Gujarat, for the last five centuries, is known by its dominant social group, a land of entrepreneurs. It has been one of the industrialized regions of the country since the mid-nineteenth century. The State government irrespective of the party in power has been always business friendly. Even during the license-permit raj the bureaucrats found out ways to attract and facilitate private including overseas business investment. In those days there was a popular joke in West Bengal, “In Gujarat, a bureaucrat behaves as if he were a businessman, while in West Bengal a businessman acts like a bureaucrat”.
In the last five decades, Gujarat’s Gross Domestic product (GDP) has been always above national average, ranking third or fourth among the federal states. With Gujarat government’s the Industrial Policy 1990 and the New Industrial and Incentive Policy 1995-2000, industrial investment in large and medium industries jumped fivefold during 1991 and 2001 than the earlier decade. And, the process has continued thereafter during Narendra Modi’s regime. Today Gujarat continues to be one of the states along with Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, having fast economic growth. But it is certainly not on the top of GDP, FDI, per capita income.
Difference between pre and post 2001 trajectory of capitalist growth is hype for its so-called achievements. Investment summits every two years, its exaggerated publicity, inventory of jargons and jingles are Modi’s addition to the model. Repeated claims to be the number one in FDI, growth and governance not only among the states in India but also in Asia and also world – competing with the USA are its well-orchestrated Goebbels propaganda. Though all the earlier Chief Ministers of Gujarat were close to business tycoons, they at least normatively preferred to maintain distance from them. Modi does not have any inhibition to get identify with capitalists as their promoters. Unlike other political leaders he boosts that all that Gujarat attained in the last ten years – economic growth and institutions – was from zero, only his creation.
Capitalist system is essentially based on exploitation of labour. Gujarat is no exception, except in its degree and nature of exploitation. The wage bill for industry in Gujarat constitutes only 2.42 per cent of the invested capital as against 4.04 for Karnataka, 4.4 for Maharashtra, 4.94 for Andhra Pradesh, 5.42 for Haryana and 5.5 for Tamil Nadu. Employment growth in Gujarat has occurred mainly in the informal sector (4 percent), and the formal employment has remained almost stagnant (0.3 percent increased per year) during 2000 and 2010.
Thanks to Mahatma Gandhi’s harmonious labour-capital relationship, labour is relatively subdued here. While there has been rapid growth of urban employment in Gujarat, stipulated as well as real (market) minimum wages are lower in all occupations in Gujarat than most of the other states. Quality of employment is not on the agenda in Modi’s model, hence he has almost dismantled the Labour department, expected to protect the interests of the workers. The state has slipped in its rank among the major 20 states including much slower growing states in promoting well being of workers.
In terms of percentage of GDP and per capital expenditure on health Gujarat ranks 8th and 9th respectively among the major states. Its performance in infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternal mortality rate (MMR) in compare to other states has not improved significantly. Juvenile sex ratio in Gujarat has declined at alarming rate from 928 in 1991 to 883 in 2011. Literacy rate in Gujarat has increased from 69.14 per cent in 2001 to 79.31 per cent in 2011. But it lags behind to several other states. It ranked skipped from 16th in 2001 to 18th in 2011 in growth in literacy.
As the level of education goes up, gross enrolment rate declines from 120.42 at class I-V to 35.66 at XI-XII standard. In this sphere Gujarat occupies 19th place, behind Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab etc. Girls’ enrollment has remained low compare to boys at all levels. The state lags behind both those who are leading in economic growth with Gujarat, particularly Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Karnataka, and economically slow states like Kerala, Himachal Pradesh in its overall performance in social sectors. Even the performance of so-called BIMARU states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are improving in health and education at the faster rate than Gujarat. The state has retrogressed in overall human development. It has slipped from 10th to 11th rank in human development between 1999 and 2009.
Moreover, neither bourgeois compassion, nor socio-cultural, not to speak of economic equality, are on Modi’s agenda for growth. Assimilation, called samras, is. In this trajectory hegemony of dominant culture is legitimized as an idea in which all ‘others’ submerge their identity and get assimilated to be patriot Indians!
*Well-known sociologist and political analyst