Gujarat’s Growth: Myth and Reality


Narendra Modi and his ‘Gujarat model of development’ have emerged as the new roadmap that India should adopt if it has to keep the pace of ‘development’ going. Day in and day out Modi is being eulogised for his vision and leadership who has made Gujarat, where he has been in power for a 3rd term, into a model state worth emulating, an example whose time has come to be adopted at the national level. The Bhartiya Janata Party has made up its strategy to contest the 2014 general elections based on Modi’s charisma. The National Democratic Alliance or whatever is left of this centre-right alliance, is reciting the NaMo (short for Narendra Modi) mantra, hoping that it will catapult them into power once again.

Several economists, journalists as well as academicians have been writing in praise of Gujarat’s impressive growth and development. Noted social activist and editor of Manushi, Madhu Kishwar, wrote “Modinama” (Chronicles of Modi) praising Modi and his development agenda. In one of her articles titled “Neither a Rambo Act Nor a Publicity Gimmick Modi Led Relief Efforts in Uttarakhand” she wrote “Modi has succeeded in conveying to the citizens of Gujarat that the Government is always there to serve them. That is why the first response of Gujaratis anywhere in the world is to contact the CM's office if they are caught in a calamity. He himself acts with lightning speed, anticipating problems and finding advanced solutions rather than being overwhelmed by them.” She sang paeans for the Gujarat Chief Minister. On September 22, 2012, Arvind Panagariya, a professor at Columbia University wrote an article in the Times of lndia titled “The Gujarat miracle: There is no denying the major economic advances the state has made under Narendra Modi”. In this article Arvind stated that: “Gujarat has been generally more prosperous in the post-Independence era and has performed impressively under chief minister Narendra Modi. Critics who insist on viewing everything related to Modi through the 2002 lens and, thus, fail to separate their economics from politics have fallen short of 20/20 vision.” Then there are a host of academicians from various US universities who have been vouching for the growth of Gujarat. Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati, known for his neo-liberal outlook and vehement support of free trade, has given a certificate to Modi and his ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ project, stating that "the ... [state] is on the right track and its economic growth will (and has) automatically lead to social development."

In recent years Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has modelled himself as the face of development distancing himself unsuccessfully from his ultra-right Hindutva stand. But, as one examines the facts since Modi came to power in 2001, the entire account appears to be more myth and, many times, contrary to what is being projected.

What is development and how can one measure it? Development cannot be measured only on the condition of roads or on the duration of the power supply; though these can be an indicative measurement they cannot be the sole criteria as portrayed by the media and the various government- sponsored audio visuals meant for mass consumption. Going beyond these two criteria another measurement that is propagated is the GDP (or Net State Domestic Product (State NDP) for states) growth rate, which the Government agencies make the common man believe to be the sole measurement for development and prosperity. Since the implementation of the neo-liberal programme in India, the rate of GDP growth has assumed a larger than life proportion. Today it seems that the rate of GDP growth is the only yardstick to judge the health of an economy.

In macro economics, there are several indicators that can be used to gauge progress other than the GDP. For example the per capita income, rate of unemployment, access to health or Gini Score (income parity) are much better ways of measurement. The majority of the people will agree that the Human Development Index (HDI) is a much better way to measure development. The United Nations has recently adopted a new tool, the multidimensional poverty index (MPI). It has 10 indicators that include access to cooking fuel, access to clean water, schooling, electricity, nutrition and sanitation. Unfortunately in India state specific MPI data is not available from reliable sources.

The annual growth rate of Gujarat between 1995-2000 and 2001-10, increased from 8.01% to 8.68%, but other states like Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, also had similar growth rates. In fact Gujarat was ranked second after Rajasthan (8.34%) between 1995-2000, and it slipped to third place after Uttarakhand (11.81%) and Haryana (8.95%) in the period 2001-10. If we compare the NDP Growth Factor, then Bihar comes out as the outright winner leaving Gujarat at 5th place (see table 1, below).

Interestingly, Bihar and Orissa, the two most backward and poverty-stricken states, have also shown growth rate increases from 4.70% and 4.42% in the first period to 8.02% and 8.13% in the second period respectively. Even smaller states like Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have registered growth of 11.01% and 8.96%. During 2001-04, the rate of industrial growth for Gujarat was 3.95%, and during 2005-09, it was 12.65%, which appears to be a phenomenal jump, but this growth pales compared to some other states. During these sub-periods, industrial growth for Orissa was 6.4% and 17.53%; for Chhattisgarh 8.10% and 13.3%; and for Uttarakhand 18.84% and 11.63%. Thus, the hitherto industrially backward states have far surpassed Gujarat.

