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Showing posts from April, 2013

Is Gujarat CM seeking to manipulate GSDP figures to inflate growth rate? Ex-babu warns this happened earlier, too

By Rajiv Shah
Latest information, available from authoritative sources, has suggested that Gujarat's growth rate at constant prices (arrived at reducing inflation) for 2012-13 – for which the figures have still not been officially released – is down to seven per cent. Well-informed official sources said, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, disturbed by the figure, has held as many as four meetings to “dress up” and finalize the gross state domestic product (GSDP) figure for the year 2012-13. “So far he has not been satisfied with the numbers generated by the Directorate of Economics and Statistics and wants better numbers from them”, said an insider, adding, this is “notwithstanding the economic gloom in general and the poor agricultural scenario brought about by the first serious monsoon failure of his regime.”
The single digit rate of growth for the second consecutive year, says this insider, has come as an obvious shocker for a CM who has all along been claiming that Gujarat is…

In the name of Gujarat's pride

By Rajiv Shah
Eight years ago, addressing a gathering of state forest officials at the sprawling campus of the Gujarat Forestry Research and Training Complex in the state capital, Gandhinagar, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi seemed a little unsettled. A few mediapersons too were present, and I happened to be one of them. On April 28, 2005, Modi was confronted with this ticklish query: Will Gir no longer be the only habitat of the Asiatic lion, often addressed as the “Pride of Gujarat”? Announcing that the Asiatic lion's population had risen to 359, a rise of 32 in five years, Modi seemed to feel it was enough to seek publicity on how animal conservation under him had taken new strides – at a time when he had already invited enough ire for failing to conserve the human during the Gujarat riots.
Puzzled by the query, he looked around, but no official dared tell him the truth. Refusing to take a stand on the issue (the Gujarat government for several years had been fighting against…

Dalits 'refrain' from entering temples in the interest of rural peace and harmony, believes Gujarat govt

By Rajiv Shah
In a strange explanation, the Gujarat government has said that providing information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on prevalence of untouchability in the state will lead to “a sharp rise in incidence of enmity in the rural areas of Gujarat.” The explanation comes in reply to an RTI application, filed by top NGO Navsarjan Trust's senior activist Kirit Rathod, who had wanted to know details of a report, titled “Understanding Untouchability”, prepared by the Centre for Environment and Town Planning (CEPT) University, commissioned by the Gujarat government on October 22, 2010.
A copy of the letter, sent to the state information commissioner, D Rajagopalan, on April 4, 2013, has sought to give as many as seven different reasons, in order to deny information on untouchability in rural Gujarat. It is still not known how the Gujarat information commission takes these explanations, which are self-explanatory on how the officialdom is shying away from addressing issue…

High growth of gross national product cannot be panacea for development, argues senior economist

By Rajiv Shah 
At a time when the so-called Gujarat model is being touted as the sole panacea for India’s economic ills, a recent book by Kamal Nayan Kabra, Malcolm S. Adisheshiah chair professor, economics of development and decentralized planning, Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), New Delhi, has sharply argued against this type of “growth orthodoxy” which propagates that rate of growth of gross national product (GNP), as determined by the market forces, is the sole criterion of development. Such a GNP-centric model, he says in his book, “Appropriate Development: People First”, published by ISS, is based on the assumption of “trickle-down processes” which could be achieved by “increased public revenue as a fallout of higher GNP”, which would help run “state-led anti-poverty programmes.”
Without mentioning “Gujarat model”, Kabra, who is former professor of economics at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi, says, GDP-centric growth is being considered not just as “…

UNICEF-sponsored study says untouchability a major factor in health delivery in rural Gujarat, Rajasthan

By Rajiv Shah 
Even as a recent survey report, prepared jointly by the US-based East-West Management Institute, and Navsarjan Trust, a human rights NGO, has found that nearly 20 per cent of Dalit children aged 2-5 in rural Gujarat “miss” the anti-polio dose, thus failing to be immunized, a top study sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), based on on-the-spot inquiry, has found that untouchability is the most important factor in failure in health delivery to Gujarat’s (and Rajasthan’s) Dalit children. Based on primary data and personal interviews, the study, done a couple of years ago, has surprisingly gone largely unnoticed.
The study is titled “Access to Health Care and Patterns of Discrimination: A Study of Dalit Children in Selected Villages of Gujarat and Rajasthan”, by Sanghmitra S. Acharya, associate professor at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru, New Delhi. One is tempted to argue that its weakest spot may be the selection of…

Over 20 per cent of Dalit children are not immunized in rural Gujarat, says EWMI-sponsored study

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh study sponsored by US-based organization, East-West Management Institute (EWMI), in alliance with Gujarat’s human rights NGO, Navsarjan Trust, has found “dramatic differences in the delivery of immunization services between Dalits and non-Dalits.” Carried out among 2,308 children ages 5 and under from 77 villages in eight Gujarat districts in consultation with Dr Dileep Mavalankar of the Public Health Foundation of India, and Dr Ankur Sarin of the Public Systems Group, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, the survey says that 20.4 per cent of Dalit children, age 2-5 years, were unvaccinated for the poliovirus in Gujarat’s rural areas, and this rate was “more than twice as high as non-Dalits in comparable geographic regions.”
Combining rural and urban areas, the report, titled “Blind Spots to the Polio Eradication Endgame: Measuring the Limitations of Polio Vaccination Delivery in Dalit Communities in Gujarat, India”, prepared in January 2013, finds that on t…

Displacement of Maldharis from Gir would harm biodiversity, argues top Geneva-based sociologist

By Rajiv Shah 
A top Geneva-based researcher has sharply contested the application of international norms of biodiversity conservation on the Gir forest, which consider the establishment of uninhabited ‘protected areas’ as an effective way to protect nature. Writing in “Asia and Europe Bulletin” of the University of Zurich, Prof Shalini Randeria, who currently chairs the anthropology and sociology department at the prestigious Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, says, “The ideology and practices of new regimes of environmental governance in Gir forest” have merely continued the (post)colonial practice of “displacement, dispossession and the curtailment of the rights of forest-dwelling communities.”
Exploring ”the paths and patterns of travelling norms of nature conservation from their colonial beginnings to contemporary processes of their transnationalization”, and pointing towards how India has borrowed the “the new environmental regime of pristine ‘pro…

Urvish Kothari's Sardar

By Rajiv Shah
It was August 20, 2009 forenoon. I barged into the small cabin of a senior home department babu, an IAS bureaucrat who is currently working in the general administration department of the Narendra Modi administration, seeking to humbly “advise” the government on IAS postings. I found him “busier than he was”, to quote from one of Geoffrey Chaucer’s characterizations. The babu was too engrossed in scanning through BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s book, “Jinnah: India – Partition – Independence”, banned by the Gujarat government a day earlier for allegedly casting aspersions on Sardar Patel’s supposed role in partitioning India. “I am too busy. I have been given the task of finding out the objectionable references which are critical of Sardar Patel”, the official said, frantically looking into the index pages on the backside of the hard cover book. Why now? I wondered. The book had already been banned! “So was the book banned without reading it? And when did you receive the book?…