river goddess to reinforce the visions of grandeur and prosperity for the rich farmers and industrialists of the state in the preachings of RSS idealogues (“Worshipping Inequalities-Pro-Narmada Dam Movement” Economic and Political Weekly October 13, 1990)

During Narendra Modi’s regime, it has all come together as never before in a self fulfilling prophecy of an effective, pro- corporate, investor-friendly governance build on consolidating a ‘political culture of authoritarianism’, a ‘brash pride to demonstrate, brute force’, and a belief in  ‘worshipping inequalities’. This package is marketed to us via powerful media and advertising giants like APCO worldwide which counts dictators and global Investment firms as its clients. See for example Aditya Nigam on Spin Doctors and the Modi Make-over, and Binoy Prabhakar on how an American Lobbying Company markets Modi.

Gujarat’s development experience thus suggests the deep authoritarianism that made specific aspects of the recent growth experience possible is not so delinked from its fascist manifestations in spectacular forms of violence against religious minorities, scheduled castes and tribes and lower castes that the state has witnessed in its recent past.

Shipra Nigam is a research scholar based in Delhi

34 thoughts on “Gujarat and the Illusion of Development: Shipra Nigam”

  1. NO one is talking about the abysmal state in which education is handled in Gujarat. V.C.’s who have indulged in all kinds of malpractices and with dubious academic credentials and appointment. Would any one care to write about this. Is this also not associated with progress or the myth of progress and it’s flip side.


  2. This report answers all my questions with the so called “success Story” of the MODEL STATE. Thank you!!!


  3. Some serious problems with the study. It claims that study proceeds through a meticulous examination of existing official data sources on investment, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing , employment, poverty , inequality, education and health expenditures and a set of other indicators of development. Now what it does tell is how reliable is the official data ? And what is meant by official data ? It is not an examination of facts but interpretation of numbers that are incorrect to begin with. Secondly, article is written to debunk the theory and has a bias…what does this statement mean “Modi’s eyed upper and middle class following would like to believe? ” ? You are writing the article with bias against Modi and its supporters.
    That is not how neutral analysis is done.


    1. A meticulous examination of ‘official data sources’ implies data sources which are published by duly instituted bodies for data collection such as the planning commission, National Sample Surveys , Central Statistical Organisation (NSS), Central and State governments ( CSO) official databases, all of which follow duly laid down procedures and methods of data collection and corroboration. All are as reliable estimates as is possible given existing statistical techniques and methods of data collection and analysis which follow international guidelines for maximising accuracy and minimising errors and discrepancies to the extent possible. Under the circumstances, they are the best available sources of information despite standard limitations of macro statistics.
      The emphasis on ” official’, as anybody who deals with statistical data is aware of , given standard terminology employed in such a discourse, hence is to state that the data is to the extent possible collected by ‘standard procedures’ . Official here is not equivalent to what the state’ choses to reveal’ like official figures on ‘death toll in uttarakhand’ , until and unless you believe that all institutional bodies operating at all levels of data collection are totally rigged- an impossible task anywhere in the world today, especially if you’re aligned to a global economy, given sheer logistical constraints, procedures involved and the fact that no government can afford such large scale fudging of data, even the gujarat government , for its own policy formulation and success. Infact if anything , it is more likely to undrestimate the magnitude of problems given that most official data sources and methodologies have a tendency to make fairly conservative estimates. So the idea here is that even ‘official ‘ data sources coming from ‘government agencies’ – state and central -which provide broad estimates bring out these issues, then detailed surveys done by alternative agencies on ground level are more likely to bring in far more unpleasant results.

      As for bias against Modi’s supporters in some statements, this is a political article which comes with a very definate stand against both the politics of neoliberalism and communalism and i have no desire to underplay the fact . That any discussion on the political economy of the dilemmas of development can be’ objective and neutral’ in understanding and approaching a problem is a myth. Academic rigour implies that you set the terms of the debate on rigourous grounds , which the book and the article do by challenging and evaluating the claims made by Modi’s government, his PR machinery and a section of his upper and middle class following about the success of the so called ‘gujarat development model’ through a detailed and meticulous examination of information coming from fairly conservative , standard data sources including the state goverment’s own database ! And it uses that very information to debunk the model on grounds of its failure to ensure equity, sustainability and development .
      Just because i am critical of any model, idealogy or vision which obstructs sustainable , equitable and participatory development and promotes inequality , environmental destruction and exploitation of workers and the marginalised , does not mean that my arguments are not to be taken seriously as long as they are based on sound analysis and given facts and figures . It is not enough to say i’m revealing a bias because that is a very convenient rhetoric- you have to find flaws in the arguments and the analysis , not my political persuasion. I am quite unequivocal in my critique of the unequal and discriminatory processes of neoliberal growth models and the havoc they have wrought in people’s lives , especially those of the marginalised. And i’m equally unequivocal in my deep condemnation and antipathy for the communal credentials of Narendra Modi’s government and the BJP. But that does not in any way delegitimise or debunk my or the book’s arguments over here.


