Was Modi's Gujarat glittering?
A narrative of economic growth and development in Gujarat under Modi's leadership helped propel Modi to power nationally. From data on Wikipedia for 2004-2012, Gujarat's GDP growth over this period was above the Indian average. However, the ordinary people of Gujarat paid a price for this growth. When it came to human development, the Gujarat story was much less impressive: economic progress occurred alongside a dramatic rise in the number of severely malnourished children in the state. (Modi, bizarrely, suggested that Gujarat's high malnutrition levels were a result of vegetarianism and beauty consciousness.) A large-scale 2009 study by the Navsarjan Trust found that Dalits in Gujarat face widespread discrimination and violence. Instead of acting on these findings, the state government commissioned its own small-scale study to try and counter the findings, which called caste discrimination a matter of "perceptions".
The high level of investment in Gujarat was often used by Modi supporters as a marker of Gujarat's success and evidence of the trust the business community had in Modi's government. But it came in the context of high borrowing and generous incentives to industry which sometimes amounted to a large give-away of public money to private companies such as Tata, and also Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Essar Steel and Adani Power Ltd (APL). Corruption in Gujarat, often connected with closed-door deals with big business, is discussed in the next FAQ.
The story of Gujarat's growth and development is analysed in detail in the book Poverty Amidst Prosperity: Essays on the Trajectory of Development in Gujarat (Aakar Publication), reviewed and summarised here and here for example. Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen criticised the Gujarat model of development for "lower educational pace, lower life expectancy, greater gender inequality, a busted healthcare system..." Expert Christophe Jaffrelot pointed out that Gujarat's growth relies heavily on indebtedness, and that certain marginalised groups, such as Adivasis, suffered particularly as a result of the state's policy. Several commentators noted that development occurred alongside displacement of marginalised populations, and severe environmental degradation.
To summarise Gujarat's development: (i) where Gujarat performed well, this continued a prior trajectory from before the BJP was in power; (ii) the Gujarat model involves large tranfers of land and wealth from the poor to big business as "sweeteners" for investment in the state; (iii) economic indicators are often unimpressive when compared to other high-performing states; (iv) Gujarat's record is poor on matters of human development and social and environmental justice. Taking these data and commentaries into account it appears that the "Glittering Gujarat" story was largely a creation of the Modi PR machine.
Gujarat in our news pages.