Debate on the Gujarat model is more about stated positions, less about reality.

By: Express News Service Written by Yoginder K. Alagh | Updated: May 7, 2014 9:00 am
 In the ‘poorvi patti’ tribal belt of Gujarat, the  Adivasi poverty rate, at around 60 per cent, is higher than in the BIMARU states. In the ‘poorvi patti’ tribal belt of Gujarat, the
Adivasi poverty rate, at around 60 per cent, is higher than in the BIMARU states.

Debate on the Gujarat model is more about stated positions, less about reality.

Having done economic modelling all my life, as a student at the University of Pennsylvania, which boasted of the Wharton model and Lawrence Klein, and later, in the days when planning still mattered, while heading the modelling division of the Planning Commission, I find it bewildering that Gujarat’s substantial real achievements and equally real problems are being thrown about casually by people who know better. It has struck me that this has little to do with reality and a lot to do with positions people want to take in the uncertain period before the election results.

Arvind Panagariya and Surjit S. Bhalla have both descended on Dalit and Adivasi Gujarat. We are told that poverty levels in the state, and among Dalits and Adivasis, in particular, are lower than in the rest of India. But given that Gujarat is a richer state, this is a no-brainer. After analysing data trends, they conclude that poverty has fallen faster in Gujarat. One would be surprised if this were not so. The richer a state is, the lower its poverty levels. Gujarat has grown at a fast pace for many decades. But now, other states are doing equally well, if not better, though Gujarat is still at the top end of the rankings. Given his global experience, Panagariya is ideally placed to tell Gujarat what to do when its growth rate falls, as it did in 2012-13, because of the slow down. But his interests seem to lie elsewhere.

Gujarat’s agriculture was growing at around 6 per cent annually, benefiting from the Sardar Sarovar project, which became operational around the beginning of the last decade. But unless we build lower-level distributaries, this source of growth cannot be sustained. I have been saying this for a while now, and in 2012-13, the state’s agriculture sector actually only grew 4 per cent. As a noted agricultural economist, Ashok Gulati could have given us some much-needed advice but he preferred to posture instead, saying agriculture was growing at 10 per cent.

At any rate, these areas are not where Gujarat’s problems lie. That the corridor between Palanpur and Vapi is progressing and poverty levels there are lower doesn’t address the key issue. Gujarat’s problem area is its poorvi patti (eastern belt) — districts where large numbers of Adivasis live. This is a highly scrutinised area, as shown by the various research studies on the territory, including the excellent NSS region-level summary by Srijit Mishra of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai. In this NSS region, the Adivasi poverty rate, at around 60 per cent, is higher than in the states that the late Ashish Bose used to call BIMARU states.

Getting back to agriculture, the 10 per cent growth rate figure was the result of a paid-for study commissioned by the government of Gujarat and conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, to which Gulati was affiliated. The finding was widely advertised as the result of research by an “American institute’’. At the time, Gulati had attributed the growth to village tanks. But I showed that the growth rate in agriculture was actually only 6 per cent, exactly what it was projected to be because of the Sardar Sarovar project. Even though he mainly talked of village tanks then, Gulati now also lists Sardar Sarovar as one of the sources of the growth. A river is flowing through Gujarat for the first time in its history, thanks to the Sardar Sarovar project. These waters are also used to recharge village talawadis. The resultant 6 per cent agriculture growth rate was expected to last for some time. But that time is now up. As Gujarat’s very efficient official statistics system, set up by the likes of V.V. Bhatt, P.S. Buch and V.M. Patel, showed, in 2011-12, Gujarat’s agriculture grew by only 4.8 per cent. It is time to get back to the original Sardar Sarovar project plan.

During a TV show on which I appeared, Karan Thapar said 24-hour electricity helps eradicate poverty. In response, I pointed out that in large parts of rural Gujarat, you get cheap irregular power and very expensive three-phase power. But I was cut short before I could explain Tushaar Shah’s findings, that instead of using expensive power, farmers switch to diesel.

In poorvi patti, where the mother of all electoral battles is being fought, you still see distended tummies and spindly legs. To the Panagariyas, Bhallas and Gulatis, Gujarat has to fit their slogan. Tough luck for it if it doesn’t.

The writer is chancellor, Central University of Gujarat

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  1. A
    May 7, 2014 at 11:52 pm
    Do research on this professor's background. Do Google and you will find he is a congress man - Former Union Minister. He was appointed Chancellor by Congress and so he has to write this type of articles to keep his job.
  2. A
    May 7, 2014 at 11:42 pm
    No it doesn't and he is stooge of Congress and he is appointed Chancellor by President of India (ex Congressii). He himself was a congress Minister...
  3. J
    May 8, 2014 at 6:03 am
    Nice article. Beware that you might be snooped upon for writing the facts and figures that bring out the truth.
  4. M
    Mauza Mauza
    May 8, 2014 at 1:47 am
    Problem with India is left leaning intellectuals ...every one does not become prosperous in a day is a process ..government creates an enabling environment and infrastructure for business to thrive and generate employment hence improving life parameters ........ with growth comes opportunities of better life .... Gujarat is moving in the right direction .....
  5. M
    May 7, 2014 at 5:55 pm
    Presumably democratic freedom of opinion does not apply to Salin, unless of course, he were willing to dig out the problems with Mod's Gujarat model as well. Mr. Alagh, please elaborate on other state's on which you might have done modeling and how they are doing. How about the Central government's model for the last 10 years?
  6. R
    ram N
    May 7, 2014 at 10:04 am
    Can't he have a different opinion and all must toe Modi's line is it. That isdemocracy. The same yardstick by which you are allowed to criticise anotherParty and Govt. and which you do.
  7. P
    May 7, 2014 at 5:32 pm
    Wow. Congrats Gujarat. Now a 'belt' in Gujarat is compared to states as a w and we are told that Gujarat model is posturing - that too by 'eminent' economists who made it to planning commission - no wonder we are ed as a country.
  8. R
    May 7, 2014 at 11:16 am
    Salin is only pointing the hypocrisy of Left. They oppose development tooth and nail. But, when the project is completed, credit should not be given to the pro-development forces..
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