Environmental economist’s seven posers about the myth of Gujarat development

aseem1Aseem Shrivastava, environmental economist, activist, and a freelance writer, and co-author of “Churning the Earth: The Making of Global India” — who believes that although India’s economy has grown, only three per cent of the population has benefited from the financialization of the economy and poverty has remained largely unaffected — has compiled a few facts which put in question the talk about Gujarat development story.

These facts, taken from different authoritative sources, suggest in a nutshell where Gujarat stands vis-a-vis other states:


Twenty three states have a better sex ratio than Gujarat. According to the Census of India 2011, Gujarat had 918 women for 1000 men. The number fell from 921 women when the 2001 Census was done. The national average in 2011 rose to 940 women to 1000 men, from 933 in 2001, Kerala having 1084 women to 1000 men. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_states_and_territories_ranking_by_sex_ratio)


According to the India Human Development Report 2011, Gujarat is 13th among Indian states when it comes to reducing hunger. It is also ranked 13th on malnutrition among children below the age of 5, over 44 per cent of its infants and children remaining underfed, compared to the national average of 42.5 per cent. On both criteria, Gujarat is behind such states as Assam, UP and Orissa. ( http://www.iamrindia.gov.in/ihdr_book.pdf, Table 4.8)


One of the key, universally recognized indices of development is the Human Development Index (HDI). It includes per capita income, literacy rate and life expectancy at birth. According to the India Human Development report 2011, on the HDI, Gujarat’s ranking fell nationally from 10th to 11th between 1999-2000 and 2007-08, behind such states as Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir. (http://www.iamrindia.gov.in/ihdr_book.pdf, Table 2.4)


Only 1.09 per cent of public expenditure in Gujarat in 2011-12 was on education and health, well behind states like Rajasthan (3.09 per cent) and Meghalaya (2.06 per cent). Gujarat was ranked 17th in the list of Indian states. In 2010-11, it was ranked 10th in the list of states when it came to the proportion of development expenditure in total public expenditure. (http://www.ap.gov.in/Other%20Docs/COMPARATIVE%20STATISTICS%20(STATES).pdf, Tables 28.26 and 28.23)


Apart from its vulnerability to natural disasters like earthquakes and cyclones, Gujarat has rendered itself vulnerable to many “man-made disasters due to heady industrialization in the state”. They could greatly compound the impact of natural disasters. “Asia’s largest chemical zone” is to be found in the 400-km North-South stretch from Ahmedabad to Vapi, better known as Gujarat’s “Golden Corridor”. More than 40 per cent of the industrial output of Gujarat’s over 36,000 factories is from the chemical industry, rendering many Gujarati towns and cities, including big cities like Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara, “hazardous” or “highly hazardous”, according to the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), which issued a report in 2013 warning of the enormous dangers. (http://www.gsdma.org/documents/Gujarat_State_CDMP.pdf)


On the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), cities in Gujarat fare the worst in the country. According to experts at the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and at IIT-Delhi, in 2012, Vapi, a major industrial town in Gujarat was the most “critically polluted” area in India, having taken over from Ankleshwar, another Gujarati industrial town, which had topped the list in 2009. This led to the Ministry of Environment and Forests imposing a ban on the clearance of new industrial projects (or for the expansion of existing ones) in Vapi. In “critically polluted” areas, air, water and soil pollution exceed the capacity of the environment to absorb it, causing serious damage to human health. (1. http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/vapi-tops-list-critically-polluted-areas; 2. http://www.outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?289276)


Unjust land acquisition and violation of environmental norms is normal in Gujarat. One example of this is provided by the Mundra port and SEZ on the coast of Kutch, promoted by the Adani group. Thousands of hectares of land belonging to fishermen and pastoralists have been given by the Gujarat government to the promoters for as little as a few rupees a square metre. The project has also involved major illegal environmental losses, like the cutting down of thousands of hectares of mangroves, which have protected the coastline against cyclones in the past. Violations have often made the Gujarat High Court stop construction on the project. (1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghabahree/2014/03/12/doing-big-business-in-modis-gujarat/; 2. http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/logistics/gujarat-high-court-stays-construction-work-on-part-of-adanis-mundra-sez/article3408845.ece; 3. http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/vanishing-commons/article5652209.ece#)

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