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Regretting impact of 2002 riots, Tata Institute report talks of high incidence of sexual abuse of Gujarat girls

By Rajiv Shah
In a shocking revelation, a new report by high-profile NGO Save the Children, Wings 2014: The World of India’s Girls” has said that Gujarat’s 63.1 per cent girls may be subjected to sexual abuse, which is apparently, the highest in India. Pointing out that in the country as a whole there are 47.06 per cent such girls, the report, which has been prepared by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, says that most of these girls suffer silently, and “don’t report to anyone”. The report, significantly, carries a congratulatory message from Najma Heptulla, minorities minister under the Narendra Modi government, among others.
Lamenting poor child sex ratio (CSR) in Gujarat, as also other states, the report says, though “concerted community-level interventions” have meant that there should be significant improvement in CSR in states like Punjab, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana, there have been only “marginal improvement in states like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat…

Usurious moneylending prevails more in Gujarat than in other Indian states, suggests latest NSSO report

By Rajiv Shah
In a remarkable revelation, a new National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) report, released early this month, has found that Gujarat has a higher proportion of indebted households which reported taking loan at very high interest rate – 25 per cent or more. Calculations, based on the data released by the NSSO, suggest that 64.6 per cent of the state’s indebted households took loan at such high rate – which can easily be interpreted to mean usurious moneylenders. Titled “Key Indicators of Debt and Investment in India”, the report has found that there is just one state of 21 whose indebted households may be depending so heavily on moneylenders – Jammu & Kashmir (69.3 per cent).
Based on NSSO’s 70th round, the data in the report say that there are 260 rural households in Gujarat out of every 1000 which reported outstanding cash loans. A breakup of the data suggest that there are 80 out every 1000 rural households which reported taking loan at an interest rate between 25 …

Gujarat: Dilemma of low income from agriculture

By Rajiv Shah
There have been loud claims, which continue to be made till date, that agricultural growth in Gujarat has been a “success story”, which other states must emulate. It is also suggested that Gujarat’s agricultural growth rose from 3.3 per cent per annum in the 1990s to nearly 9 per cent over the last one decade – notwithstanding claims by some experts who say the problem is with the choice of a wrong base year. The argument runs of following lines: Gujarat has written the success story despite facing challenges like depletion of water tables, deterioration of soil and water conditions due to salinity ingress along the sea coast, irregularity of rainfall, and recurrent drought. However, few have sought to see what impact has it made on the actual income of the agriculturists of Gujarat, and how much they have gained vis-à-vis other states. Now, new figures released this month by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) in its report, “Key Indicators of Situation of Agr…

Kundu committee asks Modi govt to extend reservation to backward Muslims, help them through Jan Dhan

By Rajiv Shah
In a significant recommendation, the Amitabh Kundu committee, which submitted its “final report” on the status of minorities in India to the Narendra Modi government in early October, wants that the recently launched Jan Dhan scheme should go a long way in helping financial exclusion of the minorities. Even as risking of being dubbed for “appeasing minorities”, it wants the programmes launched by the previous UPA government for minorities to be further intensified, going so far to ask the Modi government to extend reservation to the most backward sections of Muslims, identifying them as “Dalit Muslims.”
In its chapter on reservations and affirmation action, the committee, in fact, underlines, “The Dalit Muslims must be taken out of the other backward classes (OBC) list and incorporated in the scheduled caste list. It should be possible to identify these Muslim caste groups based on the principle recommended by the Ranganath Misra Commission, that all groups and classes who…

Gujarat coal power plants highest polluters of deadliest particulate matter compared to all Indian states

By Rajiv Shah
While Gujarat may have topped Indian states in regularizing power supply to urban and rural areas, data released by a new report, “Coal Kills: Health Impacts of Air Pollution from India’s Coal Power Expansion” suggest this may have led to unprecedented health hazard in the state. The report has found that as of 2014 Gujarat’s coal-fired power plants, with a capacity of 15,900 MW, are emitting in air highest quantity of the deadliest PM2.5, the most dangerous particulate matter (PM), compared to all other state. PM2.5 is known to get absorbed deep in the lungs, causing “aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, lung cancer, cardiac problems, and premature death.”
According to top international environmental body Greenpeace, “Particles less than 2.5 micrometers, approximately 1/30 the average width of a human hair, can lodge deeply into the lungs. Sources of fine particles include all types of combustion, including power plants, motor vehicles and residential wood burning…

Vulnerable women: Victims of neglect

By Rajiv Shah
The Nirbhaya case may have helped bring cases of violence against women sharply into focus, yet large number of a women activists have begun to wonder, as to why, if the victim is from a vulnerable community, she rarely draws attention. The mysterious death of a lady tribal police constable from Rajpipla in Gujarat — Vasanti Vasava — between November 24 and 26, 2014 highlights how a state machinery treats atrocities committed on such women. Tables were turned only after the Gujarat Women Rights Council, a recently floated group by a well-known dalit rights activist, Manjula Pradeep, took up the death of Vasanti as a case of sexual assault and murder at a time when the police was trying to turn it into a “simple case of suicide”.
Manjula was busy in Vadodara district with a month-long campaign on violence against women, which had begun on November 25, declared by the UN as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The campaign was to continue for near…

