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Showing posts from May, 2013

Neoliberal growth in Gujarat has intensified social and economic inequalities, says new Save the Children report

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report, “Reducing Inequality: Learning Lessons for the Post-1015 Agenda. India Case Study”, by Save the Children has regretted that “the rapid economic growth that Gujarat has experienced over the past decade has been of the nature of exclusionary growth where goals like social equality, sustainable livelihoods, access to education and health, justice and peace have been abandoned in the race for high-speed growth.”
The report, by the world’s leading independent organization that works to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives, states that Gujarat's “expenditure in social sectors, both as a percentage of GSDP and as a percentage of total expenditure, has declined more than the average decline in other comparable States and stands below the national average pointing to a clear shift in the priorities.”

The report observes, “There is a decline in the usage of government health servi…

Survey reveals internally displaced minorities in Gujarat remain socially vulnerable even a decade after riots

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh survey, carried out by Ahmedabad-based rights group, Centre for Social Justice January between January and March 2013, and sponsored by Action Aid, has revealed that thousands of victims of Gujarat riots, who still remained displaced a decade after the holocaust, are unable to return to their original habitat as they fear they will not be protected. Carried out among 464 internally displaced persons (IDPs), a term coined by the United Nations to identify those who are forced to leave their habitat because of violent situations, as many as 364 of the surveyed IDPs continue living in rehabilitation camps, and another 100 IDPs live in alternative housing provided to them in different towns in eight districts of Gujarat.
The survey results show that 65 per cent of the IDPs live a displaced life for the last 10 years, whereas 30 per cent have remained displaced between five and 10 years. During their displaced living, 90 per cent of the IDPs faced multiple displacements…

Politics and economics of Gujarat drought

By Rajiv Shah
Gujarat Sachivalaya is abuzz with a strange speculation. The speculation is especially significant as it is taking rounds of the top state corridors of power at a time when Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has launched his month-long Krishi Mahotsav, an annual event to “teach” farmers what they should sow and how. While all agree in Sachivalaya that in the year 2012-13, Gujarat’s agricultural growth rate slipped in the negative, officials are unable to quantify the percentage.
Discussions have taken place on the matter, including at the highest level. While one bureaucrat said, in 2012-13, thanks to what he termed as “near-drought” situation, agricultural growth rate slipped to minus ( --) 3 per cent, another disagreed. “Soon you will hear from authoritative sources: Agriculture has slipped to around minus ( -- ) 13 per cent… In certain places in Gujarat, especially Saurashtra, you will be told, agricultural growth slipped to minus ( -- ) 22 per cent.”
There is reason t…

As Gujarat agriculture slips into a deep negative in 2012-13, state rulers begin playing drought politics

By Rajiv Shah
Cat is finally out of the bag. If early estimates in the top corridors of the Gujarat government are any indication, during 2012-13, or the last financial year, the state’s agricultural growth rate slipped into the negative after an average of the last five year plan (2007-12) showed it had already been pushed to a single digit (4.8 per cent). “Soon it will be announced that the agriculture slipped to around minus ( -- ) 13 per cent in 2012-13. In certain places in Gujarat, especially Saurashtra, agricultural growth slipped to minus ( -- ) 22 per cent”, senior state bureaucrat said, adding, “Already, crop failure on account drought during 2012-13 has been assessed to be around 50 per cent.”
This should be a shocker to those who have been making tall claims about a constant double digit rate of growth in agriculture. The argument was, even in drought years, with so many check dams having come up and watershed projects launched, Gujarat’s agricultural growth rate would easi…

Gujarat slum policy proposes authority to "manage" slums, permits Swiss route to private developers

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat government is all set to form Gujarat Affordable Housing and Slum Rehabilitation Authority (GAHSRA), with sweeping powers, under the chairmanship of the the state chief minister to “manage” and “develop” state slums in the state's urban areas. Draft of the Gujarat Slum Rehabilitation and Redevelopment Policy, 2013, in possession of  www.counterview.net, at the same time, seeks to add yet another bureaucratic ladder at the local urban self-governing level under the chairmanship of municipal commissioner in municipal corporation area, chairman of the urban development in the urban development authority area, and the district collector in municipality area. The new structure would be called Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA)..
The policy has been worked out as the previous one, of 2010, had become a non-starter. The previous policy had wanted to involve private developers (like this one) to take up slum rehabilitation on lines of Asia's biggest slum area,…

