By Persis Ginwalla and Sagar Rabari
The news report in “Ahmedabad Mirror”, “Selling Kidneys to Feed Mouth”, by Ojas Mehta and Hiren Upadhyay (March 16, 2016) (click HERE to read) is on the illegal kidney-sale racket which has come to light in village Pandoli of Anand district in Gujarat. Anand district is one of the richest districts of Gujarat with rich irrigated agriculture and a well-developed industrial base. It is the home of the Amul dairy cooperative, the pioneer of the white revolution in India.
As per media reports, the people selling their kidneys are small farmers and agriculture wage labourers, reeling under a debilitating debt-burden. They are resorting to this practice to feed their families, educate their children, get them married or to ‘buy’ healthcare. Why they have to do this in the heartland of economic prosperity is an issue that should worry us. This area is neither drought-affected nor is it ‘backward’. The cascading impoverishment is the outcome of the Gujarat Model of Development, indeed its entire story.
One of the nobler assumptions of market-led-growth and growth-led-development, or so the experts tell us, is that the benefits would ultimately ‘trickle-down’ leading to increased standards of living and improved life prospects. Alas! A once prosperous community – the Patidars – have been reduced to seeking ‘reservations’, the striking Tata Motors workers at its Nano factory in Sanand are reporting exploitative terms of employment and residents of Pandoli village are selling body organs to feed themselves and their families. The agriculturists are impoverished, those graduating from agriculture to industrial jobs are impoverished and an already prosperous community is reporting reduced prospects. Show us the ‘trickle’, they ask.
Where is it trickling, they want to know. Did the promised investments at the Vibrant Gujarat Gobal Investors’ summit (VGGIS) ‘trickle’ down to these people? Did any investments ‘trickle’ down to them? Did the private education or healthcare ‘trickle’ down to them? Did anything ‘trickle’ down at all? Where are the jobs that Vibrant Gujarat summits promise the youth every two years? Which and what kinds of jobs are ‘trickling’ down and what does it pay the workers? Would advocates of ‘trickle down’ (or its variants) like Surjit Bhalla or Tavleen Singh or Subramaniam S. Anklesaria-Aiyar or anyone at all care to answer?
The myth of the “Gujarat model of development” has long been punctured. But the vested interests keep on feeding this bubble in order to keep their investments secure. Indeed, it has boiled down to this level of personal stakes only. These are portents of a gathering storm. Wake up, Madam Chief Minister. Wake up and smell the coffee.