How Gujarat’s Development Model Sets A Bad Example For The Rest Of The Country To Follow

Posted on March 25, 2016 in Society

By Pillai Vishnu:

Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi addresses an election campaign rally in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad March 30, 2009. India will hold a general election between April 16 and May 13, election officials said on March 2, kicking off a mammoth process in which 714 million people will be able to cast their votes. REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTXDF6O
Image credit: Reuters/Amit Dave.

During the elections in 2014, Narendra Modi’s campaign was based on the ‘Gujarat model‘. Everyone was impressed by the economic growth the state had shown. The message was sold to us by a carefully planned campaign and with social media being used like in no other election. This was evident also by the trolls of the faithful ‘bhakt’ (of course, then we had only started learning about the bhakts), for example, those in which foreign cities had been photoshopped and sold as cities in Gujarat. We were told that this was Modi’s Gujarat. Guess what, we bought it.

We were mesmerised by the high GDP, his talk of development, and, of course, the claims had the backing of all the renowned corporates. After all, they are our ‘real’ bosses. Ad after ad, we were told that if there is heaven on earth, then it’s Modi’s Gujarat. We all wanted India to become Modi’s Gujarat. We had found our messiah.

During this madness over development and GDP, we conveniently ignored something called the human development index (HDI). We ignored the few (of course boring, non-controversial and even informative!) articles about how poorly Modi’s Gujarat did in terms of HDI. We didn’t care at all. We only cared about the GDP. All we cared about was how many big corporates endorsed Modi.

Let me explain to you what human development index is. The human development index is a composite statistic of life expectancy, income per capita and education. I will not make the same mistake as those boring articles in 2014. So, to simplify, it is how well the people, the common people like you and me, are doing in the country and what our standard of living is.

Modi’s Gujarat didn’t perform well in terms of HDI. Health care had been neglected. These numbers looked worse when we compare them with those of states such as Kerala (best HDI) or Karnataka. In fact, the HDI ranking of Gujarat came down from 6th (2001) in the country to 11th (2007-8) under Modi. Now you can understand why Amartya Sen (the Nobel Laureate) was strongly against the Gujarat model of development.

Why am I bringing this up now? Let me explain. I am worried. Seeing the last two budgets, the shrinkage of spending on health, education and for other social purposes, I am worried we are going the Gujarat way. The reduction of interest rates on all savings of the middle class was announced recently. I am worried that the corporates are now making a Gujarat out of India.

I am scared we will become the fastest growing economy with the highest number of people dying of tuberculosis, or the fastest growing nation with the worst sex ratio, or the fastest growing economy with the highest infant mortality. I do not want my country to be the fastest growing economy if it’s going to be like this. I don’t want my country to be a country of the rich only. This concern makes me worried. Hopefully, it will make you worried too.

The government sits back and has no problem in bailing out the corporates, who are the one percent of the population. It appears that a Mallya can run away with hundreds of crores but a government clerk is left with less money when he retires. Adani is given crores to do business, yet our farmers have to go on hunger strike, and many have to commit suicide so they can be heard.

I am not opining that GDP and fiscal deficit are not important matters. I am just asking why the burden of bringing down the fiscal deficit is always on the middle class and lower economic classes. Why do the super rich always get away? Why do they not have to bear this burden? Why is it that we have to keep sacrificing our health and education budgets to show a good GDP? Why can’t we sacrifice the countless bailouts and tax exemptions and debt write-offs given to loan defaulters driving high-end Mercedes cars and living in palaces?

While Modi was flying from one state to another in helicopters in one of the most expensive campaigns in modern India, we forgot to ask ourselves some questions. Where did BJP get the money for such a lavish campaign? Who were Modi’s top donours, the corporates or you and me?

If we answer this truthfully, we can extrapolate that to answer who the government is working for.

We were told about black money. We were told the money would be brought back. We all believed we finally have a leader who had the courage to get the black money back. It has been more than two years now. I am waiting. What else can I do? I am a common citizen. I do not have the luxury of professional lobbyists to get things done for me. I have no lobbyists to lobby to increase spending on healthcare and education. So, what can I do? I will wait. Or maybe write an article like this one.

Modi is a good salesman. He sold us the ‘Gujarat Model’ and we bought it. His offer doesn’t have a warranty, neither can we replace it. He sold it so well, we forget to check if the tea he sold had sugar or not. Now, since we bought his tea, it’s starting to taste bitter. I wonder if there was any sugar in the first place. But how can that be, it’s from Gujarat after all!