The social indicators in a state of 60 million people tell a different tale from the Vibrant Gujarat story being pushed by Mr Narendra Modi. Economist Vidyut Joshi, former vice-chancellor of Bhavnagar University, notes with regret that the high economic growth in Gujarat has been at the expense of basic human development.
Infant mortality, one of the best indicators of the success of a government, is a low ranking 11th with 44 deaths per 1,000 live births. Dr Joshi says, “The Unicef’s State of the Children Report 2012 confirms that every second child under the age of five in Gujarat is undernourished and three out of four are anaemic. The gender ratio was 921 in 2001 but this has declined to 919 in 2011 while the girl child ratio has worsened from 964 in 2001 to 890 in 2011.”
A report published by the Union ministry of statistics and programme implementation, Children India 2012: A Statistical Appraisal, emphasised that between 40 and 50 per cent of children in Gujarat are underweight. Other states in this low weight category are Meghalaya, Chattisgarh, UP and Orissa.
Environmental and educational activist Mahesh Panday, director of Paryawaran Mitra, said, “While the BJP claims to have achieved 100 per cent enrolment in primary schools, the UNDP has ranked it at the 18th position in keeping children in schools.”
Mr Panday points out that Gujarat has decided to shut down more than 7,000 primary schools. He said, “The reason being given to us is that less than 100 children enrolled in each of these schools. But most of these schools cater to children hailing from small villages with small populations. No one is asking what will the future be of these kids once they lose the neighbourhood school.”
The Gujarat Human Development report shows that female literacy has risen less than three per cent between 2001-11 while male literacy has increased by over 7 per cent in the period.
“In the Gujarat Human Development report, Gujarat had 19th position in terms of female literacy and ninth position in terms of health indicators. Following this, the state opted to do districtwise studies but the results have not been made public,” Dr Joshi said.
Primary school teachers in villages are paid `3,500 a month. “How many teachers are willing to come and teach in villages at these low rates,” Mr Pandya asks.
“The situation in primary health centres is no better. Doctors in rural areas are being paid `10,000 per month for the last 10 years. Local doctors are not willing to man PHCs and so the government has been reduced to employing doctors from UP,” he added.
In a move to reduce the number of government engineers and doctors, no Public Service Commission exam has been held for 10 years. There result is the state has stopped hiring engineers and doctors who are all perforce forced to join private service.
Environmentalists say that Gujarat’s economic boom has created environmentally dead zones. Many of its cities have seen pollution reach critical levels. These include Ankleshwar and Vapi which rank amongst the most polluted cities in India.. The rivers are going the same way. The National Water Quality Programme led by the Central Pollution Control Board positions the Sabarmati river, the Khari and the Amlakhadi as being the most polluted rivers.
The other indicators are damning. Census 2011 shows that 67 per cent of rural households have no access to toilets; 65 per cent defecate in the open.
While GDP growth under Mr Modi has been around 9 per cent, Dr Joshi points out that it was 16 per cent during the Madhavsinh Solanki and Chimanbhai Patel regimes. “We have organised six Vibrant Gujarat summits but the realisation level of investment has been 25 per cent as per government data.”
How much has a daily labourer gained in this Vibrant Gujarat? According to NSSO 2011 figures, the average wage a labourer in the informal sector in urban areas can expect in Gujarat is `106 against `218 in Kerala.
In rural areas, Punjab ranks the highest at `152 a day while Gujarat ranks 12th at `83.