Garv se kaho…

Narendra Modi wants Gujarat to be proud of all that is Gujarati. Does that include the recession, unemployment and drought? Here are some of the real problems silenced by the political rhetoric

DIONNE BUNSHA

Recession
Gujarat’s industrial growth has fallen since the 1990s. It was 11.16 % in 1996-97 and 8.07 % in 1998-99, but dropped to 5.05% in 2000-01. The state domestic product grew by only 1.1 % in 2000-01, as compared to 20 % in 1994-95. Agricultural growth is only one percent, and is very unstable, given the frequency of drought. The communal violence has further deepened the recession. The state lost Rs 25,000 crores in the carnage, according to the Congress. The post-riot recession hit people’s livelihoods, and led nine broke families in Ahmedabad to commit suicide.

Unemployment
In both cities and villages, unemployment has been rising. Four successive years of drought has made agricultural work hard to find. Even those who migrate aren’t finding work easily and have to settle for lower wages. In cities and industrial centers, around 60 per cent of small and medium scale factories are sick, resulting in extensive job losses. Ahmedabad’s textile mills have collapsed over the last decade leaving over one lakh workers jobless. The number of educated unemployed registered with the government increased by 30 per cent in three years, reaching 12.06 lakh in October 2002. Employment in the organized sector has fallen by 10.29 per cent since 1998, according to state government statistics. Employment in the organized sector peaked in 1998 at 17.89 lakh. After that, it dropped to 16.22 lakh in December 2001, the same as it was in 1990. Capital-intensive investment in sectors like chemicals, petrochemicals and refining, have not increased employment opportunities.
The government promised the High Court that it would fill 28,000 job vacancies in the SC/ST quota, but it has not yet done so.

Water Crisis
At present, Saurashtra gets only a few hours of water every two days. All over Gujarat, per capita availability of water has declined from 1,391 cubic metres in 1991 to 1,137 cubic metres in 2000, says economist Indira Hirway. The scarcity is much worse in Saurashtra and north Gujarat. One-third (8,275 villages) of Gujarat’s villages are water scarce. In the past few years, water riots have broken out in various parts of the state like Bhavnagar and parts of Saurashtra. In north Gujarat, overdrilling of borewells has resulted in sharply falling water tables. Water from these wells is contaminated with fluoride. Several people suffer from flourosis, resulting in brittle bones and teeth. Around 2,826 villages have wells contaminated by fluoride. In the industrial areas of south Gujarat, the water is heavily polluted with industrial chemicals. The more prosperous south and central Gujarat, which cover around 20 per cent of the state’s land mass, command over 70 per cent of the state’s water resources.

Power Crisis
The BJP government promised 14 continuous hours of power supply for agriculture, but most of rural Gujarat gets only four to six hours a day. Farmers need at least eight hours of uninterrupted supply for their borewells to function properly and irrigate the fields sufficiently. Power supply is so erratic that many pumpsets are destroyed due to fluctuations. Moreover, many areas receive electricity only at night, forcing farmers to stay up all night in order to irrigate their land. In October, angry farmers spontaneously attacked Gujarat Electricity Board staff in three different places – Jotana in Mehsana district, Nakhatrana in Kutch and Ankleshwar in Bharuch. The BJP government promised 10,000 mW additional electricity, but has failed to produce even a single megawatt, according to the Congress manifesto. The power shortage in the state is around 2,500 mW, the Congress estimates.

Drought
This is the fourth consecutive poor monsoon. Around 80 per cent of the state has got less than half the normal rainfall. More than half of Gujarat’s 225 talukas have received less than 30 per cent of average annual rainfall. Even though 80 per cent of normal sowing was done, it is likely that most of the crop was destroyed. Water levels in Gujarat’s dams dropped to 20 % of storage capacity. In Kutch, only 5 % is available in dams. Due to the elections, the government doesn’t want to acknowledge the problem. It hasn’t started relief work. Small farmers have been pushed off their land and have had to migrate in search of casual employment. At labour sites, wages have fallen due to the high demand. Successive years of drought and the farm crisis have resulted in burgeoning debts for peasants. Many farmers have gone bankrupt.

Human Development
“Gujarat’s human development has not kept pace with its economic development. Although it is one of the most economically-advanced states, it still lags behind several states in terms of quality of life,” says economist Indira Hirway.
Gujarat is 69 % literate, lower than Maharashtra (77 %) and Kerala (90 %). The rate of growth of literacy is 8.7 %, much less than the all-India growth of 13.2 %.
Only 69 % of children between 6-17 years go to school, the lowest school enrollment rate barring Bihar. Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) is 63, much worse than Maharashtra (48), Tamil Nadu (52) or Kerala (14). Since 1995, IMR has been stagnant.
Gujarat is one of three states where the sex ratio has actually declined. At present, the sex ratio is 921: 1000. Bihar and Haryana are the only other states where sex ratios have fallen.
Caste and gender discrimination is widespread. One in four atrocities against Dalit women occur in Gujarat.

Fiscal Mess
The Gujarat government’s debt has been ballooning. It reached nearly Rs 47,000 crore, according to the Congress(I) manifesto. In the last five years of BJP rule, the state government has been in a soup, and has to borrow on overdraft 21 times. It has no money to pay for development work in village panchayats. Bills worth almost Rs 1,000 crore haven’t been paid to contractors. Government staff and workers haven’t been paid their salary for several months. Gujarat’s fiscal deficit rose from 2.03 per cent of its state domestic product (SDP) in 1994-95 to 7.52 per cent in 2000-01. Gujarat’s annual borrowing is 15 times what it was 10 years back. Debt per capita was Rs 26.35 fresh debt in 1991-92, which rose to Rs 344.45 by 2001-02.

Corruption
Corruption cases reported increased by 45 % in the three years up to 2000. The most recent and controversial scam has been the co-operative bank scam. Around 20 lakh depositors have lost their savings worth Rs 2,000 crore. Over 40 of Gujarat’s 353 co-operative banks are on the brink of bankruptcy. Eight have already shut shop. Many banks are not able to honour cheques for amounts as small as Rs 500. The Modi has failed to take action against the guilty. Most of them are influential BJP figures. This includes C. R. Patil, convenor of Modi’s Gaurav Yatra in Surat. Another involved in the Suryapur Co-operative Bank closure is its former chairman Kanaksinh Mangrola. He is believed to have funded Shankersinh Vaghela’s ‘Khajuraho operation’ when he rebelled against the BJP in 1996. Mangrola, who had left the BJP with Vaghela, was rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat. Later, Mangrola returned to the BJP.

Earthquake Rehabilitation
Around 25-30,000 families in the towns of Bhuj, Bachau and Anjar are still without homes. The government Comptroller and Auditor General found several instances of corruption in earthquake relief. There have also been allegations of upper castes cornering the benefits of relief and rehabilitation while Dalits and Muslims have been left out.

Frontline, December 07 – 20, 2002 <a href=”http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1925/stories/20021220007601400.htm
“>Also available here


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