Deepal Trivedi (published in The Asian Age)
Nothing is black and white ever but Gujarat’s grey spots are getting frighteningly glaring. Last fortnight validated this again.
Narendra Modi’s beefy rhetoric stressed Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) had put Gujarat as top investment destination of 2008-2009 with 19.91 per cent of the country’s total investment coming to Gujarat in mid-June report.
Chief minister Mr Modi tomtommed on Twitter about being number one in providing vocational training and employment. A state official explained how Gujarat led the nation in providing jobs through employment exchanges. Out of the total jobs provided in India through employment exchanges, he said the highest, 72.77 per cent were provided by Gujarat, he contended. Soon, Gujarat will become the first state to have a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) with bus stands competing in style and functionality with Curitiba, Brazil, which is home to the first and one of the most successful BRT systems in the world.
Did you know that the Gujarat government has promised that all 1,8,000 villages in the state will have all the facilities present in the chief minister’s chamber, that Gujarat will become the first place in Asia where villages will have IT connectivity," the official informed.
Gujarat is the No. 1 state in India when it comes to economic freedom index also. Economic freedom index means absence of government coercion or constraint in the production, distribution or consumption of goods and services beyond the extent necessary for citizens to protect and maintain liberty by itself, he explained adding he was indeed sorry for all those "pseudos" who fail to see Modi beyond 2002 riots. Modi’s vision is more important than his role, if so any in Gujarat riots, he earnestly explained.
Past is past and 2002 is history. Gujarat has moved on, he reasoned.
Admitted it’s a good to have great roads, uninterrupted power supply and world-class mall-multiplex culture besides Golfing societies and plentiful profit churning businesses. It’s a pleasant feeling to be in a state which is number one in so many sectors besides investment, infrastructure and industry. But the bad news refuse to fade in the background.
In fact, several of them. Here are a few samples which are dubbed as stray cases in an otherwise vibrant Gujarat. A 40-year-old pregnant woman went for her check-up to the G.G. hospital in Jamnagar. Two qualified gynaecologists along with the staff pasted a tape on her forehead that screamed her HIV positive status. She was then paraded in different wards of the hospital. Shockingly, none of the medical, paramedical staff who were aware that HIV status cannot be declared this way, objected to the woman’s public parade. The woman got her two-month-old foetus aborted because of her health condition, but the humiliation of public parade with a tape screaming HIV-seropositive will hang forever.
Little before that, a 12th grader, a brilliant science student with great career goals, left her home for tuitions when she was intercepted by three men posing as cops a little away from her home early morning. She and a male co-student were forced in the car and the girl was gang raped for 90 minutes before being dumped at the same spot.
This happened in Surat, Gujarat’s fastest growing economic paradise. The rapists filmed the gang rape on their mobiles. After the arrest, the police recovered about half a dozen "live" gang rape videos from them.
Because Mr Modi scores high on the luck quotient in developed but divisive Gujarat, some local media pithily put it that the rapists were Muslims feebly attempting to spare the state government of any blame about the law and order situation. What followed was worse. In the HIV positive case, the only positive action the state government initiated was to ask the doctors and nurses involved to go on indefinite leave. Sadly, in the last three months, 10 HIV positive persons have committed suicide in Gujarat after they were socially and economically ostracised. The No. 1 state did not offer them enough motivation to continue with their lives.
In Surat, the first response of the police commissioner was that the girl was a soft target for rape because she was with a male co-student. Indirectly hinting at the teenager’s character, the police commissioner craftily justified the gang rape. When Surat literally took him to task, the state government, just to avoid confrontation, transferred the police commissioner, Deepak Swarup.
Here is more to Vibrant Gujarat. The Annual Status of Education Report by Pratham, a non-governmental organisation, points out that Gujarat is worse than Bihar when it comes to education standards. The report, sponsored by Google, Oxfam and Unicef, categorically says that Gujarat students are behind their Bihar counterparts. The percentage of students who can read their textbooks, do basic subtraction, tell time or do basic currency tasks is much lower in Gujarat than in Bihar.
Several other reports also authenticate that Gujarat has been doing miserably in almost every index of human development. Gujarat’s developmental model and module has been questioned and dubbed flawed by several social commentators and researcher who have been casually dismissed as "anti Gujarat" or "pseudo secular". Infant Mortality Rate(IMR) in Gujarat was 69 per 1,000 in 1991 compared to 80 of India. While the national IMR became 58 per 1,000 in 2005, that of Gujarat became 54. So, while India on the whole really did much better to cut down its IMR, Gujarat’s performance was not actually impressive. The gap between Gujarat and India reduced because states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand fared much better than Gujarat. Experts stress IMR is a sensitive indicator of women’s status in general besides being a mirror of healthcare facilities for pregnant women.
A February 2007 Reserve Bank of India report put Gujarat as 17th among 18 large states when it came to social sector budget allocation. With 31.6 per cent budgetary expenditure on social sector, Gujarat dipped from 12th spot in 1991(then there were 15 large states category) to 17th of the 18 large states proving expenditure on social sector had considerably declined in Mr Modi’s regime. In the past, former President Abdul Kalam has also commented on the need for Gujarat to focus more on its social development index.
Mr Modi is described as an iconic leader with innovative thoughts. A leader for whom progress matters more than propaganda. Mr Modi’s resolve is to put Gujarat on top of human development index.
Resolution and reality, however, seems to have a huge gap which is steadily widening.