I have been writing about who cities are built for and whether they shouldn’t all be people-centric. A related question that needs to be raised is: Who is development for? Is it for the nation at large? Is it for the weakest and most vulnerable? Is it to crunch statistics and make the figures look good for a PR exercise for ruling governments? Is it to make the rich richer?
Twelve economists decided to examine the figures given out by Gujarat government and National Sample Survey to compare these with Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Haryana. Findings were presented at a seminar – Development Dynamics of Gujarat – in Gandhinagar. Eminent economists were involved, those with no stake in Gujarat and therefore no biases, including JNU's Dr Atul Sood and Dr Pramod of Institute of Development and Communication, Chandigarh. Here is a gist of the findings:
Although Gujarat is a favourite destination for Indian investors, Economic Survey of 2011 lists as the state with the worst labour unrest.
The share of scheduled tribes in regular employment was 7% in 1993-94. This figure remains same today. The story is more or less the same for other marginalised communities.
Gujarat lags behind the other states in terms of consumption growth, poverty reduction and decrease in inequality. In rural areas, average monthly consumption expenditure was the same as the national average between 1993 and 2005 and has since grown at only 2.05% per annum, much lower than other states.
Gujarat has 23.22% of its population living below the poverty line, as per NSSO 2009-10, compared to 19.88% in Haryana and 17.42% in Tamil Nadu.
The aggregate employment in Gujarat remains stagnant. According to NSSO data, employment grew at 2.69% between 1993-94 and 2004-05 per annum, a figure that fell to almost zero by 2009-10. The marginal growth is courtesy the service sector and mostly as casual labour, thereby giving no security to people.
Gujarat ranks the lowest in spending on education compared to its total budget outlay.
The gap between rural and urban infant mortality rate is widening, with a decline in the use of government health services except among the poorest of the poor. Gujarat ranks 10th in the decline in infant mortality rates among states.
The growth in average monthly consumption expenditure in urban areas in Gujarat has been 2.13% compared to national average of 2.4%.
The experts concluded that rather than rising star to be emulated, Gujarat’s shining growth story showed how non-inclusive growth slanted towards investment rather than employment or education or the betterment of the ‘aam janta’ could be the most dangerous path for other states to follow.
Yes, rich have grown hugely richer in Gujarat. Yes, a large section of the middle-class too is more prosperous now. But for 70% of the population left out of this definition, life is getting harder and harder, even as government’s PR machinery churns out dazzling pictures of a state that has everything.
That is why I reiterate my first question: Who is development for? If the people of Gujarat continue to have their lives made more difficult, even as our billionaire industrialists buy weekend residences for Rs11-14 crore, are we a developed state? If mega malls hide shanties of plastic behind them, if air-conditioned school buses give a lie to the state of education for the lower middle-class and poor, if luxury shops negate the pathetic state of the ration shops and the hunger of the common family, are we a shining state?
With all the figures in front of you, you must decide. Do you want the truth, or the mayajaal?
The writer is a noted danseuse and social activist