Is More Proof Required to Debunk the Gujarat Model?
IN his column ‘No Proof Required,’ Surjit Bhalla has been regularly deriding left and secular intellectuals who oppose the fascistic corporate Hindutva ideology represented by Narendra Modi and the BJP. Last week he once again defended the indefensible by calling upon the critics of Modi to ‘give evidence’ against the Gujarat model (The Indian Express, April 26, 2014). He says that the criticism of Modi is “just name calling” and based on no hard evidence. This attempt of Mr Bhalla to dismiss the substantive critiques of the ‘Gujarat Model’ by polemical and shrill arguments is symbolic of a larger rightwing corporate supported ideological backlash that accompanies the polarising campaign of the RSS and BJP led Hindutva forces in the last part of the election process.
Apart from Mr Bhalla, other prominent right wing economists have also made a bee line for Mr Narendra Modi, some even suggesting that they are ready to be accommodated within the new regime when Modi comes to power.
This consolidation and alliance of the corporate media and rightwing intelligentsia shows that the continuous demystification of Mr Modi and his Gujarat Model has affected the credibility of the BJP and its supporters. The mobilisation of right wing corporate ideologues to defend the Modi model is part of a fight back strategy of a rattled BJP. It is therefore necessary to answer Mr Bhalla as his arguments lack evidence and are merely an ideological defence of the Gujarat model.
FUDGED FIGURES AND
BOGUS POVERTY LINES
In his latest attempts, Mr Bhalla has picked the development of the scheduled tribes (ST) as an indicator to show that the Gujarat model of inclusive development is working for the most deprived sections of society. For doing this, he has used the much debated poverty figures and made a comparison between Rajasthan, Assam, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat (all states with over 10 percent tribal population in 1999-2000). He argues that Gujarat has one of the best records in the reduction of tribal poverty under Modi’s regime.
However, the fallacy of this argument is exposed if one reads the footnote to the table which states that the poverty rate is calculated at the approximate “consumption level of Rs 37 per person per month at March 2014 prices.” One wonders why and how Mr Bhalla has calculated this ridiculous estimate.
Alternatively, if one takes a more realistic view, the direct poverty estimates based on the required nutritional requirement of 2100 calories per capita per day for urban areas and 2200 calories per capita per day for rural areas show that more than two thirds of the state is poor. As Utsa Patnaik shows, if this calorie requirement was taken into account, then the percentage of the poor in rural Gujarat is 76 percent and in urban areas it is 66 percent for the year 2009-10 (Economic and Political Weekly, October 5, 2013).
This estimate is higher than the direct poverty estimates calculated by her for the states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh in the same years. Hence the performance of the state in terms of poverty reduction is far worse than being projected by right wing ideologues of the Gujarat model.
IGNORING THE POOR
CONDITION OF TRIBALS
Mr Bhalla’s article takes on the criticism made by a known Modi critic, Shiv Vishvanathan, and says that his qualitative evidence does not match with the statistical proof of Gujarat’s performance on the development of scheduled tribes. But in his own exaggerated advocacy of the Gujarat model, Mr Bhalla ignores the plethora of evidence that exists regarding the abysmal performance of the state under the Modi government. This can be seen when we compare the performance of Gujarat with the other four states (taken by Mr Bhalla) with respect to the sex ratios amongst schedule tribes. See Table 1 alongside.
Comparative Scheduled Tribe
Sex Ratio (Census 2001 and 2011)
Table 1 above shows that Gujarat has performed worse than all states except Rajasthan as far as the sex ratio among the schedule tribes is concerned. It is far behind the state of Odisha which is considered a ‘least developed state’. It is also significant that the performance of the other BJP ruled state, Madhya Pradesh is not much better. This shows that patriarchal ideologies within scheduled tribes have been strengthened with the growing penetration of Hindutva forces. Further the overall sex ratio of the state has actually worsened between 2001 and 2011 and declined by one percentage from 920 to 919. This shows that not only the scheduled tribes, but women across castes are also not benefiting from the Gujarat model.
If we take the schedule tribe literacy rates, a second indicator of socio-economic development, than the situation is as we can see in Table 2 alongside.
Decadal Change in ST Literacy Rates
and Gap with Others (Census 2001 and 2011)
Percentage decadal increase 2001-2011
Percentage gap between ST and others, 2011
The census figures show that though the state may have a relatively better performance than the all-India performance and that of the other four states in terms of the ST literacy rates, the gap between the STs and other social groups is still far higher in Gujarat than any other state. In contrast, though Rajasthan performed worse in terms of overall ST literacy, the gap between the STs and other social groups is far narrower than in Gujarat. This shows that the inequality between the STs and the others is higher in Gujarat than in many other states.
CORPORATE HINDUTVA &
DISPOSSESSION OF ST’S
The above mentioned social indicators of tribal development need to be seen in a material context where the corporate policies of the Gujarat government are leading to increasing dispossession of the STs. The long term impact of these measures ensured that the alliance between a stratum of elite adivasis and the agents of the ruling BJP regime has only been strengthened. The impact of this has been seen in the last decade since the post-Godhra riots. (See Table 3 alongside.)
Comparative Decadal Change in the
Adivasi Landholding Pattern in Gujarat, 1999-2011
Period of Change
1999-2000 to 2004-05
2004-05 to 2010-11
1999-2000 to 2010-11
Source: Computed from different rounds of NSSO.
The table above clearly shows that the rate of increase in the landlessness of adivasis in Gujarat is nearly twice the rate of increase in adivasi landlessness at the all-India level between 1999-2000 and 2010-2011. What is even more significant is the fact that most of this landlessness occurred between 2004-05 and 2010-11, thus highlighting and recording the growing dispossession amongst the adivasis in the state. The growing inequities within the adivasis are seen from the fact that the number of marginal land holdings registered a significant decline whereas the decline in large and medium size holdings was negligible. Small and marginal farmers are being rendered landless. This can be seen from Table 4 alongside, based on the changes in the social structure as have been brought out by the tables of the Census of India, 2011, on tribes.
Decadal Changes in Adivasi Occupational Structure, 2001-2011
Source: Computed from Census of India 2001 and Census of India 2011.
As shown above, the decade after the post-Godhra riots has resulted in sharp rises in agricultural labour, indicating both land acquisition and dispossession amongst the adivasis. Though the rate of decline in the cultivators is slightly less in comparison with the all-India average, the rise in the agricultural workforce is higher than the all-India average. The picture presented by this table clearly points to the marginalisation and dispossession of the workforce in Gujarat, reflecting the nature of jobless growth and displacement that has occurred during Modi’s rule.
It is clear that all the evidence presented here has been ignored by the ‘intellectuals’ who are striving hard to be accepted as the ideologues of corporate capitalism that is supporting the BJP campaign. However, their writings are based on manipulated data and fudged facts rather than on hard evidence about the social impacts and penury caused by the Gujarat model. Mr Bhalla’s article suffers from the same malady. Rather than accusing the “self-proclaimed intellectuals” of name calling and lack of “empirical evidence in their accusations,” ideologues such as Mr Bhalla should first look at their own evidence and stop covering up their opportunistic political stances.