  4. Excellent article with thorough study unlike 1000’s of articles dished out from nowhere with no proof to back it up other than their own opinions.


    1. i think one has to think of how the media and the myth of progress work in this part of the world. one must also look at the people and how their minds have begun to believe that Modi is a savior though there is some protest now which was not so earlier. Only when people protest will we have a question of squashing the myths of progress that the media is dishing out. Education is at its lowest. The worst Vice Chancellors are now at the helm of affairs. One even went on to build a swimming pool when there was drought in saurashtra. I guess the present rain fall must have filled it up.
      Corruption is one of the causes of the dismal condition of Gujarat. The poor people are hunted off the roads. I mean the tea stall and other street food vendors and one wonders how they will be able to survive.
      It is the failure of the left and the congress in Gujarat which is responsible for this crisis.


  5. Mam, you have tried to maintain an objective tone throughout your article but unfortunately, its far from objective.

    If so much (rather everything) is wrong with Gujarat model as you point out – there is crony capitalism, everything has been blown out of proportion by PR giants like APCO, there is growth in joblessness, widening Inequalities and social exclusion and so on and so forth, I just have one question – why do people of Gujarat keep electing the BJP Gov? Or is it another grand exercise by APCO for the rest of India and World and in reality, Modi lost in 2002 and we have had Congress gov in Gujarat since then?

    “Data” is an amazing thing, it can be manipulated in number of ways to suit your POV. I would also like to know which model do you propose? It is an easy job to trash a model and/or a policy without actually having to provide an alternative. I am not an economist but simple empirical evidence suggest that the same model that you have trashed (although it appears to me that you are more against the person rather than the economic model and had it been implemented by a “Gandhi” surname, you would have been head over heels praising this very growth model) has been successfully implemented by the so-called rich countries where millions have actually come out of poverty following a free market model.

    PS: And btw, Vibrant Gujarat is a “biennial” event and not a “biannual” one

    PPS: I am not part of any of Modi’s so called PR “machinery” but a common middle-class citizen of the country who is sick of seeing his hard-earned money being used by dynasty to buy votes (or go to Swiss banks) time and again while our condition continues to grow from bad to worse!


