Muslims and the myth of Vibrant Gujarat

Nearly nine years after the carnage in Gujarat (Feb 2011), a perception has been created that Gujarat is developing rapidly, peace and harmony are prevailing there and that minorities are happy. Like ‘Shining India’ a word has been coined, ‘Vibrant Gujarat’.

Nothing can be farther from truth. In the aftermath of the violence, the death of over two thousand Muslims, the rapes, the humiliation at the hands of mobs instigated by the powers that be are still fresh in the winds as the state has been totally unjust to the victims of the violence. There was no rehabilitation worth its name, the ‘refugee camps’ were closed too soon. State completely washed its hands off the rehabilitation process.

Today while the few amongst the Muslim minorities, especially a section of traders, have been won over by the BJP and dominant social forces, the majority of the Muslim community has been forced to live the life of severe social and economic deprivation. The trend of ghettoization is increasing in major cities and gethoes expanding. Juhapura is the showpiece of the fear and insecurity which has gripped the Muslim community. Many traders are trying to continue with their businesses in old localities while settling their families in the Muslim ghettoes like Juhapura. Most of the Muslim establishments have changed their names and patterns to sound and appear like Hindu establishments, with the hope that this will conceal their religion and therefore being identified in future pogroms, protect their property, and this move will overcome the economic boycott from the majority community. Incidentally this call of economic boycott of Muslims has been given by VHP. The domination of Modi/BJP in the social and political arena is leading to a situation where large sections of Muslims are forced to hide their pain and anger and carry on with the ignominies of their situations. Remarkably many a social groups from amongst Muslim communities are concentrating their work in the area of education; preparing the youth to take up jobs in fields that are free from discrimination, and to prepare them for traditional as well as newer avenues of self employment.

A major study by Dr Abusaleh Shariff (Relative Development of Gujarat and Socio-Religious Differentials, 2011) is very revealing about the condition of Muslims. This shows that Muslims fare very badly on the parameters of poverty, hunger, education and vulnerability on security issues. The study shows that levels of hunger are high in Gujarat alongside Orissa and Bihar. Muslims are deprived educationally. Muslim community which at one time was dominating the diamond and textile trade has been pushed back. Poverty of Gujarat Muslims is 8 times more than high caste Hindus and 50% more than OBCs. Twelve per cent Muslims have bank accounts but only 2.6% of them get bank loans. This study concludes that Muslims in Gujarat face high levels of discrimination, even on the roll out of NREGA, Gujarat is at the bottom of the pile. (Times of India, Mumbai, Feb 18, 2011)  

As per the report of Pratham, an NGO devoted to the issues of education (Annual Status of Education Report), Gujarat is worse than Bihar when it comes to educational standards. Gujarat has been doing miserably in Social development indices and its budgetary allotment in this sector is low compared to other large states, being 17th amongst the 18 large states. While all this is happening, the mental ghettoes, the emotional partitions have become deep-rooted and physical ghettoes tell the real truth of Gujarat, the ‘Hindu Rashtra in One State’. Those displaced due to carnage are living with no civic facilities reaching them. Banks and telephone companies are shunning these areas and children’s education is one of the major problems for the victims.

Through conclaves like Guarvi Gujarat, and the annual meetings of NRIs; Industrialists, investment is being solicited and more than the forthcoming investment, projections are being made of the flow of dollars, creating the image that it is during Modi regime that Guajarat has begun to progress. The fact is that there are some investments; there is some industrialization; but it is far from what is being projected. In previous Vibrant Summits claims of big capital investments have been made. For example in 2005 claim of Rs.106161 crore had been made. Out of that investment of Rs.74019 crore (63%) was made as stated by Chief Minister but in reality as per the information availed under R.T.I. only Rs.24998 crore (23.52%) projects were being implemented.

According to Teesta Setalvad, “…Likewise, in 2007, 363 MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) were made in which Modi Government claimed to have mobilized capital investments of Rs.461835 crore. Factually this amount was Rs.451835 crore and not Rs.461835 crore so an excess investment of Rs.10000 crore was claimed. Out of this State Government claimed to have made an investment of Rs.264575 crore but as per the figures by Industry Commissioner of Gujarat projects worth Rs.122400.66 crore (27.08%) were under implementation. Actually out of the investments in 2003, 2005 and 2007 only 20.28% of projects were under implementation in Gujarat.”

While Gujarat was already amongst the most industrialized states, it has been able to invite a good deal of investment. Still it remains behind Maharashtra which leads the pack. While one does not hear much about Maharashtra progress, through different types of media hypes the image of Gujarat phenomenon has been built up. The industrialization in Gujarat has a pattern. Two decades back, the growth rate of Gujarat was something between 12 and 13 per cent. The national average was six to seven per cent then. Today, Gujarat has the growth rate of 11 per cent while National growth rate is 10 per cent. This fact should make the picture clear to us.

As such Gujarat state has opened its coffers to subsidize the industrialists. Land, water and soft loans are the order of the day; they have been given to the industrialists at extremely cheap rates. It was one of the reasons why Tata shifted his Nano project to Gujarat. The subsidy, which this small car gets, is huge. Industrialists are having a free run and the social concerns like job creation are neglected Gujarat pattern. Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are far ahead of Gujarat in the job creation ratio on investment. The investment figures which are flashed are not all actualized. One of the major victims of this reckless industrialization is the ecology, which has been ignored totally as far as Gujarat is concerned.

The growth differentials in Gujarat are very appalling. On one hand, there is growth, on other there is a serious decline in the social indicators like sex ratio. According to ‘India State Hunger Index 2008’, Gujarat is shockingly ranked worse than Orissa. Gujarat is ranked 13th in the 17 big states which were included in this list. Gujarat is only above Jharkhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, which are globally equal to the hunger situation in Ethiopia. Poverty levels are rising; employment and agriculture are not in a good shape. The agricultural production has been declining, e.g. from 65.71 lakh tones in 2003-2004 to 51.53 in 2004-2005. A survey conducted by NSS in 2005 reveals that approximately 40% farmers of state said that given the option they would like to shift away from agriculture. Recent studies show that during the last decade agriculture and labour both have suffered extensively.

Modi, in a reply in the state assembly stated that in one year up to Jan 2007, 148 farmers had committed suicide and the condition is worsening on that score. While on one side the state exports electricity, its villages are having a power deficit. Indian Express on 8th April 2007 reported that state is reeling under the shortfall of 900 mega Watt of power, the victims of this are mainly in the villages. One of the indices of poverty, prevalence of anaemia, is very revealing on this count. The percentage of women suffering from anemia has risen from 46.3% in 1999 to 55.5% in 2004 (Third round of National Family Health survey report 2006) among women. Amongst children it rose from 74.5% to 80.1%. Some of the reports point out the conditions of dalits and women has deteriorated during the last decade. For women, one of the indices is the declining sex ratio in Gujarat during last decade. The plight of Adivasis is no better.

Gujarat is facing problems in living conditions more, for poor, women and minorities. The media hype is meant to change the image of Narendra Modi from the one who led the carnage to a development man. But a deeper look at the economic and social situation tells us another story. (Issues in Secular Politics)