Gujarat Model: Any buyer state?

Bhaskar Majumder

All the students of regional development and planning or the students who are focused on internal migration to Gujarat, be it from Odisha as elaborated by Jan Breman, or from Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, know that Gujarat attracts. It has an impeccable record of industrial success, assured wages for the workers, stability in polity that ensures stable investment including foreign direct investment. The business acumen of the Gujjus as popularly known needs no exaggeration.

My experience of living in the major cities of Gujarat helped me realize the kind hospitality of people there – in fact, often it resembled family life of taking food from the same plate even in a restaurant what I discovered also in Odisha. The languages are so different but the similarity between Odisha and Gujarat was so near that resembled “bhai-chara’’ (fraternity).

Notwithstanding the temporary aberration of 2002, Gujarat attracted many enterprises apart from giving birth to many super-intelligent businessmen mostly in diamond sector. Given this background of the state in the west of India, the problem that has been working as an Octopus for the past 50+ days is crisis of Gujarat model – the death of persons by number and ranking by states showed Gujarat ranked second that invites the question if Gujarat can continue to invite enterprises from outside notwithstanding the repeal of most of the labour laws recently.

The Government of Gujarat announced land acquisition for companies to set up plants who would relocate them from China post-Corona, 2019/2020. The talent of Gujarat needs no introduction for out of the 2,574 large industries set up in India during 1917-2020, 734 units were set up in Gujarat alone. Gujarat looked forward to more entry of foreign firms and foreign direct investment, in the latter Gujarat was always a story of success.

While labour can be coerced, workers as physical bodies with energy have to migrate-in to be coerced. Of course, it is preferred to be coerced at the work-zone rather than hunger-death for “no work-no coercion-no wage’’ at the root village. Even if resident workers are ready to work, new capital may feel shy to sink for the Corona-outcome is not at all showing an inverted V-shape. Corona is not capital-controlled though capitalists could spend on R&D on Corona virus which I am afraid is yet to start. But capital is not at fault for that for capitalists invest, for example, on car manufacturing and not on road construction.

The question that naturally comes is, did anything go wrong with the Gujarat model? Though I failed so far to understand the model, still I believe the model did exist prior to 2014 that empowered not only the political musclemen but also the thinkers in the domain of economics. There was a state response that the virus was restricted to the trio cities, namely, Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara. The state response was, high number of deaths was because of high testing rate – how come? One gets tested and immediately breaths his/her last? As a layman in medical sciences, I fail to comprehend the response. Of course, 'more testing equals more cases' theory is acceptable that is marginally above a tautology.

Unless my memory fails, cities in Gujarat are walled – protected that was clear from the time the US-stalwart visited Gujarat-India in early 2020. Because of this wall, perhaps the slums cannot be accused for spread of the virus. And for sure, the US did not spread the virus only in Gujarat. So the question has a whirlpool – why Gujarat at the second position after Maharashtra? One response was population density. The other explanation focused on families that live in tiny houses and share common washrooms and toilets. If each explanation is accepted, then Delhi and Kolkata should have come under the same status. Kolkata-West Bengal is of course under the scanner, but that is a different story.

The state of Gujarat may not be an exception for the observation that the cities are recording more of persons affected and also the inevitable outcome that requires further research on urbanization. I keep my observations to only the recent link of Corona outcome and investment possibilities. My understanding is, in spite of states like UP and MP being early starters in welcoming firms by repealing most of labour laws, more so firms from China by relocation, Gujarat has the built-in capacity to crowd them out, given the total investment basket by the private entrepreneurs. Gujarat has a solid capital-history; it is near the national capital with a fine tuning. With Ahmedabad facing a strict lockdown, the government has deployed five companies of the Border Security Force in the city, particularly in the walled city.

The cat is out of the bag, at last. More than 1,500 Muslims attended the Tablighi event in Delhi from all over Gujarat and among them the majority were from Ahmedabad's walled city area, Surat and Vadodara. So the Tablighis must have been responsible for Gujarat Corona-riots. Otherwise, all others were home-locked – how could they spread the virus? So, when knowledge fails to explain, ignorance comes to take its place. I could have humbly pointed at the omission in reporting that the number of persons who landed from abroad immediately preceding the declaration of Corona virus was much more than the Tablighi Jamaat attendees. However, these are non-comparative who were more responsible and who less. The cardinal number also does not matter much if world history is read carefully.

Some of the residents of Ahmedabad raised questions over US stalwart’s visit to Ahmedabad on February 24, 2020 which saw a huge assembly of people, though slum areas were gate-locked. The virus 'super-spreaders' were also discovered in Ahmedabad like vegetable vendors, grocer and milk shop owners who could get infected and in turn infected many. Some of the officials blamed the elderly for the high mortality rate in the state – sign of advancement by longevity. Poor leadership during the crisis was no less accused as the cause of crises. The Gujarat university hostel was provided to rehabilitate patients that reportedly disclosed lack of infrastructure and manpower. The trust-deficit in public healthcare forced some families to seek expensive treatment in private hospitals where treatment fees varied between Rs 5 lakhs and Rs 6 lakhs per person/patient.

I do not have the capacity to list the infinite causes some of which are mentioned above that may be left to the expert committees appointed by the Government of India for the purpose. I have a very childish question: which the other state will be at this moment who may buy the Gujarat Model or rent-in Gujarat for bringing down Gujarat’s rank from second to, say, tenth? After all, in national average like any arithmetic mean, some will be above average and some below whatever is the normal rate. After all, Gujarat model is not a child’s play.

Apology: I have full faith on the Government of Gujarat and the Government of India on medico-cultural issues.

Bhaskar Majumder, Professor of Economics, G. B. Pant Social Science Institute, Allahabad - 211019

Back to Home Page

May 15, 2020

Prof. Bhaskar Majumder

Your Comment if any