As far as eating factories, roads and electricity is concerned, people in Gujarat do not need to do that. People in Gujarat will have enough jobs if there are proper roads, electricity and factories so as to earn decent and respectable livelihoods to afford balanced and healthy diet and have access to other facilities like education and healthcare. Gujarat’s growth is not all about big industries, even though headlines would suggest as such. Read this excellent piece from Mint – “The Surat Fashion Matrix“. While Tirupur and Coimbatore are losing out, thanks to very poor power availability and environmental challenges, Surat and Gujarat are winning.
While criticising the HDI of Gujarat, the same people fail to ask similar questions of other governments, both at the states and the Centre. Often it is written that Modi’s treatment of minorities has been unfair without providing any basis for the same except that in 2002 riots took place. See what Sachar Committee has to say about Muslims in West Bengal, where BJP has virtually no presence and only secularists like the Left Front, the Congress and the Trinamool Congress dominate the political firmament.
Twice senior policemen have been assassinated in broad daylight in Kidderpore, and 48% of prisoners in jails are Muslims (when their share of population is 27%). The HDI of Muslims in the state? The less said, the better. Read Sunanda K Datta Ray’s “Bengal’s rough and tough underbelly“. Without economic growth, there can be no upliftment and improved HDI – whether for any community or for the entire population of a state or of a country. And Modi talks about that growth and not about reservations, financial and other hand outs. No noblesse oblige for him. The fruits of growth and better infrastructure are available to everyone irrespective of gender, caste, creed or religion.
As much as critics would like to allege that the Gujarat or Modi model is based on just marginalisation of Muslims, the Gujarat model is about good and efficient governance. During my visit in November we had appointments with two bureaucrats. An hour before each of the meetings, I received calls from their office reconfirming the appointments and also a SMS on my cell on the time and venue of the meeting. Which other state have you experienced this efficiency? I have no idea whether such efficiency will continue after Modi ceases to be the CM of Gujarat one day, but this in itself is phenomenal. Corruption is less. A Cato Institute study recently rated Gujarat as the No 1 state in economic freedom. Ask any of your friends who have had any kind of business dealings, small or large, in Gujarat and they will tell you that corruption is significantly less in Gujarat than in any other state in India.
Rohit Pradhan writes, “India can survive poor governance for the next few years but what it cannot survive is the further estrangement of its Muslim minority.” Indeed after the loot of the last five years, as evident from the daily scams that are being unearthed, I am not too sure that India can “survive” another five or ten years of such loot. I fervently pray that whoever comes to power next believes in better governance and less loot. And is the Muslim community feeling estranged just because of Modi? I have no doubt that India is much polarised today along religious lines. While most Indians have moved beyond 1992 an 2002, there is a segment which derives its sustenance from dividing India and they will not allow the fault lines to heal.
Last November when I was in Gujarat for few days, one person (representing one of the leading industry associations) was reluctant to meet me since I had written a few pieces in praise of Gujarat’s development story. Sensing that finally I had found someone who will give me the other side of the story (beyond the clichés of 2002 riots), I convinced this person to meet me. And now I quote him, “There is a lot of hype and exaggeration (in the Gujarat story) even as Gujarat has done a lot of very good things.” There you have it. Of course, there is hype and PR, but then that is the job of PR. The other thing he mentioned was that enough jobs were not getting created and SMEs were not growing as fast as they could. Note that the adjective is enough, when India has enjoyed jobless growth for the last five years and more thank to the UPAs policies.
A final word on what even some Modi supporters feel is a valid criticism against him – he has not expressed regret for what happened in 2002 when he was the chief minister. I have felt that he probably didn’t apologise because that wouldn’t suit his constituency in the state and also he didn’t want an apology to be used as an admission of guilt by his numerous critics. But a recent article by William Dalrymple – Apologising for Amritsar is pointless. Better redress is to never forget - has me rethinking. If Modi is proven guilty in the court of law, let him get the severest of punishment under whatever provisions of the penal code he is convicted. That will be the best lesson to ensure that something like what happened in Delhi in 1984 and Gujarat in 2002 (both Godhra and post-Godhra) is not repeated. But this charade of apologizing 20, 30 and 200 years later for electoral and/ or trade gains is something that can be stopped. The Congress apologised for 1984 and at the same time gave tickets to the accused for elections even in 2009 till a Sikh journalist threw a shoe at Chidambaram. What are such apologies worth and why demand them? Meanwhile judge the Gujarat model for what it has achieved and for it has not and not on the imagined views of 200 million Indians across India or molestation of women protesters in a Delhi police station.
Anirudha Dutta is the former head of research at CLSA. Now spending his time with his family and pursuing his interests in writing while wondering what else to do.