Gujarat model of development showing its cracks from an anthropological point of view

Radhakanta Barik

Gujarat is being controlled by the traders and rich farmers. It is a marriage between moneyed people and farmers producing  ground nut. This is a combination of Patel and Bania who have a control over the society and its culture. Both function as a part of mercantile class who has a tremendous control over the society, politics and culture. Both of them share the religion of elite which has no association with popular Hinduism. For instance now a day’s people of Gujarat are celebrating the Nabaratra for which they sing  songs and dances known as Dandiya. Raas or Dandiya Raas is the traditional folk dance form of Gujarat & Rajasthan India, and is associated with scenes of Holi, and lila of Krishna and Radha at Vrindavan. It  is no more  a folk song but upgraded by the elite into a grand spectacle with coloured dress and beating of drums and using the  film songs. The essence of folk song with its many styles  has got replaced with  one dominant style which is accepted by the commercial elite. These elite have brought a deity of Goddess to the center of the festival. This becomes more religious as pujas are the central to the celebration and Prasad gets distributed to others.   This is no more a folk festival but for the elite they have deconstructed the folk festival into a communal ideology. This is an agricultural festival of rural people and but appropriated by the urban mercantile elite.

The trajectory of history brings blending between farmers and banias as both get involved in trading work.  Both have migrated to other parts of India and to different market centres of the world.  As most of them study commerce and management and get into business. They have disregard for literature and humanity subjects. They lack a broad enlightened outlook.  Rich farmers brought their culture of discrimination against Dalits and the urban traders has brought the culture of discrimination against the Muslims. Both grew in culture of discrimination and exploitation. Gandhi realized this truth by travelling all over Gujarat and found in the year 1923 that people who were doing politics were not ready to leave this culture of discrimination.( Brown:1972  )He was unhappy with his followers including Sardar Patel who did not follow Gandhian agenda of social change. Gujarat has integrated discrimination into its culture which is being protested by the Dalits of Gujarat. They have created their local leaders who speak out on daily basis against discrimination. A decade back I as a researcher speaking to a Dalit labour staying in the city exhibited fear in his face. He refused to speak against discrimination. This sort of behavior was found in Bihar a half century back. On the streets of Patna cycle rikshaw puller felt threatened to raise voice against their attacks. Today both Bihar and Gujarat have changed and Dalits are ready to fight against any form of discrimination by the upper castes.  Worst forms of discrimination against the dalits and tribals show Gujarat in lower rank in terms of Human development.

 Gujarat is suffering from drought and famine in the major parts of the State. Monsoon rainfall in 2018 in Kutch is about 26.51 of its annual rainfall. The Saurashtra region has got 72. 76 percentage of its annual rainfall. Farmers with ten acres of land face severe drought. These farmers suffered last year because of flood. This is the second year they suffer from drought.  According to data from the Gujarat state disaster management authority Saurasthra received only 171mm where as normal rainfall of June – September average of 474mm.  Farmers producing ground nut are the worst sufferers who have invested a lot. Besides the canal network in this region are without any water as canals have dried up.  One visits the areas grilling under such a distress people are demanding work and fodder for animals.(Gopal Kateshiya, Saurasthra farmers stare at a dry harvest : Drought woes, Indian Express, Oct18,2018) But Modi government is adamant in dismantling the MGNRGEA which is being felt by people. A social activist from Kutch region says that their district gets annually four hundred crores under the MGNRGEA. But they are not getting by which people suffer from lack of work and employment. They used to buy wage goods and their essentials from the local market which is suffering from lack of buyers. This is a common word among rural people. Even their children have left the schools and searching for work as the child labour. As a perceptive observer of the situation says that as children do not turn up then schools are turning non functional.

