R.K. MISRA

Myths multiply matchlessly while reality is a reluctant racehorse

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The same stands true for the Gujarat model of development which is the national role model in  Narendra Modi ruled India.

Hyped perpetually by a high voltage media blitz, gullible products of the ‘whats app’ university have led to the belief that Gujarat was ‘born’ the day Modi took charge as Chief Minister on October 7, 2001 and developed magically over the next 4,610 days until a buoyed nation asked him to relinquish charge on May 22, 2014 to lead the country. A reality check, based purely on facts, of his rule of the state would be in order. Though Prime Minister Modi is the present messiah of the Swachh Bharat movement, interestingly, it was Mahatma Gandhi who had launched the biggest sanitation drive in the history of Ahmedabad in 1919, cleaning almost 3,000 tons of garbage. Thirteen plus years of Modi’s helmsmanship and five years of his  own party’s  successors later, Gujarat accounts for three of the country’s most polluted rivers and Pirana in Ahmedabad is one of the most toxic garbage dumps in the world.

Spread over 84 hectares, this dumping yard of 1982, today constitutes three massive 75-feet-high mounds of garbage, each weighing 69 lakh metric tonnes. Highly toxic, spewing methane and carbon dioxide, it requires 48,000 litres of water per day or 17.5 million litres of water per year to keep under control. And 4,700 tonnes of garbage is added to it every day. Air-conditioners, 5 km away from the landfill site, are developing leaks due to corrosion.

Studies reveal massive groundwater pollution in the vicinity over four decades. Ahmedabad stands sixth in the country in per capita plastic waste generation. A 2012 study aimed at a zero-waste city by 2031 undertaken at a cost of $20,000 is long forgotten and gathers dust while a veritable time bomb ticks in Ahmedabad’s backyard! On September 20, 2018, a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order, quoting a Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) report had bad tidings for the state. Of the 351 polluted river stretches in India, 160 were in the five states of Gujarat, Assam, Maharashtra, Kerala and MP, Rajkot’s Bhadar stretch being India’s third most polluted. In Vadodara, Mahi and Dhadhar river are in death throes and domestic sewage is sending Tapi river, off Surat city, into convulsions. The NGT verdict said that Gujarat was among the top lethargic states in dealing with untreated domestic sewage and industrial pollutants. The crowning irony, Gujarat was the first in Asia to form a Climate Change department and was the last to suggest a climate change plan in the country !

The BJP has been ruling Gujarat for close to quarter of a century and is thus culpable for both acts of commission and omission in the state. Its failure in submitting Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) as mandated by the NGT, has resulted in projects worth Rs 50,000 crore being held up. This is because the NGT has directed the Ministry of Environments and Forests (MOEF) not to grant development permission in the regulated areas unless the CZMP is submitted.

It is only after the hollering from the NGT on September 20, 2018 that Gujarat has finally agreed to formulate a river rejuvenation policy. The state had, all along, chosen to be deaf to the Union Water Resources Ministry’s request for a list of lakes, water bodies and their current status. In 2005, the state government had notified 44,138 lakes.

Gujarat, during Modi’s rule, spent merely 3.3 per cent of its gross state domestic product (GSDP) on education. And this was one of the lowest levels among the top 20 states during a period between 2007-08 and 2013-14 (Modi rule), according to a study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham). While Bihar and Assam (11 per cent) both ranked on the top, Gujarat incurred least expenditure on education sector development in recent years, it noted. The fallout was that the class XII results of the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Board (GSHEB) in 2015 registered a 22-yearlow pass percentage of 54.98. The ignominy of the situation was that this percentage was achieved by giving 18 grace marks to one lakh students. The actual pass percentage was a disgracefully low 37 per cent.

With the Gujarat model elevated to the status of a ‘Bible’ for administrators after the BJP came to power in the country, the performance audit carried out by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on implementation of the sanitation campaign in Gujarat during the period 2008-13 (Modi rule) provides proof of how reality is clouded to forge myths and then build castles on it. The CAG report was tabled in the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha on November 11, 2014 .

While the Prime Minister has been exhorting the nation to set new standards in sanitation, his own record in Gujarat leaves much to be desired and according to the CAG, 5000 ‘anganwadi’ centres and 4000 schools did not have toilet facility despite the Supreme Court having asked for separate toilets for all schools by 2012.

No baseline surveys were carried out as mandated for preparation of project implementation plans and though there was no dearth of funds, the expenditure against it ranged between 43 and 60 per cent during 200813.The award money received from the Centre under the Nirmal Gram Puraskar Scheme was not distributed to award -winning gram panchayats. Fudging of date was also noticed as the sanitation coverage in the state was only 46 per cent which was much lower than the progress reported by the department. “Toilets constructed at the cost of Rs 2.8 crore could not be put to use due to inferior quality of structures and even lack of a soak pit,” the CAG report noted.

The report also provides an insight into how funds were sought to be diverted for Modi government jamborees and the amount budgeted in sanitation awareness creation. “The government stated that buses were hired for transportation of public for Krishi Mahotsav and as awareness of sanitation and waste management was provided here, so the expenditure was booked under IEC activities. The reply was not acceptable,” it pointed out, adding that “the individual household latrine targets had been inflated as the progress reports were generated on funds released instead of on actual construction.”

The report also busted an oft- propagated Gujarat government myth that manual scavenging has been totally eradicated. “As per the Census 2011 report, manual scavenging is still continuing and 1,408 cases exist where night soil is being removed by human beings and 2593 cases through animals in various rural areas of Gujarat,” says the CAG report on rural bodies for the year ending March 31, 2013.

