Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Gujarat model of development - a summary.

There have recently been several good articles discussing and critiquing the "Gujarat model of development", which has become a key battleground in this election. The discussion centres around theoretical and empirical questions, relies on analysis of data provided by government and NGO sources, and can appear quite complex. However the main conclusions seem to be quite simple. Below is an attempt to summarise these conclusions as briefly and accurately as possible. The original articles are all listed below.

1) Gujarat performs well by some economic indicators. However, almost always, it performed well by these indicators for decades before the BJP came to power. Infrastructure, for example, was already good, and Gross State Product (GSP) was already high. In general, the performance under BJP rule followed the trends of earlier performance. Projection based on earlier data is not an exact science and so there is room to present these findings in different ways; but the overwhelming conclusion seems to be that where Gujarat performs well, this continues earlier trends, and Gujarat's trajectory is comparable to, or weaker than, that of other states such as Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

2) Even by some traditional indicators of economic performance, Gujarat's performance is often dwarfed by other Indian states. Also, Gujarat's increasing Gross State Product (GSP) has been accompanied by spiralling per capita debt. This is connected with the fact that public money and other public resources - notably land - have often been generously offered as "sweeteners" to encourage investment in the state.

3) On the basis of human development indicators, such as levels of malnutrition, sex ratio, and infant mortality, Gujarat's performance is often mediocre or poor. This seems consistent with the fact that Gujarat's development has been geared towards big business and encouraging investment. Other casualties of this development strategy have been labour rights and the environment, with Gujarat topping the list for some of the most polluted regions in the country. Land allocation to industry has displaced many farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, and agricultural workers, with those displaced often belonging to marginalised groups such as Dalits and Adivasis.

4) Although the Gujarat model has seen mixed success at best, it attracts some strong support. The support appears to be driven by:
  • a well-constructed propaganda drive by Modi's powerful and vast PR machine, whose operation and financing is far from transparent. This machine has worked by (i) selecting some figures and ignoring others; (ii) choosing carefully how to present figures, for example without providing contextual information on other similar states, or historical performance pre-dating BJP rule; (iii) sometimes fiddling the data directly, for example presenting pledges of investment as actual investment (it has taken RTI queries to get some of the true data).
  • the vocal support of sections of the wealthy and business communities which have been served well by the Gujarat approach, benefitting directly from the transfer of public wealth to private hands; 
  • sections of the new middle-class in Gujarat with an aggressively neoliberal perspective, who see GSP growth as the only indicator of development which matters, even if it is accompanied by high levels of inequality, poverty and malnutrition. 
References

A Look In The Mirror, Maitreesh Ghatak and Sanchari Roy, Outlook, March 31, 2014.
The Gujarat Model of Development: What would it do to the Indian Economy?, Rohini Hensman, EPW, March 15, 2014.
Decoding Gujarat, parts 1 and 2, Hemantkumar Shah, The Statesman, April 4, 2014.
‘Development’ and the Indian General Elections, Subir Sinha, SOAS blogs, April 9, 2014.
BJP’s money-festo - Modi-festo's Understanding of Environment, Rohit Prajapati, SACW, 8 April.
Gujarat's development pre-dates Modi considerably, Reetika Khera, NDTV blogs, April 8, 2014.

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