    1. sorry , this is minus the typos , please put this reply instead

      Sigh ! Where to begin ? Years might pass by, reality might be there starkly staring at you in every nook and corner of the country, but certain sections of India’s middle classes continue to cling on to their cosy beliefs and rosy dreams. The only reason i’m taking time to respond point by point and in this manner, is because i’m sick of the stubborness of this blindness which refuses to even see or hear the obvious. Just when one thought somethings were far too obvious to be stated any longer, such comments come as a rude shock destroying any such illusions. So let me respond in kind.
      sir, you’ve tried very hard to maintain a position of the objective suffering middle class man , but unfortunately, you’re far from being objective or long suffering either.
      The moment you say ‘middle class citizen’ sick of seeing his ‘hard earned money being used’ you immediately exclude more than 75% of the population which doesnt qualify for the ‘ middle class’ by birth or have ‘money’ despite unending back breaking monotonous degrading hard work subsidising all those services you take for granted as your right – domestic and public .
      So lets dispense with this idea of some pure objective position either you or i can lay claim to. I’ve made no bones about the fact that i find ‘Modi’ reprehensible given his human rights record and the ‘free market model’ unequal, discriminatory and exploitative also based on actual empirical facts and the historical experience of several countries. Yet I unlike you have chosen to argue through facts and figures instead of repeating blind serving prejudices and making airy claims.
      If we take being voted into power as a measure of a person’s credibility , then why did people keep voting for the congress with the so called dynasty and swiss banks ? why did people vote for hitler ? or hundreds of other tyrants, despots, dictators, fascists and fundamentalists all over the world? – so why does Modi’s being elected again and again become so remarkable? Also people have equally voted for some very different development models in different parts of the country again and again – in Bengal, in Kerela, in Bihar, in Andhra, in Tamilnadu . So why dont we claim those models ?
      Yes, data can be used in many ways. Like Modi and his PR agencies use the same data to tout Gujarat’s growth and progress , this book has simply used that same data to show the other side of the story – the darker, murkier story of rampant inequality and social exclusion which lies beneath the overblown media corporate modi hype about gujarat’s ‘shining sucess story’.
      The point then really is which story do you choose to believe? – one which furthers your own partisan interests – even as it turns a blind eye to the poverty, inequality, environmental degradation i’m sure you can witness all around you as an everyday lived reality for millions.
      As for simple empirical evidence about rich countries where millions have come out of poverty, i would suggest you go back and read your history lessons again. The so called ‘rich countries’ did not become rich merely by following the ‘free market model’ , rather there is a history of colonialism, exclusion, war, conquest and exploitation behind each of those stories. Also the minimal lesson history teaches you is that what brings about a phase of even the so called growth or development in any country at any point of time , is a product of a wide range of factors which come together at that moment , and they cannot be blindly repeated as a prescription or magic formula to chase some elusive idea of growth irrespective of the context, the circumstances, the history, the resources which exist in a particular place at any point of time.
      Several developing countries in Latin America, Africa, Middle East and Asia who tried to adopt the so called ‘free market model’ have failed miserably in the past few decades , adding and aggravating endlessly the suffering of their people and the environmental and social repercussions for the majority.
      Besides atleast at the current moment , even in the US, people facing a string of economic crisis’s one after another are now questioning this myth of the ‘free market model’ . If anything, the current phase of massive periodic economic crisis’s wreaking havoc in people’s lives all across the globe have led even the die hard proponents of free market to reconsider their core beliefs and ideas. Not so it seem middle class indians still chasing the ‘American dream’ .
      This article was critiquing whats wrong with the gujarat model. There are enough articles , books, reports and blueprints for more sustainable , equitable and participatory growth processes which provide a range of alternatives to the current model. There are also actual projects implemented both by certain state governments as well as organisations and institutions which have been implemented succesfully in India and abroad. Do some homework and you’ll find them or i can give you a detailed set of references. But i suspect you’re not interested in those.
      The congress also has been following ‘free market policies for the past fifteen years . And the NDA regime was no less corrupt , niether is the BJP in Modi’s Gujarat free of ‘corruption and swiss bank accounts’, even if its publicised much less. So i wonder what makes you moot for Modi and dismiss all criticism as coming from people who are ‘ head over heals after the Gandhi name’? So if i criticise Modi , i’m immediately discredited as a congress stooge ? How convenient really ! When Modi’s followers have this attitude and such sly dismissal of any criticism right now, god only help us if he ever manages to become the prime minister.
      For record let me put this very clearly – i’m unequivocally critical of the so called ‘free market model’ whether followed by the Congress or the BJP. But in addition, i completely reject BJP as well as Modi’s brand of communal politics . What i’ve pointed out in this article is how an authoriatrian neoliberal free market regime can blend so beautifully with hindutva politics as brought out by Modi’s Gujarat – for both are based on a political culture of authoritarianism and ‘worsipping inequalities’ which exclude and oppress the minorities and the marginalised .
      After all there’s a reason why Modi and the free market model is being promoted by middle class hindus like you – its far more convenient, far easier and serves both your own interests as well as your deep rooted cultural and social prejudices and biases , allowing you to retain a sense of self righteousness and escape your own implications in a deeply unjust and exclusionary system.
      Thanx for the correction of “Biennal”.
      Also, i belong niether to the dynasty nor have swiss bank accounts. I’m also still a relatively priviliged middle class, upper caste hindu like you who however manages to atleast notice that something more than her ‘money’ is at stake at present. And yes, if things go on the way they do , with people like you blindly continuing to believe that Modi and free market are the only solutions and the way ahead despite the writing on the wall, things are not merely going to bad to worse, and it might be too late to save things even for the middle classes .


  6. HI Shipra, I haven’t read your complete article, so you may give a nice comment about it and then you may answer if you like (as I believe you would expect me to read it completely first), also I read few replies.

