Gujarat under Modi has fared worse than most states in almost every index of human development. Hunger, disease and death are chronic in the villages, says DARSHINI MAHADEVIA
THE INCUMBENT chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, is going to polls on the slogan of development and stability — the Gujarat Model of Development, as it is called by him and his party, the BJP. The emotive issues present at the time of the 2002 elections are not cutting much ice with the electorate this time.Whatever may be Narendra Modi’s compulsions on projecting the Gujarat model, it is important to understand, or some may say to break, the myth of the model.
The Gujarat Human Development Report, 2004, (by Indira Hirway and Darshini Mahadevia) has at length discussed the distorted path of growth in Gujarat, in particular the divergence between the manufacturing and agriculture sectors, between developed and underdeveloped Gujarat, between urban and rural Gujarat, and between economic growth and people’s well-being. These long-term trends set in during the early 1990s, and have aggravated since then. Modi has done little to reverse the graph. For a non-partisan view of the situation, this Gujarat Development Model is extremely worrisome.
Gujarat has remained among the top three of the 15 largest states in India in attracting industrial investments all through the 90s and the early part of this decade. Fifteen state because Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal did not exist then. In the mid-1980s, Gujarat was second in indices of industrial development and when the economy liberalised, the state became an important destination for industrial investment with its proactive industrial policy. But the industrial investments did not translate into per capita incomes because of their capital intensiveness. Gujarat has remained at the fourth position in terms of per capita income since the 90s, with the exception of the period 1997-98 to 2001-02, when the state slipped down to the fifth and sixth positions. In line with the dichotomy, the per capita income of the state is not translating into capability development and welfare of the people. In 2001, Gujarat was at the sixth position among the 15 large states of India in human development as well as gender development, a slip from the fifth position in human development and the fourth position in gender development in 1991. In education, the state was at the sixth spot in 2001 and at the ninth spot in health indices. On the environment chart, it was ranked 13th in 2001. Thus, on every index that indicates the people’s well being and sustainable development, the state has done badly.
The question is whether Modi has changed the trend. In Modi’s tenure, only the trend of declining Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) growth rate has reversed. Still, in 1994-95 the real per capita income growth rate was 20; in 2004-05 it was 5, and in 2005-06 it was 15. The inequality between the developed and less developed regions remains, as does that between rural and urban areas and between economic growth and human well-being. If we compare the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR: deaths of children within a year of birth) in Gujarat with that of India as a whole, we get an idea of the skewed model that Gujarat’s development represents. In 2005, the IMR in Gujarat was 54 per 1,000 babies, and that in India was 58. This means infant deaths in India were 1.07 times that in Gujarat. However, if we see the figures for 1991, Gujarat’s IMR was 69 and that of India was 80, which is 1.16 times higher.
Therefore, the gap in IMR between Gujarat and India has reduced, because other states of India have registered faster improvement in infant health than Gujarat. When the IMR declines to a low figure, as in the case of Kerala, the gap between the country’s IMR and the state’s IMR also declines. But Gujarat’s IMR is still very high, even as the gap between it and other states has reduced. Gujarat was at the ninth position in the overall IMR among the 18 largest states of India in 2005, which include Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and Chhatisgarh. While the IMR has improved from 60 in 2001 to 54 in 2005, it’s still an extremely tardy progress, and other states are far ahead of Gujarat. Kerala has an IMR of 14, Maharashtra 36, Tamil Nadu 37, West Bengal 38, Uttaranchal 42 and Jharkhand 50. IMR is also a very sensitive indicator of women’s status in general and of healthcare facilities for pregnant women in particular, such as vaccination and nutritional supplements.
It also reflects the state of immunisation programmes for children and overall public health and hygiene, which includes water supply and sanitation. If the family is unable to take care of an infant or a pregnant woman, it becomes the government’s responsibility to provide primary healthcare. This responsibility seems to be lacking in the Gujarat government. Fortified wheat supplements for children introduced in the mid-day meal scheme do not benefit infants and the IMR remains unaffected.The main problem in Gujarat is a high Rural IMR, which was at 62 in 2004, a decline from 73 in 1991. Rural India’s IMR in 2004 was 64, hardly a gap. Other states have shown far better improvement in rural healthcare than Gujarat. This neglect of rural health and the rural sector in general is a reflection of the distorted development ideology being pursued by the state since a long period of time. The health of the rural sector worsened in the 90s during the BJP rule and has further deteriorated during Modi’s tenure.
THE IMR improvement in Gujarat, particularly in rural Gujarat, has stagnated because of the continued high incidence of Neo-Natal Mortality (NNM), which is death of infants within the first month of birth. The reasons for NNM are unsafe delivery and lack of vaccination (such as titanium toxid.) of the newborn. These factors have to do with the primary healthcare system, which is the responsibility of the state government. Gujarat has privatised child birth facilities through the Chiranjeevi Yojana, but its success has not been seen in the tribal areas. The “karmayogi” chief minister should have strengthened the existing public healthcare infrastructure rather than attempt to privatise it. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) of 2005-06 shows that in Gujarat, 47 percent of the children below 5 years are underweight because of malnourishment. In India, this percentage is 46 percent. Moreover, there has been an increase in malnourished children in the state from 45 percent in 1998-99 (NFHS data).
Lastly, the Gujarat government’s commitment to the social sector has been low since the 1990s. According to the Monthly Bulletin of the Reserve Bank of India, February 2007, with 31.6 percent of Budgetary expenditures on the social sector Gujarat was at the 17th position among the 18 largest states in India. Except Punjab, all other states, including the newly formed states of Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal, were allocating a higher proportion of their budgets to the social sector. In 1991-92, Gujarat was at the 12th spot among the 15 largest states. Budgetary statistics show that expenditure on the social sector has declined during Modi’s tenure.
This is the Gujarat Development Model that Modi and the BJP are tom-tomming so much. Which is worrisome, because India has already slipped down the global Human Development Index by two positions: in 2007-08 it stood 128th among 177 countries, down from 126 in 2006. This slipping can be best explained by the stagnation in improvement of healthcare. The Gujarat model, besides being linked to the blood on the hands of the popular chief minister, is also is a model unconcerned about the health of the state’s people and in particular of its children and women. Contrary to the mainstream media’s projection, Gujarat is the model that should definitely not be followed at the national level or by any other state.Mahadevia is Professor at CEPT University in Ahmedabad and co-author of the Gujarat Human Development Report, 2004
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