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Missing the evidence

The Gujarat model, if there is one, is not shining.

bhalla’s conclusion that the development experience of Gujarat is worth replicating is inconsistent and not based on evidence. bhalla’s conclusion that the development experience of Gujarat is worth replicating is inconsistent and not based on evidence.

BY: Sourindra Ghosh and Atul Sood

The Gujarat model, if there is one, is not shining.

Surjit Bhalla, in recent articles (‘Gujarat’s inclusive growth’, IE, April 12, ‘Gujarat’s other calling card’, IE, April 19 and ‘Just name-calling’, IE, April 26), has been making a case for Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial candidacy by praising the Gujarat development model. It is surprising because, just a year ago, he critiqued Gujarat’s growth model for being “neither equitable nor inclusive” (‘The Modi metric’, IE, December 13, 2012).

There are three fundamental inconsistencies in his recent approach. The first is conceptual. Previously, he was talking about the inequitable and non-inclusive nature of Gujarat’s growth model in terms of the unequal status of Muslims and SC/STs vis-à-vis others in the state. In recent articles, he has abandoned this concern.

The second inconsistency is methodological. He had earlier compared Gujarat with all states. In recent articles, he compares Gujarat with states that had similar levels of per capita income in 2001. There are two problems with this: the states that had similar levels of per capita income in 2001 may not be the same in 2010, so the definition of the comparison doesn’t remain consistent. Also, why not compare Gujarat against all states?

The third is the technique of comparison, wherein he is inconsistent. In his previous approach, Bhalla does a “rank ordering of relative performance” for indicators like education and poverty reduction, which are subject to ceiling and floor constraints. In his present approach, he compares aggregate percentage point changes.

So what happens if we compare Gujarat’s performance against all states (subject to availability of data) by rank ordering the indicators that are “subject to ceiling and floor constraints”? This method was followed in Poverty Amidst Prosperity: Essays on Trajectory of Development in Gujarat (edited by Atul Sood, 2012), and specifically on health and education. It had shown the inequitable status of marginalised groups vis-à-vis others in Gujarat and establishes on a range of indicators that the Gujarat model is not shining.

Even in aggregate terms relative to the other states, has Gujarat improved in terms of quality of life? Let’s take inequality. Inequality is measured by the Gini coefficient; the floor being 0 and the ceiling 1. Among all the 32 states and Union Territories (UTs), Gujarat’s rank in equality of consumer expenditure has overall deteriorated during the period 1999-2000 to 2009-10, for both rural (13th to 17th position) and urban (11th to 13th position) areas. How is the state of education in Gujarat? On literacy, Gujarat’s rank among all 35 states and UTs has deteriorated from 15th in 2001 to 18th in 2011.

Are children going to school in Gujarat? Among 32 comparable states and UTs, Gujarat’s rank in terms of percentage of children of school-going age (6-14 years) attending any educational institution has fallen from 21st in 1999-2000 to 25th in 2011-12. On sanitation, having a latrine at home is a basic indicator. According to the Census, Gujarat’s rank in terms of percentage of houses with toilets at home has deteriorated from 13th in 2001 to 22nd in 2011 among all 35 states and UTs. The infant mortality rate for Gujarat remained stagnant.

It is not so surprising that, relative to other states, the standard of life for common people in Gujarat is deteriorating. As Jayati Ghosh and C.P. Chandrasekhar point out (‘Have Workers in Gujarat Benefited from “Development”?’ Business Line, March 31), casual workers’ wages in Gujarat are significantly lower than in other states. We have ranked 35 states and UTs in terms of rural and urban wages of regular-wage/ salaried employees and casual workers.

Results from the latest NSSO data of 2011-12 corroborate our findings, that is, for regular-wage/ salaried employees, Gujarat ranks 28th and 35th in rural and urban areas respectively in terms of average wages; for casual workers, it ranks 33rd and 31st in rural and urban areas respectively. The government is playing no redistributive role to reverse the situation — the state ranks 27th among 30 states and UTs in terms of social-sector expenditure as a share of the GSDP in 2010-13.

So Surjit Bhalla’s conclusion that the development experience of Gujarat is worth replicating is inconsistent and not based on evidence. If we look at a range of critical studies in recent years, where the claims of the “Gujarat style” economic strategy have been questioned, we see a narrative that is consistently evidence-based. But others who have suddenly discovered Gujarat, based on selective reading and incorrect measurement techniques, are arguing that there is only one evidence and they are the only ones to have it.

Ghosh is research consultant, Council for Social Development. Sood teaches at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development, JNU, Delhi

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