There is hardly any productive investment in agriculture. After the Narmada river project which does not supply water to all parts of the State, as rain failure this year has created drinking water problems for people and animals. As people of Gujarat depend on livestock economy for supplementing their income they are unable provide fodder to their cows and buffaloes. Kutch has one third of animals of Gujarat which are used to graze in the common land. As most of the common land has been sold to Adani and Ambani for virtually free they suffer from the shrinking of grazing land. This is the place having a strong pastoral civilization. They used to move from Afghanistan to Kutch as these people trust these people. Their trust gets expressed the way they sell their milk. They leave the milk pot on the street while the milk van comes and picks up the milk without any mediation of any middle men.  In this region diverse ethnic groups have come and settled such as Afghanistan from   As BJP talks of cows but there is no support for farmers who earn their bread from by selling milk at lower price. In an interview with a senior official of the department of Animal and Husbandry of the Gujarat government, the rural wage in most parts of Gujarat Rs 150 and in prosperous parts it is around Rs250. This is lower than Odisha as the Government of Odisha fixes the wage at Rs 250. But in many parts it is about Rs350. Labourers from Odisha working in Gujarat already returned back because of higher wage and they come under the Public distribution system. Gujarat is the worst in the context of distribution food and other welfare measures such as old age pension. The government discriminates people on the basis of caste and political support for giving welfare benefits to the poorer section of the society. Both rural poor and urban poor suffer from the adhoc policies of Gujarat government as the Government is for Banias.

The BJP looks at the fault lines of a society for exploitation for their political ends. The present political scenario of Gujarat tells a truth that workers need to be divided into religious and caste lines. As workers of Gujarat have not been organised for their political struggles they can be divided on religious lines and caste lines. The BJP does not have a national agenda for doing constructive politics as they have gone for a divisive agenda. Studies show that during the 2002 riots the Hindu workers used against the Muslims according to Breman's study. (Breman: 2002) Another study confirms it according to Ipsita Chatterjee, a geographer. Workers live in clusters which can be attacked easily. In Surat Odiya workers live in a cluster of Juggi colony. (Ipsita Chatterjee:2009) There are 6 lakh Odiya workers work in the textile and diamond industry of Surat town. They faced such a situation during the 2002 riots who fled away to Odisha. They were paid low wage through the contractors which reflect in their life style. A train Puri - Okha express got introduced to bring them from Odisha which did not have any reserved bogeys and any other facilities showed their level of income and poor working conditions.

The same situation prevails in the workers colony where migrant workers from UP live in. Gujarat remained as the most migrant state of India. They are facing the brunt from the local goonds and many of them belong to Bajarangdal a faction of the Sanghparivar as a gang of criminals. The BJP has organised the Bajarangdal into a gang who are supposed to commit any crime against their opponents but in the name of religion.  This spatial segregation of workers helps the Sangh people to attack these colonies. For some time now this has been happening against the migrant workers. They have fled away to their home towns.  Around 3 lakh migrants left Gujarat after these attacks on them after 14 October,18. Modi Yogi model of governance for creating communal division for destroying democracy. The chief minister of Gujarat Shri Rupani came to UP and gave a statement: workers from UP and Bihar is the children of the same Bharatmata as the workers of Gujarat. This is the most obnoxious statement has come from Mr Rupani. Let us examine his observation regarding the workers of UP who got attacks from the members of Sanghparivar. After he gave a statement that 80 percent of jobs in private industries should go to Gujarati workers. This statement emboldened the party workers of the BJP who went on physical attacks on the workers of UP. They came to family of a worker in Ahmadabad and wanted to know whether he belonged to UP or not. He said: yes. Then fifteen of the BJP workers physically attacked him in front of his family members. He has been living for more than 15 years here and converse in Gujarati But no support for him. He knows many of the attackers who belong to the same place. On inquiry from social activist one finds the wage difference in an industry between the Gujarati worker and worker from UP. A Gujarati worker gets Rs 1000 for the same work whereas a worker from UP gets Rs300. The difference of wage between English workers and Irish workers has got cited by Marx in his works that it was because of Irish workers English workers got low wage. Marx wrote an explanation in a “Confidential Communication” of the International issued in early 1870: The English Bourgeoisie has not only exploited Irish poverty to keep down the working class in England by forced immigration of poor Irishmen, but it has also divided the proletariat into two hostile camps ….The common English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers wages and the standard of life. He feels national and religious antipathies for him. He views him similarly to how the poor whites of the Southern states of North America viewed black slaves. This antagonism among the proletariat of England is artificially nourished and kept up by the bourgeoisie. It knows that this split is the true secret of preservation of its power.” (MECW21:120)(Marx, Karl and Frederick Engels (1975-2004) Collected Works, Fifty Volumes, New York, International publishers.)  A Gujarati industrialist makes a bonanza profit by employing the worker from UP. Here Goddess of Profit is being worshiped by Gujarati businessmen and its political party BJP. Bharat Mata is nothing but a Swatik symbol which attracts only profit by employing the workers from UP. They are unequal children of the Bharatmata.