Let’s turn to rural housing. “Construction of houses under the Indira Awas Yojna (IAY) was to be completed within the maximum time- limit of two years. In test-checked talukas against a target of 85,063 houses, 16,722 during 2008-11 remained incomplete. The achievement did not represent a true picture as figures were not mentioned and incomplete houses were shown as complete,” the report said.

The sad part is that the state’s share of funds under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA) was curtailed because the Gujarat Elementary Education Council did not use the allocated funds. This was during the period ending March 2013 when Modi had gone to town against the Centre, alleging injustice and choking of funds. Records state that Gujarat incurred a loss of Rs 296.34 crore as central assistance for development as it forfeited the general performance grant for failure to comply with rules under the 13th Finance Commission. “The state government needs to investigate its educational system as many students are still deprived of their right to education in Gujarat,” it said, while pointing out that the data available in government records was “not reliable and inflated”.

According to the CAG report, the model state did not have a single teacher in 57 government primary schools and only one teacher each in 383 schools. Similarly, in 223 upper primary schools, there was no teacher and 678 ones had only one teacher each. In every school with a student strength exceeding 150, a head teacher is needed and in the period under review, there were 4,262 vacancies against a total requirement of 9262 head teachers. Chronic shortage of amenities in government schools has seen parents shifting their children to private schools which has seen by an increase of 55.87 per cent in the number of unaided private schools between 2008 to 2013. How much importance the state government gives to the CAG report is evident from the fact that though the report was sent to the state government with its observations and suggestions in August 2013, no reply came till March 2014. This is not an isolated case. Almost the entire period of Modi rule in Gujarat was replete with instances of inordinate delays in responses which led to the entire exercise becoming redundant.

Cut to the present for a quick glimpse: The shift of the Tata automobile plant from Singur in West Bengal to Sanand in Gujarat was a high point of Modi’s rule. The company was doled out incentives to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore with the project inaugurated in 2011 by Modi himself. It envisaged production of 2.5 lakh nano cars in the first phase that was projected to go up to 5 lakh cars a year. In 2013-14, it produced 21,155 cars and in 2017-18, a mere 1,920 cars, a fall of 90 per cent in five years, according to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani.

The Constitution mandates 7 per cent annual increase in budgetary allocation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Thus the government should have allocated Rs 3392.55 crore in 2013-14 but actually gave Rs 2637.41 crore. Similarly, in 2014-15, it should have allocated Rs 4516.38 crore instead of Rs 3437.87 crore that was given. In 2015-16, it should have given Rs 4633.65 crore but allocated only Rs 3915.22 crore. In 2016-17, the allocation was Rs 4201.46 crore when it should have been Rs 4839.80 crore. In 2017-18, the budgetary allocation should have been Rs 5960 crore but was only Rs 4603.06 crore. These figures were shared by Gujarat minister for social justice and empowerment in the state Assembly on September 19, 2018 with the response that the allocation towards infrastructure, electrification for Sardar Sarovar Narmada Project as well as similar ventures would benefit the SCs and STs and, thus taken together, apparently exceeded 7 per cent!

On June 26, 2005, then Chief Minister Narendra Modi had announced with great fanfare that Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Ltd (GSPC), a state public sector undertaking, had discovered India's largest gas reserves in the KG basin. He claimed that the gas reserves were 20 trillion cubic feet, worth Rs 2,20,000 crore at that time. This was more than the total gas produced in all of India at that time. He announced that GSPC would spend Rs 1,500 crore and begin commercial production of this gas in 2007. He also proclaimed this would make Gujarat India's economic superpower and enable India to become self-sufficient in her energy needs.

Astonishingly as of 2016, GSPC had not started commercial production of gas from its KG Basin block though, until March 31, 2015, it had borrowed Rs 19,716 crore from more than 15 public sector and private sector banks together. Its profits have dropped to a mere Rs 23 crore in 2015. To put this in context, Kingfisher Airlines is alleged to owe our banks Rs 9,000 crore. GSPC's loans are more than twice  that of Kingfisher. As per the CAG report for the period ending March 2017, GSPC had incurred a loss of Rs 17061.20 crore. So much for the Modi model !

Whose Prime Minister is he anyway? The Supreme Court has instructed Gujarat to hand over a few of the lions to Madhya Pradesh for an alternate home since this lone species of Asiatic lions is epidemic prone. The ominous warning has been proven correct. Gujarat’s forest minister Ganpat Vasava admitted in the state Assembly on March 3, 2018 that 184 of the total 523 lions in the Gir forests had died between 2016 and 2017. PM Modi is deaf to Madhya Pradesh’s demand and Gujarat would not mind 200 lions dead but wont part with even a few. The excuse given is that International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines for relocation and other conservation translocations mandate a detailed study which needs to be carried out. However, the same Gujarat government does not feel the need for such studies when it begins shifting crocodiles to pander to the Prime Minister’s pet project of landing seaplanes in the Narmada water bodies to help ferry tourists to the Rs 3000 crore Statue of Unity of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel created out of public money.

The mugger crocodiles (crocodylus palustris) in the Narmada river are covered by Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 which puts them in the most endangered species. Removing them from their habitat entails a lengthy process of reasons and permission. However, when it comes to Modi’s wishes in his home state, these just fade away.

In the run-up to the announcement of the 2019 election, Prime Minister criss-crossed the country with a rush of inaugurations and announcements. Gujarat too got its fair measure of them. These included a number of hospital complexes in Ahmedabad and Jamnagar. The irony, amongst all this razzmatazz, was that Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel who is also the health minister of the state himself chose a private hospital in Mumbai for his knee surgery as did minister of state for home Pradipsinh Jadeja at a private hospital in Ahmedabad. So did their colleagues Saurabh Patel and Purshottam Solanki.

Thus, it is the Prime Minister’s own home state, the one that he projects as a model for the country, that does not present a flattering view of his own rule. Watch out India!

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