AHMEDABAD, (excerpts from Fr Cedrick Prakash) — There is no doubt, that Gujarat, as a people and as a State, has made rapid strides in many fields over the past many years. An outsider to the State is always “charmed” by the good roads, the apparent prosperity in the cities reflected in the shopping malls and the high-rise buildings that catch one’s attention; that electricity is “available” almost round the clock. (no one highlights the fact that electricity per unit in Gujarat is the highest in the country. And of course, only the urban areas and the rich rural areas are beneficiaries to this). Then again, people often speak of the premier institutions (like the IIM, NID, PRL, etc), the Expressways, the BRTS line of Ahmedabad etc – but these in fact are national or autonomous units / initiatives which have nothing to do with the State.
Besides, if we just spend sometime, we would realise that plenty that is being flaunted about the so-called progress and prosperity of the State is merely due to a propaganda blitz – through ‘paid media’ and through a Washington based publicist company ‘Apco Worldwide’ which boasts among its clients several dictators and fascist regimes from across the world. The dictum is Goebbelsian, ‘tell a lie a thousand times and people will believe it is the truth!’
But scratch the surface a bit, and we find a reality which will make one grimace and even struggle for breath!
. the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider and wider
- cosmetic development policies help a few but are detrimental to the large majority, very particularly the poor and the marginalized
- environmental laws are blatantly flouted
- adivasis, dalits and other sub-alterns are denied basic human rights
- Muslims and Christians are treated as second-class citizens – many of them do not have access to quality education, good employment and other basic amenities needed for a citizen
- most of the victim-survivors of the Gujarat Carnage 2002 are still struggling for justice
- a good percentage of the Muslims are confined to ghettoes in urban and rural Gujarat
- corruption is highly institutionalized in the State
- the recent report (March 2012) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) onGujaratrevealed a Rs. 17,000 crore loss to the State exchequer due to corruption and financial irregularities
- “encounter” deaths are rampant inGujaratbesides there have been more than 180 other custodial deaths in the last few years in the State
- salt-pan workers in theKutcharea have to travel 15 to 20 kms away to get potable drinking water
- the clear nexus between Government and some of the corporate sectors raises serious issues with regard to land acquisition, displacement, tax-payer’s money being used for the purpose of industries, etc.
- thousands of fishermen all along the coast have lost their livelihood because of certain ports and other mega-projects
- a Government of Gujarat profile of 18,066 villages of the State has revealed that a significant percentage of the villages of the State do not have potable drinking water, toilets or educational facilities
- Gujaratranks a poor 12th in the country in issuing forest land to the tribals
- theSabarmatiRiver“is one of the most toxic rivers” in the country
- a recent report ranks Gujarat18th in the increasing crime graft making it one of the least peaceful States of the country
- a fairly significant sections of the population is still involved in manual scavenging
- there is big hype about ‘vibrantGujarat’ but the fact is just 15% of the MOUs signed during the first four Summits materialized into investments
- the Freedom of Religion Act, 2003 is one of the most draconian laws in the country
- freedom of speech and expression is consistently and subtly attacked in this State
- sex ratio has dipped to a new low with just 918 females to a 1,000 males as against the national average of 940 (female foeticide is rampant)
- child labour is rampant in Gujarat with thousands working in the cotton fields of Sabarkantha, the brick-kilns, in the ‘kitlis’, and in several other areas of the unorganized sector
- the 2011 Human Development Report of India states that hunger and malnutrition (are) worse in Gujarat than in India’s other large states. According to the report, almost 45 percent of children in Gujaratare malnourished. A larger percentage of children go to bed hungry in Gujarat, one of India’s richest states, than in Uttar Pradesh, one of its poorest. ((from the International Herald Tribune April 24th, 2012)
- in terms of infant and maternal mortality, Gujarat’s record during the decade that Modi has run the State is poorer than that of the country at large. In 2006-2010, life expectancy in Gujaratwas two years shorter than the national average (about 66 years). Gujaratranked 17th among all Indian states in terms of literacy in 2001, the year Modi took over. Now it ranks 18th. (from the International Herald Tribune April 24th, 2012)
The list is endless indeed, and one can go on listing the many human rights violations and injustices which abound in the State of Gujarat…!