Jan Breman's book on Labour bondage in Western India explains the labour process in Gujarat where long distance migration helps the owners to make more profit and as the labour come from various parts of India and do not know the language of Gujarat do not protest easily. (Breman 1996) This creates an environment of exploitation and discrimination of labour by Gujaratis. (Breman 2015)As the present government shows its anti labour policy by banning the right to strike in Rajasthan and other States ruled by the BJP brings out their divisive policy blatantly. Gujarati labour is more expensive in comparison to migrant labour from other parts of India. As labour bond with labour is natural which make them aware of their rights, the BJP government in Gujarat decides to work out the divisive policy in the context of Gujarat. As their leaders feel that Gujarat is going out of their control and their grand Hindutva experiment has shown cracks which one sees clearly while moving in different parts of Gujarat.

 BJP is a worst communal and casteist party for which they want to experiment with a divisive policy towards workers.  The party has turned into a regional chauvinist party. Their decisions to create riots among the workers in terms of Gujarati vs the others which is the way they  construct  the other. Today Gujarat economy is sliding down as the labour out of fear have left towards UP.

 The profit is falling down and the industrialists feel uncomfortable with the present policy of the BJP. There is a clear division among the industrial class between the bigger ones and smaller ones. This division among the industrial class is clear as they openly tell the horrific stories of the Modi government's siding with these big industrialists by giving a profit without investment. These smaller ones feel the pinch by making the labour expensive as the Gujarati labour is not ready to work at the price given to workers of UP. Such a brutalized political regime wants to create public discourse in a communal tone may benefit them or may not as Gujarat is a changing towards anti BJP. The Times of India on 8th October edition of Ahmadabad brought front page news regarding the attacks on a migrant labour that has been staying in the city for last 15 years. His house was attacked by a group of Gujarati people whose names were given in the news report. A researcher sitting in front of me in the University of Baroda reacted." I know all these people who attacked the migrant worker. This is my area of the city. For some years I have been living in fear as there has been violence in the city." She told me that these people belonged to the backward communities. The present chief minister just some days back told, " the industries of Gujarat have to give in jobs to the sons of soil." After this remark these incidents are being organised by the Sangparivar. The BJP leadership has organised the riots against the Muslims in the year 2002 where Modi as the chief minister has complicity in these activities. These riots got sponsored by the Sangh Parivar. They have consolidated their support base among the upper castes which has been benefited the party so long.

The last election they were on the verge of losing Gujarat which the Hindutva forces under Modi as a magician from Delhi turned the tables against the opposition party. The battle turned into Aurangzeb vs Ranapratap according to Modi. They got an escape just with a dozen of seats in Surat region otherwise Modi as a magician would have lost his magical power. For the 2019 general election they are organizing in such a violent manner as the backwards would become their supporters as the Patels have abandoned them. These violence against the migrant labour have worked out in a planned manner. As the present chief minister's biodata shows that Rupani has organised riots for which he had got promotion to the high up in the hierarchy. Their politics of hatred against the migrant labour have been organised in such a planned manner according to a young researcher from the same locality of Ahmadabad. When we visited the villages of Kutch no body is aware of the Bullet train but everybody is talking of MGNREGA in Gujarati. This explains that their felt needs have turned into making of a public policy which articulates their aspirations. They need work, employment and wage which get them a chance to earn their livelihoods. As they get wage of Rs 150 where as under the MGNREGA they get a higher wage where the quality of work is better as they do work for minor irrigation or connecting road or community pond. All these works benefit them directly by establishing a relationship between work and life. None of them have heard of Bullet train as they require the passenger train or sometimes they take the unreserved bogey in the Express Train. They have seen Rajdhani or Satabdi but never dare to have an entry into it. Middle class talk of the Bullet train but they know it would remain their dream to go in the train unless the state pays for their journey on various official works. Very often they use the word two or three hours which explain the stories related to the Bullet train as they have lurching fear of the Hindutva forces. Each city of Gujarat is well connected with Bombay by road, train line and airline. This brings the question of Bullet Train as a part of laughing stock. Usually, Gujaratis do not laugh loudly. They only smile. This bullet train has brought the ripples of laughter among them. They discuss and laugh at each other. People of Baroda city enjoying the issue while sitting around the table over cup of tea and sweetish mixture which are their favorite items. Two hours or three hours is being discussed among people of Baroda. They do not refer to Bullet Train but these hours signify the train and everybody laughs at each other. Laughter is mode of protest against the powerful Hindutva authority which have a local network from the university to park. This network takes a serious note of their laughter if they clearly use the Bullet train. People of Western India are very careful in selecting the trains not by hours but which provides comfortable journey. Let us examine their preference from various points towards Bombay. If one is travelling from Baroda to Bombay there is an Express Train at 4PM which takes just four hours. There are many other trains passing through Baroda as it is known as the railway town. From Surat people prefer the passenger train which starts at 11in night reaches Bombay exactly at 4AM in the morning. From Bombay to Pune there is a passenger train at 11 in night and reaches at 4AM in the morning. All powerful people try to take this train to go upto Pune or Surat or Bombay. Who will travel in Bullet train as the rich has made huge money after Modi has got installed in Delhi throne. They have their own private jets to go anywhere. The rich and middle class prefer the trains according to suitability. Everybody enjoys by guessing who will travel in the Bullet train?