    Please correct me if i am wrong by writing this article somewhere you want people to see the truth about Gujarat govt. model, I do agree that there might be shortcomings in this model. I just want to ask you as you did a comprehensive study about Gujarat. I just have one suggestion, Do study all the states one by one, see their achievement in all possible ways, their model and do all sort of possible analysis and then also tell us the in whole comparative analysis in the fields. Then I would love to see your result which is better and request you to take on all ground, (Growth in percentile from its previous condition) Economic Growth, Industrial growth (in all possible ways), Social harmony growth, Literacy growth, infrastructure growth, crime and justice growth (for instance corruption), awareness growth, individual common man growth, public opinion about their state govt., and foremost Vision of the govt. and their approach and commitment towards it (The commitment can’t be completely analysis but try studying it that can be done by seeing into their Vision and corresponding policies they wish to implement.) and the most important thing, the Philosophy of the governing body,.for Instance (Rahul Gandhi and congress prefer to give money to poor and Narendra Modi prefers to give capability and skill).

    I don’t see a logic to make up my mind about Modi by you making an analysis on just his state, i want to see a comparison with other states in all ways possible. I would be grateful If you can do that because I don’t see any method to weigh his achievement with any process as I believe the real way of measuring him is not seeing his achievement but also by seeing other state govt.achievements and his growth/decline with other’s achievement in terms of percentage.

    The point is simple from where I see as a Voter, for me, the person(leadership) matters not the party as I believe if leadership is with right person he/she can punish and correct wrong in this country and his/her party, I believe Narendra modi is much better than Rahul Gandhi. for that I have to many points you may think otherwise but i believe this forum is not for it, So I will leave it up to that.


    1. Pavan,
      I have made a comparison with other states at several places . You will just have to read the article i’m afraid. But to sum up , what the analysis reveals is that even by standards of what is considered to be growth and development in a very conventional sense , there is nothing remarkable in terms of gujarat’s performance after we account for advantages which gujarat already had as a relatively well developed state to begin with, much before Modi arrived on the scene. Also the growth in GDP and investment which had been celebrated so much is already waning with both growth rates and investment rates falling recently. Besides in case of all other development indicators – health, education, real wages ,inflation – Gujarat’s performance is average or less than avergae in comparison to other high performing states like maharashtra, tamilnadu , kerela.
      However the question here is not about growth vs development or growth vs equity or growth vs social justice, but it is about the very vision of the growth process itself . The conventional growth paradigmn which is being followed in Gujarat has been discredited widely elsewhere in the developing world and if we continue that way,on a business-as-usual scenario, India is headed towards a middle-income trap with deep deprivation and societal fractures with its own integrity at risk. For a better understanding of the differing visions at stake you could read where the Bhagwati- Sen debate roughly parallels the two possible alternatives before us .
      While Modi at a faster and Congress at a slower pace is following a harsher version of the Bhagwati and inc model ( without even incorporating fully the caveats and caution even in this model), the Sen and inc model gives us another, more viable and potentially more sustainable growth trajectory that could be followed. And that is what is at stake here.
      However , the purpose of writing this article was also to demonstrate how hardline hindutva communal politics can blend so easily with a neoliberal growth model, and hence all the big money pouring in for Modi. And for me that makes it far worse – for Modi combines what was wrong with the growth model followed by Congress with his own specaial brand of authoritarianism and communalism . Where ordinary workers, women, ST’s , muslims , peasants or small farmers are concerned – the model has little to offer . And even for industrialists and capitalists and investors the limits to further growth are soon going to be reached .
      In such a case , how does it help to go from one party at the national level which has failed to deliver on various counts to another party which has nothing different to offer ?-there’s hardly any difference between the economic policies of either , the Modi government’s policies are only a far more amplified and an even harsher version of the policies followed by congress !
      How does it help to go from the frying pan to the fire? Especially if Modi combines all the disadvantages of congress with his own special brand of communalism and scant respect for basic human rights?


  7. To a certain extent i agree with this article that modi has been boasting quite a bit about his gujarat development model.But to be very fair enough, i have been living in Gujarat since my childhood and i can confidently say that after the North eastern states; it is safest place for a women and the senior citizens to live as compared to other states.By this i certainly don’t mean that crime rate is nill or rapes don’t happen here but if if we compare to other states it definitely any time safer.
    So somewhere down the line Modi has a prominent role in maintaining all theses activites in the state.I find this article a bit anti modi, but my dear author every politician every party will pander the public to come into the ruling party.My point here is that what better alternative do we have for Modi?Can we trust Mr Rahul gandhi’s dumbness? Can we trust kejriwal’s non pragmatic thinking?