'Vibrant' Ahmedabad?: Survey shows 78% slumdwellers are without toilet, forcing people to defecate in open

By Rajiv Shah
A recent survey of Ahmedabad’s two slum settlement colonies, Shankarbhuvan and Nagorivad, both of them situated in the old city area, go a long way to expose the loud claims of “clean" or "swachh" Gujarat by the state’s powerful authorities. Carried out by two non-government organizations (NGOs), Manav Garima and Human Development and Research Centre, the survey suggests that in the two slum settlements surveyed, out of a total of 1,447 households, 63 per cent of households (916) do not have toilets.
On the other hand, those households which do have toilets (531), 216 households do not use them because they are “unusable”, which means that 78 per cent of the total population in the two slum areas – about 7,500 – go in the open for defecation, forcing the cleaning staff to “clean up the narrow streets manually”, said Jitendra Rathod, a senior activist of Janvikas, the NGO which supports Manav Garima.
Rathod said, “Shortage of water supply, on one hand, and …

Gujarat's lag in higher education is intact, suggest data in new report sponsored by Centre, top industry body

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh report on the status of higher education in India has suggested that, despite a sharp increase in the number of universities and colleges in the recent past, the Gujarat government continues to perform poorly as compared to many other states in ensuring quality education to college-going children. Titled “Annual Status of Higher Education of States and Union Territories in India, 2014”, and sponsored jointly by the Union ministry of human resources and the top industry body, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the report finds that Gujarat government’s per capita spending on higher education (Rs 2,958) is less than nine major Indian states out of 20.
Worse, the report says that the state government spending on higher education is a meager 0.39 per cent of the gross state domestic product (GSDP), which is worse than 12 other states. This, analysts say, suggests that while the state economy may be doing considerably well, the state government has failed to ensu…

Gujarat's slips in rural infant mortality rate, unlikely to achieve millennium development goal by 2015

By Rajiv Shah
Fresh data of the Sample Registration System (SRS), which works under the Census of India, have suggested that Gujarat’s rural areas have failed to improve, and in fact gone down by one point, in its ranking, in the fight against high infant mortality rate (IMR) vis-a-vis other states in the last one decade. According to the latest SRS Bulletin, which was prepared in September 2014 and is based on the data collected in 2013, Gujarat ranked No 12th in a group of 20 major states in rural IMR. What is particularly shocking is that, at 43 IMR per 1000, such so-called backward states like Bihar (42 per 1000) and Jharkhand (38 per 1000) do better than Gujarat.
Other states which do better than Gujarat include Kerala (13), which remains top ranking like before, Tamil Nadu (24), Punjab (28), Maharashtra (29), West Bengal (32), Karnataka and Uttarkhand (34 each), Himachal Pradesh (35), and Jammu & Kashmir (39). Earlier SRS data suggest that Gujarat’s rural IMR ranking went dow…

Gujarat health sector: A lurking rural-urban gap

By Rajiv Shah
Latest data of the Sample Registration System (SRS), operating under the Census of India, suggest that Gujarat suffers from a huge rural-urban divide in infant mortality rate (IMR) rate compared to most other Indian states. Statistics offered by the SRS Bulletin, finalized in September 2014, show that Gujarat’s rural IMR is 43 per 1000, as against the urban IMR of 22 per 1000, suggesting a whopping gap of 21, higher than 20 major Indian states, with the exception of Assam.
Interestingly, the gap remains high despite the fact that well-known experts have been pointing towards poor state of rural infrastructure in Gujarat for the last several years. Apparently, their voice is not being heard. The CEPT University’s Prof Darshini Mahadevia, pointed towards this in 2007, when she wrote that the main problem with Gujarat’s IMR was a very high rural IMR compared to urban IMR. “Other states have shown far better improvement in rural healthcare than Gujarat. This neglect of rural h…

Gujarat govt blames self for poor GSDP growth, says data wing didn't capture Rs 19,792 crore industrial growth

By Rajiv Shah
Rattled by a relatively poor Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) growth rate in recent years, two senior Gujarat government officials, ably assisted by an Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) expert, ironically, have put – to quote them --“big question marks on the credibility of the state income estimation and hence on the Directorate of Economics and Statistics (DES) in the state”. They say this in their recent paper, “Measurement Issues in State Income from Registered Manufacturing Sector – Case of Gujarat”, published by IIM-A.
While the IIM-A expert is Prof Ravindra H Dholakia, known for his neo-liberal approach and strong support to the Gujarat “model” of development, the government officials whom he assisted in coming up with the argument, revealingly, are with the state’s powerful statistical wing, DES – Manish B Pandya and Payal M Pateria. Clearly, known to be an excellent economist, without Prof Dholakia’s assistance, the two officials would not have b…