Table 1


NDP in 2005-06 (crore INR) NDP in 2010-11 (crore INR)

Growth Multiple

















































* NDP data for these states was not available for the last year, i.e. 2010-11, hence their NDP figures of 2004-05 and 2009-10 have been considered (instead of 2005- 06 and 2010-11) to allow a five-year window of comparison.

Source: Asian Tribune, 8-12-2012, Myth of Gujarat’s Economic Performance under Modi, Dr Rahul Pandey

We now come to another much-publicised yardstick of neo-liberal protagonists – Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). In this segment too, Gujarat is not a leading state. During 2006-10, MoUs [Memorandum of Understanding] worth Rs. 5.35 lakh crore with a potential of 6.47 lakh jobs was signed by Gujarat. On the other hand Maharashtra signed MoUs worth Rs 4.20 lakh crore with a potential to generate 8.63 lakh jobs, while Tamil Nadu signed MoUs of Rs 1.63 lakh crore, where they expect to generate about 13.09 lakh jobs. To top it all off, even states like Chhattisgarh and Orissa have signed MoUs worth Rs 3.61 lakh crore and Rs 2.99 lakh crore more than Gujarat, without any of Modi’s much-hyped industrial jamborees. So we see Modi’s hype failing in every sector, so dear to the supporters of market led growth.

Now let us see how Gujarat ranks in the HDI parameters. The literacy rate in Gujarat is 79.3%, which is more than India’s average of 74.04%. But if one ranks the state according to the growth rate it is in the 12th position. If one ranks by total percentage of literacy, then Gujarat is also ranked in the 12th position. At the top of the literacy chart is Kerala with 93.9%, which is almost 13 per cent higher.

In terms of children going to formal educational institutions, The National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data portrays even a grimmer picture. In the age-group 5-14, the attendance rate of Gujarat’s Hindus per 1,000 persons was found to be one of the lowest in India; only two major states are found to have worse rates on this score – Bihar (76.6 per cent) and Jharkhand (75.7 per cent). Again Kerala stands at the very top, with 96.9 per cent Hindu children attending an educational institution in this age group, followed by Himachal Pradesh (96.5 per cent), Maharashtra (95.0 per cent), and Andhra Pradesh (94.2 per cent). The all-India average is 87.7 per cent. In the same age group only 76.7 per cent of Gujarat’s Muslim children attended educational institutions, which is just above Bihar (74.6 per cent) and Uttar Pradesh (76.3 per cent), while the all India average is 82.3 per cent.

In the higher age group, 15-19, the performance is even worse. The number of Hindus attending an educational institution in this age group is just 42.0 per cent, and the only state that has a lower rate is Odisha with 41.6 per cent; even Bihar with 56.9 per cent and Jharkhand with 58.2 per cent are above Gujarat. For Muslim children of the same age group the figure is just 32.5 per cent, which is the last in India; even states like Bihar and Jharkhand with 56.9 per cent and 58.2 per cent respectively have scored better in this field.

Another major yardstick of inclusive growth is life expectancy; here also Gujarat’s bleak performance continues. The average life expectancy in the state is 64.1 years, which is just ahead of India’s 63.5 years. Gujarat’s rank is 10th in all of India, and Kerala is way ahead with an average life expectancy of 74 years. Vaccination coverage is another indicator of general infrastructure and facilities available to people. Gujarat is ranked 19th in vaccination, Tamil Nadu with 81% tops the chart while Gujarat is down at 45%.

A report titled “Reducing Inequality: Learning Lessons for Post-2015 Agenda – India Case Study”, released by Save the Children, reveals another dismal exclusionary growth model of Modi’s rule. The report says, “Gujarat, among many other states, has seen a fall in Calorie intake. In fact, rural Gujarat’s Calorie intake is worse than the national average. To quote from the report, “In the rural sector, Punjab had the highest per capita Calorie intake of 2223 Cal while Jharkhand had the lowest of 1900 Cal. It is interesting to note that some of the poorer states like Orissa and Uttar Pradesh had Calorie intakes higher than the national average while comparatively richer states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu had lower than the national average rate of Calorie intake. Comparison with 1993-­94 levels reveals that barring Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, all states have witnessed a fall in Calorie intake in the rural sectors.” It adds, “Gujarat, which has lower than average Calorie intake levels in 2009-10 also shows lower than average decline in Calorie intake from 1993-94.”

Coming to per capita Calorie intake, the report finds Gujarat’s performance dismal. It states,

“For the rural sector, the national average of 2489 Kcal per consumer Unit is way below the basic requirement of 2700 Kcal per diem. However, there are many states that do have per consumer unit Calorie consumption above the nominal requirement. Himachal Pradesh has the highest per consumer unit Calorie consumption of 3020 Kcal. Of the major states, Punjab and Rajasthan have above norm Calorie intake as well. Some of the poorer states like Orissa and Uttar Pradesh have above the national average per consumer unit intake, although lower than the nominal requirement. Some of the well off states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu show lower than national average per consumer Calorie figures in the rural areas.”