According to a young researcher from Gujarat the industrialists held a conclave for nominating Modi for the Prime Ministerial candidate on an assurance he would provide them various financial initiatives for their economic and industrial activities. All of them belong to Gujarati banias who have a close bond with the BJP. These industrialists did not agree with any other name including Advani. As they had interacted with Modi as the chief minister for such a long period they found him as a trustworthy for furthering their interests. This is what happening today as Modi being the Prime Minister gave these industrialists such as Ambani, Adani and many more from the central fund on a platter. They wanted some help in terms of licensing or policy decisions but Modi government virtually worked out a package of demonetization, Rafael deal etc for them. Once I went to Modi's Private Secretary's office as I know him from Odisha days and found his dealings with only industrialists from various parts of Gujarat. This was happening while he was the chief minister. Modi has brought all favorites from Gandhi Nagar secretariat to place them in the central secretariat in key posts. Modi as the PM turned into PM of Gujarat not whole India.

Kutch has a multi layered history. Harappan civilization exists here. They have a museum of keeping cultural artifacts belong to the period. The study shows that there was no religious consciousness. It is a urban civilization. It has no link with any religion including Hinduism. Hindutva forces  got angry of it. Modi government does not give any financial allocation for further excavation work. He as the cm came once and frowned upon it.

Politics of Gujarat is changing towards better. Discontent at subterranean level is coming to the surface. In university campus students and teachers openly are talking of politics. In railway platforms people are talking of politics. This is the festival season which encourages Amit Shah to distribute money to each Nabaratri celebrating committee but they're not inviting BJP people. Villages are unhappy of Modi's achha din which is not coming soon. The situation is explosive in Gujarat. Modi's Gujarat model has already collapsed after the workers of UP migrated to their homes after getting attacks from the members of the Sanghparivar. In their protest against Modi they showed the placard with slogan 'Modi go back'. That's is the end of section two of their theater. Section one ended with destruction of the only industrial town of UP, Kanpur with the rathyatra politics of Advani. They migrated to Gujarat for work. After their return with the coming of Ram during Diwali, the section three will begin where there will be two villains Modi and Yogi. There Will be no hero. Logic of politics of hatred in Gujarat has reached a dead end. Over two decades, the administration could not uphold the rule of law by punishing individual on the basis of crime. Wherever they are ruling they show scanty respect to human rights. Today's politics of hatred is targeting migrant workers from UP. Modi Yogi must be having a last laugh on the present development in Gujarat.

