May 04, 2014

Education & Health in Gujarat

THE state of Gujarat was formed in the 1960s by carving out 17 Gujarati speaking districts that were part of the erstwhile Bombay state. Gujarat played an important role in the economic history of India. It is one of the major industrial hubs of India. During the British Raj, the country’s first ever textile mill was established in Gujarat. Surat has been known for diamond cutting and polishing industry, the best of its kind in the world. The state retained its importance during the colonial rule also, even though it cannot be implied that the fruits of industrial development were enjoyed by all sections of the people of Gujarat. At present, the so called Gujarat model of development is being propagandised as the development model required for the whole of India. At the same time, on the other hand, the development model of Kerala, shaped by the Leftist organisations, is viewed with disdain. Against this backdrop, it is therefore necessary to discuss the characteristics of the Gujarat model in the light of hard facts. CORPORATISATION UNLIMITED Before Narendra Modi assumed office in Gujarat, a number of researches had been done on the domestic industrial growth of the state in the early 1990s. The approach to development being followed here was subjected to blistering criticism by many of those studies which also explained how Gujarat was a desired destination for the ultra-rich. However, the trend intensified under the tenure of Narendra Modi, which made Gujarat much dearer to the ultra-rich. The policy of the Modi is government is that labourers have no right to ask for a salary hike. In other short, salaries are to be decided by the Ambanis, the Adanis and their like, and the government is there to take action against the workers who dare ask for salary hikes. Also, Gujarat is one of the states that have allotted the SEZ status to a large number of industries, thus giving them the authority to function without the inconvenience of labour laws existing in the country. While Gujarat is constantly portrayed as the eminently imitable model of development and the most industrial investment friendly state by the media, the latter have been glossing over the most inhuman kinds of exploitation which are being instituted here. The state government has itself been spending money to arrange land for the corporate houses; it has acquired thousands of acres of land and gifted it to various corporate houses on a platter. In Gujarat, there has been an astounding increase in land holding of the corporate houses in the last ten years. On the other hand, there has been a drastic decline in the number of farmers; the proportion of those with up to one hectare of land has decreased from 21.3 percent in 2009-10 to 0.5 percent in 2011-2012. Similarly, the number of farmers having land up to two hectares has come down from 8.8 to 0.7 percent. NEGLECT OF SOCIAL SECTORS As for the reason of backwardness in the education and health sectors, the record of the BJP led state governments reveals that there is no substantial difference between them and the Congress governments in terms of policies. Gujarat is one of the states where the BJP has been in power for a quite long time, and Narendra Modi is personally lording over the state for the last 13 years. Gandhinagar was represented by Lal Krishna Advani for as many as 21 years. But there has been a wide gap between the promises made in the BJP election manifestos and their actual implementation. As for the BJP’s promise of ushering into a realm of peace, there is no need to explain the lie of this promise to those who still carry memories of the infamous Gujarat pogrom of 2002. The condition of health and education in Gujarat is such that it has given rise to a joke --- while an instantly born child in Kerala cries for schooling, expectant mothers in Gujarat cry for going to a hospital. The situation is such that 45 percent of the pregnant women in Gujarat cannot reach hospital at the time of delivery and a majority of them depend upon local midwives while also hoping to find some relief from superstitions and occult practices. While the Gujarat government has itself become the biggest sponsor of superstitions and social evils, it is also responsible for a high rate of infant mortality in the state where 41 infants out of every 1000 die before they are one year old. The maternal mortality rate is 148 for every one lakh deliveries. (The corresponding figures in Kerala are 12 and 81 respectively.) While government intervention is crucial in such matters, and the government has to allot more funds to establish primary health centres and hospitals, Gujarat has a different picture. Here, total spending on the health sector has decreased from 4.25 percent in 1990-95 to 0.77 percent in 2005-2010. Gujarat is lagging behind the rest of the 27 states in allocation of funds for the health sector. Sex ratio is an important indicator of a country’s or a state’s human development index. Gujarat presents a pathetic picture on this score. As per the census reports, sex ratio in Gujarat has declined from 920 in 2001 to 918 in 2011. The sex ratio among children below the age of six is much worse; it is 851 girls against 1000 boys. While the BJP may find some solace from the fact that Gujarat is not alone in this regard, the fact remains that the states that are performing better in the fields of education and health have higher sex ratios as well. While no big discussion is required about the linkage between literate population and development, it is difficult to find a literate person in some of the villages of Gujarat. The district-wise statistics present a dismal picture. For example, 50 percent of the population is illiterate in Dohad district of Gujarat. In terms of literacy, not a single district in Gujarat is comparable to Kerala and Tripura, no matter how hard the advocates of Gujarat model take a dig at the Left ideology. In Gujarat, while there are 18,539 villages, the total number of primary schools is only 7,245. While there are regions where the number of schools is not even half of the total number of villages, there are around half a dozen of schools in a single locality in some other places. In contrast, there are 6,774 primary schools in 1,364 villages in Kerala, while there are 870 villages and 2,084 primary schools in Tripura. In Kerala, one village has even more than five schools. GUJARAT SHINING? The condition of the existing educational institutions in Gujarat also presents quite a dismal picture. According to the 2012 statistics, there are no schools without a roof in Kerala and Tripura. But the numbers of such schools are quite high in states like Rajasthan and Gujarat where tens of thousands of students are getting education in schools that have no roof --- braving scorching heat and drenching in heavy rain or simply sitting home on rainy days. Teacher-student ratio plays an important role in the progress and quality of education. In teacher-student ratio, however, Gujarat is lagging behind other states. This ratio at the higher secondary level is only 52. About high school education, the total number of high school teachers is only 40,048 in Gujarat while it is 47,580 in Kerala. The questions worth asking are: Why was there no increase in the number of teachers in Gujarat which boasts of higher growth in resources than the national average? How many teachers were appointed by the government in the last ten years? And so on. The advocates of Gujarat model have a moral responsibility to answer these questions. The education sector in Gujarat is also marred by high dropout rates. Out of the total admitted to Class I, not even 50 percent complete primary education. Only 36 percent of the children in the corresponding age group are enrolled in higher secondary schools. In Kerala it is 68 percent. Education is still inaccessible to the socially and economically backward children in Gujarat. Educational institutions in Gujarat are also devoid of basic infrastructure facilities such as toilets. While improving the situation requires allocation of more funds, the statistics show that the actual spending on education was much lower in 2013 than in 1995. The budget allocations for education in Gujarat can explain the reason behind its backwardness. According to the school education statistics for 2010-11, published by the ministry of human resource development, only 227 higher secondary schools were run by the government in Gujarat while in Kerala the number was 847. In Gujarat, a majority of the institutions from primary to higher education level are being run by the private, so called self-financing organisations. That is why a large number of students are out of the higher secondary education. The total number of higher secondary students is only 8,45,748 in Gujarat --- out of a total population of more than six crore. It reveals the appalling situation. Kerala, while having half of the population of Gujarat, has a total of 7,11,618 students at the higher secondary level. Gujarat tops among the states in the number of people displaced for the sake of big industrialists and practices like transfer of 1200 acres of land of Gujarat Agriculture University to the Tatas in Ahmedabad are quite common here. But such displacements often prevent the children of displaced people from continuing their education. As regards the general health scenario, according to a report of the Central Pollution Control Board, three among the ten most polluted cities in India are located in Gujarat. Piles of waste are polluting the drinking water and food of the common people in Gujarat. The poor are also being made to bear the brunt of industrial waste produced by the big corporate houses, with no control on the latter. It is evident that Gujarat under Modi does represent development with justice; it represents destruction.