While the health care sector has a dismal track record, when it comes to delivering the service to the Dalits, the discrimination becomes even more glaring. According to some field studies undertaken,1 “Most children experienced caste-based discrimination in dispensing of medicine (91%) followed by the conduct of the pathological test (87%). Of 1,298 times that the 200 Dalit children were given any medicine, they experienced discrimination on 1,181 occasions. Nearly nine out of 10 times Dalit children experienced discrimination while receiving or getting the medicine or a pathological test conducted. While seeking referral about 63 per cent of the time Dalit children were discriminated. Also, nearly six in every 10 times Dalit children were discriminated during diagnosis and while seeking referral. As regards the discrimination by providers such as doctors, lab technicians, ANMs/ VHWs/ LHVs, and AWWs, the grassroots level workers like ANMs and AWWs were more discriminating than higher order providers such as doctors.”

It further mentioned, “More than 93% of the time Dalit children have experienced discrimination at their hands while about 59% of the time they experienced some form of discrimination by doctors. Pharmacists discriminated the most while giving the medicine and least in making them wait for their turn. However, lab technicians seem to be most discriminating in terms of making them wait (91% of the time) and least in the conduct of the pathological test (71% of the time).” It adds,

“While most other providers discriminate mostly when it comes to touching the Dalit child, probably due to the nature of the work which lab technicians do, ‘touching’ becomes inevitable. They need to position a Dalit child’s body part for an x-ray, or a blood test, for instance, as much as they do for the others. So this form of discrimination is ‘less’ practiced by them.”

Another study revealed2 exclusion and missing of millions of Dalit children from polio vaccination. Unvaccinated Dalit children generally come from groups with less access to proper nutrition and sanitation, creating weakened immune system response to convert the polio vaccine. “Moreover, some Dalit sub-castes – the Valmiki in particular, who number 500,000 in Gujarat – have a higher exposure to activities at risk for transmission of the poliovirus due to their traditional work in manual scavenging, including the removal of human faeces by hand from dry latrines.” Says the study: It is to be noted that 50,000 people are employed in the manual removal of human waste in Gujarat; this is another blot on the state that prides itself on its 21st century facilities.

Almost 15.8 per cent of children from the Dalit community are missed in polio vaccination campaigns, as compared to only 6 per cent from non- Dalit children. Nearly one out of six Dalit children goes unvaccinated, which is nearly two and a half times higher than for non-Dalits in comparable geographical communities. Despite the widespread pulse polio campaign in India, this evidence points out that many children from traditionally marginalised communities living in far-flung areas remains unvaccinated. Although some non-Dalit children are also missed, the very high rate for Dalits points the finger at deliberate exclusion of the Dalit community by the government.

Modi, as has been said in the beginning, is now aiming to lead the country with his so called development agenda. He has been criss-crossing the country showcasing his achievement; something that he has mentioned umpteen times and wants to replicate on an all-India level. The track record of his regime variously touted by the proponents of neo-liberalism as a Hindu Laboratory, and model for the new India is nothing but gloomy. In this article we have only analysed the statistical figures where he has claimed success. The situation is even bleaker when we analyse the job situation, industrialisation and labour rights; in the latter Modi has openly sided with the capitalists and more than once has declared his full backing for neo­liberal governance.

If the Modi model specifies anything, it is the creation of a growth model completely opposed to ideas of equality or judicious distribution of gains. The model, instead of generating conditions conducive for human development has only promoted crony capitalism. How much this propaganda will be accepted by the Indian people who are day in and day out copiously being fed with lies by the corporate media is something to be watched.


1 The studies are by Sanghamitra S Acharya, assistant professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and carried out for UNICEF and the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, Delhi, jointly by the East-West Management Institute and the Navsarjan Trust, Ahmedabad. These studies highlighted how “access to civic amenities and social facilities” related to health is an issue of “concern in the context of the Dalits.” Acharya’s study, “Access to Health Care and Patterns of Discrimination: A Study of Dalit Children in Selected Villages of Gujarat and Rajasthan” (2010), states, “Although the constitutional provisions have been in place for penalising those practising discrimination, yet it continues to thrive. Discrimination against Dalits has metamorphosed over time from overt, open and accepted norm to subtle, invisible, hidden and ‘unaccepted’ behaviour.”

2 “Blind Spots to the Polio Eradication Endgame: Measuring the Limitations of Polio Vaccination Delivery in Dalit Communities in Gujarat, India”.

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