Monday, March 9, 2015

RK Misra : Figures reveal truth about 'Gujarat model' ("If anyone questions why we died, tell them because our leaders lied")

Nothing is impossible for the one who doesn't have to do it. In the process, however, if careless talk costs lives and corrodes credibility, so be it!

There have been three annual budgets - Gujarat’s, the Railways and the Union Government’s - within the last fortnight. Additionally, there is a contentious land acquisition bill before the Lok Sabha. All four have only one thing in common.They carry the stamp of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governance acumen or the lack of it. The Gujarat budget, because it was the model set by Modi; and the remaining three budgets, because they are singularly credited to his account and individuality.

Analysed  in tandem, they  serve as credible indicators of where the first wholly owned BJP government in India  is headed. Figures undress the filial and the far off  without fail. Gujarat, the happy hunting ground of Modi and his first bite of the big ‘power’ apple had this ‘model’ tale to tell on February 25, 2015 when the first state budget after his departure for national pastures was presented in the State Assembly. The budget document showed that the state’s growth rate had slipped to 7 per cent and public  debt zoomed to Rs 1.65 lakh crores at the end of 2014-15. The budget estimates peg the debt in 2001-02 when Modi took over as chief minister at Rs 45,304 crores. This in effect means that during his 12 year tenure in Gujarat, it’s public debt shot up by Rs 1,20,000 crores. In hindsight, it means that the grand memorials of extravagance - the spanking new swarnim sankul to house the chief minister and his colleagues,the Rs 400 crore  Mahatma mandir convention centre ,the garib kalyan melas,and all manner of ‘grand’ fairs and ‘noble’ festivals -year on year- were on ballooning, borrowed dimes .

Cut to the quick,Gujarat claims to be a power surplus state which provides 24x7 electricity. Now the facts. Gujarat has  recorded a 13 per cent increase in power purchased from private players.The government stated in a written reply in the state Assembly that  32,500 million units of power had been purchased in 2014 as against 28,434 million units the previous year. During 2014,the state controlled  power units contributed only 26,122 million units. So much for being  power surplus!

To be noted is also that the pending applications for  agricultural power connections in the state stand at 1.77 lakh despite a  budgetary provision of Rs  3,370 crores over the last four years.On health ,the state government said in the Assembly that Gujarat has at least 2.7 lakh malnourished children. 

Not without reason that the state today also has the dubious distinction of accounting  for the highest number of 347 swine flu deaths in the country, a logical corollary when the entire state administration has been galvanized over months to cater to VIP visits like the Chinese president and hosting formidable fairs and high profile festivals-global investors summit,pravasi bhartiya diwas and national exhibitions, all back to back.

The contentious land acquisition bill on which Modi has staked his own reputation,even at the cost of being seen as a corporate carpetbagger is another case in point. Spirited  movements  toiled over decades to get the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 passed. If the movements saw it as a battle half won, the corporate termed it as anti-growth and anti-investment. ”We had dark apprehensions that it would be amended by the double by the new government,say Persis Ginwala and Sagar Rabari, prominent activists of land rights struggles. The union revenue minister called  the first meeting of state revenue ministers within 40 days of taking charge, on June 27 and  by December 31, it stood amended through an Ordinance!

Going through it’s salient features one finds that it is heavily partisan and makes  the antiquated  Land Acquisition laws of 1894 look a picture of piety. The Act covers only private landholdings. Forests, coasts, rivers, pastureland ,wastelands,lakes and water bodies are not only not covered by it, but they are  also not covered by any policy directive or legal instrument formulated by any government.Thus all those who are dependent on these common property resources like fisherfolk, tribals, pastoralists and landless agriculturists are left out of the provisions of this Act. Comparisons of some of the key features of the 2013 Act and the Ordinance 2014 sought now to be replaced by  the new legislation, leaves one in doubt at all.

The government’s power  to acquire land was restricted, earlier, to companies registered under the Companies Act. Now it can acquire it for anything, and for anyone, at will. Technically now,land can be acquired even for a business establishment  employing a single person! This is arbitrariness of the worst kind  bordering almost on a sell-out.

Take the case of the Dholera Special Investment Region (DSIR) in Gujarat, a Modi baby which along with Shendra Industrial Park in Maharashtra has been promised Rs 1200 crores. What is the situation on the ground? The Gujarat SIR Act 2009 has been invoked which puts the entire SIR area under the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban development Act 1976 for developing infrastructure. The  land acquisition law  which requires the government to pay four times the market rate  and also requires the assent of the panchayat  is  not applicable and  land allotment to them will be based on town planning rules! Heads I win, tails you lose and I call it benevolence in governance, Modi style, now set to be replicated nationwide.

More often than not, it is the past record that is indicative of  powered  future performances. Modi government’s Union Budget announces an overall plan of housing for six crore dwellings countrywide and earmarks Rs 22,407 crores.What did he do in Gujarat? Just before the 2012 Assembly elections ,with glossy pullouts and an awe-inspiring presentation chief minister Modi announced 50 lakh houses in five years i.e.2017. The Anandiben Patel government recently slashed it to 24 lakh houses. Quiet indicators  are that it will be slashed further to 10 lakh houses which is one-fifth the target set by Modi. Even to build 10 lakh dwellings in the remaining almost 36 months one will need to build at the rate of 1000 houses per day. Pretty little chance! 

As somebody said "If anyone questions why we died, tell them because our leaders lied"