Supporters of Modi present the story of a near-miracle of economic growth and development in Gujarat under Modi’s leadership. From data on Wikipedia for 2004-2012, Gujarat’s GDP growth over this period has been modestly above the Indian average. However, the ordinary people of Gujarat have paid a price for this growth: when it comes to indicators of human development, the Gujarat story is much less impressive. For example, Gujarat’s economic progress has occurred alongside a dramatic rise in the number of severely malnourished children in the state. (Modi, bizarrely, suggested that Gujarat’s high malnutrition levels were a result of vegetarianism and beauty consciousness.) A large-scale 2009 study by the Navsarjan Trust found that Dalits in Gujarat face widespread discrimination and violence. Instead of acting on these findings, the state government commissioned its own small-scale study to try and counter the findings, which called caste discrimination a matter of “perceptions”.
The high level of investment in Gujarat is often mentioned by Modi supporters as a marker of Gujarat’s success and evidence of the trust the business community has in Modi’s government. But it needs to be examined in the context of excessive borrowing, and extremely generous incentives to industry which sometimes amount to a large give-away of public money to private companies such as Tata, and also Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Essar Steel and Adani Power Ltd (APL). Corruption in Gujarat, often connected with closed-door deals with big business, is discussed in the next FAQ.
The story of Gujarat’s growth and development is analysed in detail in a recent book Poverty Amidst Prosperity: Essays on the Trajectory of Development in Gujarat (Aakar Publication), reviewed and summarised here and here for example. Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen has also criticised the Gujarat model of development for “lower educational pace, lower life expectancy, greater gender inequality, a busted healthcare system…” Expert Christophe Jaffrelot points out that Gujarat’s growth relies heavily on indebtedness, and that certain marginalised groups, such as Adivasis, have suffered particularly as a result of the state’s policy. Taking these data and commentaries into account it appears that the “Glittering Gujarat”story is largely a creation of the Modi PR machine.