Hollow Claims of Development by DR. MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM (DECEMBER 13, 2007)

GUJARAT POLLS-VI


Modi government’s tall claims of phenomenal economic development don’t stand scrutiny, writes DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM


Mr Narendra Modi’s government in Gujarat has spent enormous sums of money on projecting the image of the chief minister and his alleged accomplishments in economic growth. According to Arjun Modhvadia, the Leader of Opposition in the Gujarat legislative assembly, Mr Modi has conferred “at least ten titles upon himself over the last couple of years.”

This megalomania is typical of all autocrats. He is certainly free to do whatever he likes with himself, but the people of Gujarat have the right to know the amount of public money spent on celebrating each of the titles conferred on him.

Stung by criticism over the 2002 pogrom Mr Modi and his backers started the development refrain. Over the last several months these men have been shouting from the roof tops about his government’s supposed achievements in “development of core sectors”. They have been claiming that Gujarat (rather, Mr Modi himself) is “number one in the country.” That is not the case, in fact.

According to Modhvadia, “had the money spent on photo posters (to build Mr Modi’s image) been spent on spreading literacy Gujarat could have risen to the tenth position in India instead of sticking at sixteenth”. Even the relatively less developed Andhra Pradesh figures above Gujarat in the Annual Economic Survey.

Non-plan expenditure and image building campaigns of Mr Modi are consuming more financial resources today. Expenses on social services have decreased even compared to the last year. Only 31.96 percent of state revenue is being spent on social services this year compared to 34.19 percent last year. To cap it all, whatever development has occurred has mostly benefited the upper classes only.

However, Gujarat has been far ahead of other states in accumulating debt. This state owed a manageable-sized debt of Rs 8,075 crore as recently as in 1999, but it has shot up to a staggering Rs 14,828 crore at present. That makes it the third most heavily debt-burdened state in India. That, according to Mr Modhvadia, makes it only the fourth state in terms of investment, not the first as Mr Modi would have us believe.

The fact remains that the far less talked about Orissa tops the list with an investment of Rs 172,401 crore, with Maharashtra in second and Andhra Pradesh in the third position. Gujarat figures at the fourth position, as stated above. The state’s GDP growth, says Mr Modhvadia, could have been 15 percent in 2003-2004, but it is only 5.1 percent now as against 7.7 to 8 percent all-India average.

A leading magazine which, probably for reason of cornering some state-sponsored advertisement revenue, “adjudged” Mr Modi “Number One Chief Minister” in the country, has rated the state seventh in law and order (2004-2005) eighth in primary health sector, 12th in literacy, seventh in infrastructure development and fifth in agriculture.”

Gujarat is running behind Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in information technology (IT). According to the Leader of Opposition, the only achievement of the state in IT is the launch of GSWAN (Gujarat State Wide Area Network), which was done with a generous help from the Centre. That means even the credit for GSWAN’s establishment does not accrue to this government.

Social aspirations are not Mr Modi’s concern. Despite the big boasts and media hype (often in the form of advertorials and costly ad supplements in newspapers and magazines) 55 percent of tribals remain illiterate and as many as 30 percent families live below the poverty line, 12 lakh young persons are unemployed and 17 lakh out of 96 lakh families have no electricity connection. Meanwhile, the government has been patting itself on the back.

While a relatively “backward” Andhra Pradesh floated irrigation project tenders worth Rs 30,000 crore, Gujarat’s tenders were worth 3,800 crore only. Unmindful of the facts on the ground Mr Modi has been blowing his own trumpet. The wise voter may not be interested in listening to it any longer.


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