    1. Really dear saurabh gupta, this is quite amusing – why should the article not be anti – modi? Is Modi a god above criticism ? And what is this strange idea of bias we have that we demand that a figure as controversial as Modi , with his track record and his human rights record be dealt with some strange notion of objectivity ? Do we ask people writing on figures who’ve been implicated in genocides , rapes, murder that they be pro or neutral those implicated? Do we not all have opinions about everything ? Is it not the job of those writing articles to help people form opinions based on analysis , facts and figures ? So i’d rather instead of making this ridiculous charge, you engage with the arguments presented in the article. No article comes without an opinion, a viewpoint , a perspective. The point is how well it argues its case .
      It also amuses me that how totally unaware of their own privileged location urban , educated , middle class, upper caste hindus in Gujarat are while making these charges . Ofcourse gujarat is safe for you and women and senior citizen’s you know, but the crucial question is who is it safe for and on what terms ? Does stifling debate and dissent , ruling by normalising fears of the vulnerable , the marginal and the minorities and pretending everything is hunky dory make for a good society where basic human rights are respected? Where the ‘mind is without fear and the head is held high ‘ ala tagore? Twelve years have passed and yet not even 5% convictions on riots have taken place – and you call Gujarat a safe state ? ,Safety is a state of mind , its not about explicit acts of violence occuring all the time – one systematic, planned , efficiently and ruthlessly executed riot like that in 2002 , followed by absymal convictions, with a ruling party that openly endorses hindutva idealogy in power throughout is enough to establish the rule of the majority by creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation , you dont have to do much after that !

      Even today people who’ve been witnesses in the few convictions that took place cant walk in public parks without those places being emptied out – and activists like Teesta are being hunted down , falsely framed and denied bail on totally trumped, ridiculous and laughable charges – so what kind of a safe and free society are you talking about ? I wonder if all this had happened in say pakistan with hindus being in place of muslims , if we would find it so easy to give everybody a clean chit and proclaim how safe, developed and normal Lahore is ! But ofcourse , its easy when we are the majority to stifle our conscience and turn a blind eye to it all.


    2. And to answer your question on what is the alternative to Modi – is parliamentary democracy about just one person? All we have to do is elect the best candidate who provides a secular , democratic and viable alternative to communal and sectarian forces in every constituency – we have and will continue to live in an era of coalition politics – there are no short cuts in the long hard road to establishing a secular , democratic polity which brings in a sustainable, inclusive and equitable development process overtime which takes everyone along on this path through dialogue and engagement.
      Am just putting on record the answer put forward by Nomore compaign – an independent citizen’s initiative…

      .What is the alternative to Narendra Modi?

      Quite a few people have been posing this question to anyone who opposes Narendra Modi. It is a question that can be traced back to NaMo, and pushed relentlessly by mainstream media. It is also a question designed to be impossible to answer because it is a non question. It makes no sense, like asking urban citizens what the alternative is to purchasing an expensive Mercedes car against a high interest loan for daily commuting, makes no sense.
      For Lok Sabha elections in our parliamentary democracy, voters choose between sets of ideals and policies presented by political parties, and not between prime ministerial candidates. This is a scenario which is fraught with difficulties for NaMo. For all the hype generated around NaMo, there is precious little detail shared about his policies. And NaMo is notorious for avoiding any situation where he can be questioned on policy, such as addressing press conferences or interviews with independent journalists who won’t agree to prep the questions with him first. He is comfortable only delivering prepared speeches. Even these reveal more about his ability to launch attacks on opponents than they reveal on policy.
      How does NaMo overcome this distinct disadvantage in the battle of ideas which is election in a parliamentary democracy? By using non questions like this one to avoid a debate on ideas. By trying to reduce general elections to a personality contest which obscures the real question. That real question would be – What are the alternatives to the ideas that Narendra Modi represents? And for this real question, there are many, many answers. As NaMo himself says, we need only look to his record in Gujarat to find these.


  8. Now it can be understood as to why for the last more than a year the entire media, which is controlled by the corporate world, is supporting the false claims of Mr. Modi


  9. This model of development of a few to the detriment of millions of others is not at all suitable for India as a whole. This is an example how the nexus between politicians, corporates and media can create an illusion to fool the gullible citizens.


    1. Worst part is that this illegitimate nexus is least concerned about the larger impact such development would have on the generations to come.The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change (IPCC),released, warned that famine, water shortage and increased regional tension could affect entire south Asia, especially INDIA if corrective steps were not adopted to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Ratnakarbharti


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