February 22, 2020
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Like Those Mythical Waters

He had no role in this, but it came to be dubbed as the Gujarat model of Modi.

Like Those Mythical Waters

Wild elephants roaming free, scary leopards devouring their prey, dense weeds all over, a rivulet somewhere, completely inaccessible, completely uninhabitable. The propaganda of Gujarat’s growth after Narendra Modi’s arrival on the scene in 2001 was such that you might have thought the state looked like this—a jungle—earlier.

The tom-tomming got so deafening later that nobody wanted to hear even once that the roads in Gujarat were always good, the electric supply always seamless and industrial growth always there. That Gujarat had achieved a high growth rate much before the 1991 reforms, which only pushed it further. And that by the time Modi came in, Gujarat’s growth was already booming.  

He had no role in this, but it came to be dubbed as the Gujarat model of Modi. You could probably have been shouted down as anti-Gujarat, even anti-national, if you had dared to say, for  instance, that the state’s public debt had crossed Rs 1,00,000 crore. You would be told loudly that Gujarat had bec­ome the only revenue-surplus state in the country. If you asked how, you would be bracketed as anti-Modi, anti-Gujarat.  

You would be told with great fanfare that the Sardar Sarovar Dam—Gujarat’s lifeline—achieved the invincible height of 121 m under Modi. Who could say it was of no use even though more than half of the massive canal network that would take the water to the state’s parched regions is yet to be constructed?

A la Gujarat, the ‘ease of doing business’ in India would come from free distribution of subsidies and land

So the dam stands proud at 121 m and has already brought the BJP truckloads of votes, but thousands still wait for anything between two to five days to get their water.  

Budget after budget show increased allocations for the Narmada project, but there is little on the ground. In another instance, Modi went about telling the adivasis in his state during the run-up to the 2012 assembly election that schemes worth a whopping Rs 14,000 crore were coming to put an end to their deprivation. The budget did not reflect such a mammoth allocation. So, in one case what was budgeted was not used, and in another, what was announced was not budgeted and so never implemented. The votes though had come in.  

Replicating this trend nationally, you would ask if the historic hikes in social sector allocations in Arun Jaitley’s 2016-17 budget are for real. The truth of previous national budgets under Modi deepens this suspicion, for the spend was higher than the allocation in certain areas and much lower than promised in others. Not unlike in Gujarat, where what is in the budget remains on paper and whatever is outside also remains on paper.

It was claimed after six bedazzling summits (2003-11) that industrial investment worth Rs 39,54,000 crore was coming to Gujarat. What actually came in was hardly 20 per cent of that. So, post the 2013 edition, investment inclination was no longer revealed.

No budget or no summit will tell you what is the Gujarat ‘model’. It is crony capitalism, where the state’s res­ources and monies were being given away for a song as lifetime freebies. So, the ‘ease of doing business’ in India would come from free distribution of incredible subsidies and land. This is Gujarat model, where the state has grown, but only for a few. Investments have been made, but only by a few. Jaitley’s budget papers hold out a big promise but will this be borne out on the ground? There is little to suggest so. You say this in Gujarat, you are anti-Gujarat. That is the Gujarat model.

(The writer is Editor, Development News Network, Gujarat)

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