Hail, Gujarat Model of Development!

| | in Oped

Gujarat, which accounts for six per cent of India's land mass and five per cent of the population, accounts for almost eight per cent of the country's GDP. Do not forget that when Narendra Modi took over as the Chief Minister of the State in 2001, it was still coming to terms with the devastating earthquake in Bhuj. The State achieved a solid average real Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) growth rate of 10 per cent between 2001-2013. GSDP at current prices, in fact, stood at a resounding 20 per cent plus in both 2006 and 2011. Average GSDP growth between 2006 and 2011 stood at a robust 17 per cent. Again GSDP growth rate between 2012 and 2016 stood at 13.6 per cent.

The moot point here is that across different time pockets, Gujarat's GSDP has consistently been higher than the national average with GSDP per capita at Rs 2,14, 285 versus national GDP per capita at Rs 112,432. A testimony to Gujarat's industrial development can be gauged from the fact that while Ankleshwar and Vapi are hubs for chemical units, Surat is the diamond hub, Halol near Vadodara is the automobile hub and Alang, 50 km from Bhavnagar, is home to the largest ship-breaking yard in the world. Kutch, which is home to the Kandla and Mundra ports, a 10,000 MW power plant and two commercial airports, is also the largest cement producing region in India. It is not surprising, therefore, that industry accounts for almost 40 per cent of Gujarat's GSDP. Also, Gujarat accounts for 22 per cent of India's exports with more than 25 per cent of India's sea-borne trade passing through this State. From being India's seventh richest State in per capita GSDP in 1981 to being the third richest in 2014, the much written about ‘Gujarat Model of Development’, is an ode to the extraordinary leadership of Modi.

Agri-growth under a competent Government stood at 11 per cent between 2001 and 2013 and this despite the fact that since its inception in 1960, Gujarat has suffered a drought virtually once in every three year. The district of Kheda is a role model in terms of how farm-led growth and modern technology can co-exist in perfect harmony. With an irrigation coverage of 96 per cent that allows farmers to sow three crops in a year, state-of-the-art cold storage chains that have boosted potato cultivation by 20 per cent, Kheda's contribution to Gujarat  is as sterling as the white dairy revolution led by Amul. Speaking of Amul, what rarely gets mentioned is that the success of the milk cooperative is largely due to the Patidars.

Coming back to development, from transforming Ahmedabad, a former textile hub to the new knowledge hub, setting up the Mundra port and developing the salt marsh of Rann of Kutch into the now famous tourist hub, the Gujarat model has been inclusive in both its intent and execution. This is borne out by the proliferation of 27 schools cum hostels set up by the State Government in Kutch. Again, Rajkot is fast emerging as an education hub given the 18 engineering colleges that have been set up in the last few years. Also, Valsad, famous for its Alphonso mangoes with a predominantly tribal population boasts of gender equality ratio of 96 per cent when it comes to education. In terms of infrastructure, Panchmahal has all the 600 villages connected by metalled roads and 70 per cent of them have all-weather proof roads! Panchmahal stands out as a beacon of good governance and comprehensive development. Ditto Ahmedabad, with perhaps the best bus rapid transit system in the country. Be it the Sarkhej–Gandhinagar highway, the industrial clusters around Sanand and Vithalapur-Mandal-Viramgam or the slum redevelopment programme, Ahmedabad is the fulcrum of the Gujarat model of development, and for good reasons.

There are some who praise the Kerala model, saying it has delivered on social parameters. Well, the best way of measuring inclusive development is the ‘Gini Index’, which tracks the rich-poor wealth divide. A score of zero on the Gini Index reflects complete equality and a score of one complete inequality. Ignorant critics of Gujarat model would do well to note that the Kerala model is a highly inequitable one, with a Gini Index reading of 0.37 and 0.44 for rural and urban Kerala, respectively, as per available estimates from NSSO. On the contrary, the Gini Index reading for rural and urban Gujarat stands at 0.26 and 0.29 respectively, reflecting greater equality. The Gujarat Model of development works, while the Kerala model is nothing but a contrived fairytale, woven by large sections of the Indian and global media with Leftist leanings. What the media folk will not tell you is that as per NCRB data, Kerala has the worst track record when it comes to violent crimes against women. In sharp contrast, Gujarat boasts of districts like Sabarkantha, Valsad, Junagadh and Kheda, which are virtually crime free. State wise data released by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2004-05 shows that while the all-India percentage of those below the poverty line was 27.5 per cent, the figure for Gujarat stood at 16.8 per cent! Interestingly, those below poverty line in urban Kerala was far higher at 20.2 per cent versus 13 per cent in urban Gujarat! Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) fell by a solid 42 per cent from 57 in 2003 to 35 in 2014 led by a sharp drop in IMR in urban Gujarat to barely 23!

Gujarat is a microcosm of what best explains the diversity that is India. For example, Jamnagar, which houses the largest oil refinery in the world, has also witnessed a farming revolution. The Sabarmati waterfront, from being nothing more than a glorified gutter, is now ranked amongst the 100 most innovative projects in the world by KPMG. Unarguably, it is the Sardar Sarovar Project that is a glowing tribute to the foresight of Modi’s model of development. Within 17 days of becoming the Prime Minister, he cleared all pending files related to the Narmada dam that had been deliberately kept in abeyance for 10 years by the erstwhile UPA regime. On June 17 this year, the dam became operational and with that, the multi-purpose SSP is set to now herald India's second green revolution and transform agriculture in Gujarat, from being rain-fed to being canal based. It is a symbol of ‘Gujarati Asmita’. The Gujarat Model of Development works and works big time.

(The writer is an Economist and Chief Spokesperson for BJP-Mumbai)

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