Myth and Model
Much before election camp-aigns by different parties began the corporat lobby began a systematic and calculated campaign to highlight Gujarat model of development without really explaining what does it mean in the real world. They created a myth under Modi and they continue to do so with the sole objective of looting natural resources.
No doubt the Gujarat economic model under Narendra Modi has become polenical, thanks to media blitz. Some say Gujarat's growth rate was higher than the national average only during some years, particularly in the 1970s. It is also pointed out that the higher per capita income of Gujarat could also be attributed to the low rate of growth of population in the state. And there are some grains of truth.
Economists started studying not only the growth rate of Gujarat, but also human development indicators. Even with regard to growth rate, studies show developed states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Haryana did experience a higher growth rate than that of Gujarat. Some studies have shown that Gujarat was already growing faster than the rest of India during the 1990s, and did not experience any further acceleration under Modi's leadership. The Modi myth was a media creation.
The fact is, a developed state achieving a high growth for a long time is no surprise in the Indian context, as the country continues to suffer from regional imbalances in development. Also, for many years, agriculture where the majority of the labour force works, had negative growth rate. Western and Southern regions were developed by infusing massive central funds at the expense of eastern and north-eastern regions throughout the post-independence plan periods. Today's glaring regional imbalance has its roots in Nehruvian economics.
What is germane to the present controversy is whether Gujarat could improve its performance in respect of human development indicators. The infant mortality rate in Gujarat is not very different from the all-India average of around 40. Of course, in the 1980s, Gujarat made a mark in certain spheres like mid-day meal scheme, public distribution system, drought relief works and rural schemes.
But today, according to a recent study by C P Chandrasekhar and Jayati Ghosh, wages in Gujarat are lower than the All-India average, and also those prevailing in poor states (The Hindu Business Line, April 1, 2014).
Gujarat's development achievements are exaggerated. Narendra Modi had not introduced any new schemes to improve the rank of the state. Also nothing has been done to arrest environmental degradation. Economic and social inequality (including unequal gender relations) still persists. In India, even when the pace of growth is impressive, the pattern of progress continues to be preposterous.
Vol. 46, No. 46, May25 -31, 2014