Gujarat is today torn into pieces. People who migrated to this place for producing wealth are facing physical violence. Long distance migration helped the rich here, today they are experiencing attacks on their constitutional rights as they can stay anywhere according to Indian Constitution. The present regime is unable to control the situation. I used to visit Baroda University on a regular basis. But for almost a decade I could not visit. I am going for a week to the university. I visited the university in the year 1976. In front of University there is a beautiful park where for the first time I heard the abuses against Gandhi. A group of people sitting there used to hurl abuses against Gandhi. The same language got repeated by Amit Shah recently that Gandhi was a cunning Bania. The Gujaratis left the Khadi dress went for silk which is the dress of Hindutva people. Once I was there after the 2002 massive riots and standing in the front of the university guest house around twelve in the night. A procession was going on Irfan Pathan zindabad who had scored against Pakistan a hundred in the cricket match. Post-riot scenario against the Muslims but people went in a procession to celebrate his century against Pakistan. Average Gujarati is not anti Muslim but the BJP had mobilized the communal politics by creating riots. I wrote an article in Hindustan Times about this incident.

Gujarati has a strong cultural identity where there is no discrimination on the basis of Hindu vs Muslim. This identity got further strengthened by Gandhi's going to South Africa and working as a lawyer in a leading Gujarati Muslim firm. Gujarat has undergone cultural and political transformation from 1975 from the JP movement days when the RSS got actively involved in the movement against the Congress rule. After Modi became the Chief Minister he gave a slogan that he had come for one day match not five days match. This was the starting point of mobilization of Hindutva forces against the Muslims and Dalits.

Verghese Kurien, the founder of the milk cooperatives in Gujarat created history in bringing both caste Hindus and Dalits together in making the cooperative movement a success. He initiated the project while India was getting independence and that was time when rural India was being ruled by high caste landlords. The prophecy of  Verghese Kurien father of the White revolution in India whose biography is titled “ I too had a dream ‘ Five decades ago from a sleepy town of Anand then he built an institution of excellence for India. He developed a logistics chain to produce and deliver hygienic and nutritious milk and milk products to millions and created the world; largest food marketing business and the country ‘s biggest food brand. Ratan Tata in his foreword in Kurien’s birography said the cooperatives he created have also become powerful agents of social change in empowering women and in embedding democracy at the grassroots level.

 But his attempts succeeded to transform rural society by providing assets to the rural poor and allowing the poor for getting market price for milk. This movement has reflected in the film Manthan by Shyam Benegal. In his creative world this film remains as a classic where the poor have combined with the other to bring changes in their life styles. Some years back I was conducting research in tribal areas of Gujarat where my findings show that tribals live on only by selling milk. Such a revolutionary movement in Gujarat led by Verghese Kurien forgotten by the Prime Minister Modi some days back while addressing the cooperative movement in Gujarat. It is a serious mistake of Modi committed by him knowingly. In the film Manthan there was a villainous character Amresh Puri acted as Mishra who owned his own milk farm which used to buy milk at cheaper price before the cooperative started. Modi as the representative of this rural elite led by Mishra and urban elite led by Ambani forgot the name of Kurien while speaking on the occasion of the milk cooperatives.

Kurien model vs Modi model has been focused in the recent discussion in Gujarat. It is all vs small section of people belonging to business and trading class. This has resulted in increasing the sufferings of people of Gujarat. They experience low income combined with low literacy and low level of nutrition which keep them as low in the Human Development Index where as in terms of economic growth it comes in the first two states. This model is experiencing its threats from local people as they lack employment and work with a respectable income which the owners of capital are not ready to give in.  With the coming of migrants the rich has enjoyed a higher prosperity but without any benefits reaching the lower rung of society. The capital here used the most communal and casteist ideology to experiment Gujarat model of development which have shown cracks in the recent attacks on migrant workers of UP. As Modi has come to power after the rathyatra of Advani started from Somanath to Ayodhya. Bringing unity of an advanced state with the most backward state of UP in communal conflagration resulted in creating a Modi model of development which is showing its glaring cracks and it is on verge of a precipice which might collapse on any day. 

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Chatterjee, (2009)Social Conflict and the Neo Liberal City: A case study of Hindu Muslim violence in India, Transactions of the Institutional of British Geographer, New Series, vol 34,  no2.
Breman, J (1996) Footloose Labour: Working in India’s informal economy;
_______(2002)_ Work and Life in the Informal Economy: the Everyday Politics of labour 28 August , Economic and Political Weekly
-----------(2015)Down and Out in Ahmadabad, 21March, Economic and Political Weekly.

Prof. Radhakanta Barik, Retired Professor in Political science and a story writer in Odiya.

Nov 22, 2018

Prof Radhakanta Barik [email protected]

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