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In reality, what Modi does is not what Modi boasts

Neena Vyas, April 11, 2013
PTI File Photo

It is elementary Dr Watson. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, not in a loud declaration of being baked by a master chef, nor in detailing an elaborate recipe for its preparation.

Sherlock Holmes may well have made this comment to Dr Watson after hearing Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi speak at two different venues on April 8 in Delhi.

 At a FICCI ‘ladies’ meet, Modi, naturally, chose to speak on women empowerment. And in the process was careful to hide the fact that his governance record in Gujarat since 2001 had little to show by way of gender development. And at the second event he focussed on a new mantra – minimum government, maximum governance – forgetting that Gujarat is a case of maximum government with minimum results in key sectors.


 To the ‘ladies’ Modi mentioned that in the 18th century new-born girl babies were ‘drowned in milk,’ but in the 21st century would-be parents in India preferred to kill their unborn female children in the womb.

While he posed as the champion of the girl-child, what he did not say was that under his watch proud Gujaratis were killing more unborn female babies than before: the sex ratio in Gujarat worsened from 921 (per 1000 male births) in 2001 to just 918 in 2011. A marginal decline one could say, but significant since in that decade, the overall all India sex ratio improved from 933 to 940.

Several states, some less developed than Gujarat, put up a better performance to help move the all India figure in a positive direction: Assam improved sex ratio by 22 points from 932 to 954; Andhra Pradesh by 14 points from 978 to 992; Madhya Pradesh by 10 points from 920 to 930 thanks perhaps to the state government’s ladli laxmi yojana; and several other states like Karnataka, Himachal, Maharashtra bettered their 2001 sex ratio statistics by 3 to 4 points.

 Modi spoke about matri shakti the power of the mother. But clearly, on the ground Modi’s government has not paid enough attention to reduction of maternal mortality rates. National Sample Surveys establish that in Gujarat MMR fell by 12 points between 2004-06 and 2007-09 from 160 to 148. But in the same period both Kerala and Tamil Nadu reduced maternal mortality rates by 14 points each and Maharashtra brought it down by a good 26 points from 130 to 104. For every 100 maternal deaths in Maharashtra there are 145 in Gujarat!

Increase in suicides

Not only are more female babies killed and more mothers die in Gujarat relative to comparable states, the state’s record in female suicides is also not anything that Modi would like to shout about. The National Crimes Record Bureau statistics showed a 10.5 per cent increase in suicides in Gujarat in 2007 (with 28 per cent of these suicides by housewives) as compared to the All India increase of 2.2 per cent that year.

 To understand Modi-style women empowerment, try to digest the hard fact he gave Mayaben Kodnani a ministerial berth as the women and child development minister when she was already facing charges of presiding over the gruesome massacres of women and children and large-scale rape in her constituency Naroda Patiya during the 2002 carnage. Additional principal judge Jyotsna Yagnik effectively gave her a 28-year sentence and pronounced her as the ‘kingpin’ of the carnage. Modi’s Mayaben must be the only minister for women in the world to have earned this distinction.

If Rahul Gandhi, the possible prime ministerial candidate of the ruling party in the 2014 election battle, has shown a penchant for being able to put his finger on the problem without offering any solutions, Modi seems to boast about the Gujarat development model he has perfected while ignoring the poor social indicators it has produced.

At the second event in Delhi – Think India Dialogue of Network 18 – Modi dwelt at length on his appealing formula of  ‘minimum government’ and ‘maximum governance.’ But has his government in Gujarat for the last 13 years achieved ‘minimum’ but effective governance in critical areas of education, health and wages? And anyone in his party in Gujarat will tell you that Modi’s is a ‘maximum government’ with all powers centralised in his hands.

 Over the decade 2001 to 2011 Census figures show Gujarat has dropped to 17th from 18th state rank in literacy. In Per Capita Net State Domestic Product (PCNSDP) Gujarat held the 4th rank among states in 1996-97 and since then it has hovered between 6th and 7th rank whereas Maharashtra has climbed from the 3rd to 2nd rank and Haryana to the number one position as Punjab declined from the 1st position in 2001-02 to 4th in 2007-08.

 As for health indicators, life expectancy in Gujarat is 10 years lower than in Kerala and about the same as the national average despite its claims about being a developed state. Several National Sample Surveys have indicated that malnutrition affects about 44.6 per cent of the people and 66 per cent children in the 0 to 5 years age group suffer from anaemia.

 Planning Commission figures indicate poverty in Gujarat reduced from an incidence of 31.6 per cent to 23 per cent between 2004-05 and 2009-10, a drop of 8.6 percentage points (using the Tendulkar methodology at constant prices). In the period by the same methodology in Maharashtra poverty came down by 14 percentage points to 24.5 per cent. Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu both reduced poverty by 12 percentage points during this period.

 The harsh fact is that under Modi – he has ruled Gujarat for 13 years while Manmohan Singh has been prime minister for nine – his state has not been able to bag the number one state ranking in any socio-economic indicator.

 Sherlock Holmes may well have asked Modi: In which area Mr Modi, has your minimum government produced maximum result?

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