Failing to implement its order, Gujarat govt may "withdraw" GR to pay compensation to silicosis victims

By Rajiv Shah After failing to implement its own government resolution (GR) on paying Rs 1 lakh as compensation to those who die because of silicosis, a deadly lungs disease which is common among agate polishing units in Khambhat town and taluka of Gujarat, the Gujarat government is now planning a new one to "amend" its error, which allowed insurance companies to cover only those under group insurance scheme who die in an accident. While nobody in the government has any idea of what this new GR would be and whether it would be able remove the "technical hitch" which supposedly is the chief reason why the year-old GR could not be put into action, voluntary organisations working with the silicosis victims believe, the year was "lost" because of official indifference. Jagdish Patel of the People's Training and Research Centre (PTRC), Vadadara, which campaigns for the cause of agate workers as well as those who suffer from other occupational health disea…

Top Gujarat PSU faces fresh environmental hurdle in commercial production of gas "produced" off Andhra coast

By Rajiv Shah 
The Gujarat government’s powerful state public sector undertaking (PSU), Gujarat State Public Corporation (GSPC), has faced a major environmental hurdle, putting its Rs 2,030 crore project to go in for commercial production of the gas it claims to have found in the KG Basin, off Andhra coast, in jeopardy. Asking the GSPC to “defer” the project till certain conditions are fulfilled, sources in Gujarat’s energy and petrochemicals department said, the expert appraisal committee (EAC) of the Union ministry of environment and forests has refused to give blanket coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance for laying down underground gas pipeline, optical fibre cable (OFC), an effluent disposal pipeline – all of which is proposed to pass through CRZ area of Yanam-Puducherry, along the Andhra Pradesh coast – as also the proposal to set up an onshore gas terminal off Mallavaram and a process-cum-living quarter platform at offshore in KG Basin, Andhra Pradesh.

The GSPC had argued that …

Economic discrimination plagues rural Gujarat's scheduled caste and scheduled tribe households, suggests NSS report

By Rajiv Shah 
Fresh indications have emerged which go to suggest that the latest economic reforms, under the “neo-liberal” guise, have not in any way worked in favour of the disadvantaged sections of the rural population in Gujarat. The latest National Sample Survey (NSS) data, put out by the Government of India, show that only 1.2 per cent Gujarat’s scheduled tribe (ST) households and 2.7 per cent of the state’s scheduled caste (SC) households owned more than four hectares (ha) of land. This is in sharp contrast to a huge 17 per cent of higher castes owning more than four ha of land. The figures find their place in “Employment and Unemployment Situation among Social Groups in India”, published in September 2012.
Worse, great majority of ST households, 92.1 per cent, are marginal farmers; they own either no land or less than one ha of land. Things are not very different for SC households – 89.4 per cent of the SC households own either no land or less than one ha of land. As one climbs …

Top note investigates how Gujarat govt fudged farm growth rate figures to showcase double digit success

By Rajiv Shah
Has the Gujarat government manipulated figures of agricultural growth? Latest information available from informed sources say this might well be so. According to an authoritative note, prepared by a retired IAS bureaucrat and mean for circulation among influential quarters, the “fudged figure” found its reflection in various ways, but more so in the form of total area under cultivation during Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's speech before the Planning Commission in Delhi a year ago.
Modi asserted that Gujarat’s “cultivated area was 108 lakh hectares (ha) in 2000-01”, which “went up to 145 lakh ha in the year 2010-11”. It was an increase of an unbelievable 37 lakh ha in a year! The claim about the “dramatic increase” in the area under cultivation was repeated in the Gujarat governor’s speech during the budget session of the Gujarat legislature in February 2013, when it was mentioned that the area under various crops had gone up to 145.45 lakh ha. In fact, the note…