Gujarat’s lag in household power consumption

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat government has long claimed that one of the major reasons for the state’s economic progress has been its “excellent” power sector performance. The state’s policy makers have argued, on the basis of Government of India data, that Gujarat’s power consumption, in per capita terms, is one of the highest in India. Gujarat’s new chief secretary D Jagatheesa Pandian, for instance, said in an interview in 2013, quoting Central Electricity Commission figures, when he headed the state energy department, that the per capita consumption of electricity in Gujarat in 2012 was around 1,516 units as against the national average of 879 units. He insisted, “This figure indicates the progress and growth happening in the state. In Gujarat, state utilities are providing an uninterrupted supply of electricity, quality and reliable power to all consumers.” While this may be showcased to prove that Gujarat is at the top in the power sector, it does not tell the full story.
No doubt, t…

A clear case of discrimination? One third of Gujarat's convicts are Dalits, which is highest in India

By Rajiv Shah
In a shocking revelation, just-released Government of India statistics suggest that 32.9 per cent of all convicts and 23.4 per cent of all undertrials in Gujarat’s prisons are Dalits. What makes the situation particularly precarious for the state, being projected as “model” for the whole country to follow, is that Dalits in Gujarat form just about 6.7 per cent (2011 Census) of the total population of the state – lower than any other major state of the country. This would suggest that there are 4.9 times higher convicts and 3.5 times higher undertrials than the proportion of their population – a disproportion activists link with “discrimination” against vulnerable communities.
The data were released early this week by the National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs, in a 256-page book, “Prison Statistics India 2013.” The statistics pertain to different aspects of prisons and prison inmates in Indian jails as of December-end 2013. In absolute numbers, there were 3…

Conservative compulsion forces higher percent of Gujarat women to do domestic work than most states

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst the big talk around Gujarat women being more secure than most Indian states, what is perhaps forgotten is that many of them are unable to come out of the socio-religious constraints, which ties them to their domestic work full time, even as forcing them not to do any full-time job. A just-released National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report, “Participation of Women in Specified Activities along with Domestic Duties”, has found that a much higher percentage of Gujarat women are driven by the conservative socio-religious framework compared to most Indian states in doing domestic work.
Based on a survey it carried out between July 2011 and June 2012, the NSSO report said, 18.7 per cent of rural women and 14.6 per cent in urban women do their domestic duties “because of socio-religious constraints.”
What should be puzzling for the state’s policy-makers and concerned individuals is, an inter-state comparison shows that a much lower percentage of rural women from 15…

Gujarat model 'revealed': Social security benefit, paid leave, written contract elude majority workers

By Rajiv Shah
Fresh data released by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), India’s premier data collection centre between decadal censuses, have revealed that, far from being a model for the country to follow, Gujarat under the years under Narendra Modi as chief minister (2001-14) failed to take care of the workers’ plight in the huge informal sector which is shaping up following the state’s fast-growing industrialization. According to the NSSO, the informal sector workers make up nearly 75 per cent of the state’s workforce employed in the non-agricultural sector (both rural and urban), and the workers in this sector particularly have massively failed to get any social security benefits, including paid leave. With wages one of the lowest in India, the workers in this sector suffer even more.
The NSSO data suggest that, as against the all-India average of 72 per cent workers not getting any social security benefits – essential during the transitional phase of an economy – Gujar…

New investments: Gujarat pushed to eighth position, even UP and Rajasthan overtake "India's growth engine"

By Rajiv Shah
It is not just in investments completed that Gujarat is lagging behind several states (click HERE to read). The situation has turned worse for new investments in the state, regarded as “growth engine of India”. Analysis carried out by a researcher with India’s premier independent research body Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) suggests that while Tamil Nadu tops the list of states with new investments in the quarter ended September 2014, Gujarat ranks eighth, with six other states performing better – Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana.
The researcher, Pradnya Deo, has said, “Announcement of new investments in Gujarat was lower in the quarter at Rs 65.3 billion, in comparison to Rs 176.5 billion in June 2014”, adding, of this, investment worth Rs 28.5 billion was in the shipping transport infrastructure segment alone. Giving details, the researcher said, “Adani Ports & Special Economic Zone Ltd announced development…

Gujarat N-power plant: Citing poor radioactive data, top panel orders revision of environmental report

By Rajiv Shah
In an important breather to farmers of Bhavnagar district of Gujarat protesting against the proposed nuclear power plant near Mithi Virdi on South Saurashtra coast, the Expert Appraisal Committee (Nuclear) of the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has asked the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to “revise” and “resubmit” its Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project, as it lacks clarify on a large number of issues. The panel, simultaneously, criticized the NPCIL for an important delay – for taking three long years to submit proposal for environmental clearance following “site clearance” of the project by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).
Suggesting that the delay has led to a situation where the new land acquisition Act – Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 – came into force, making it difficult for acquiring land now, the committee wished to know abou…

Race for Gujarat chief secretary: Nanda's Congress past is a hurdle for his claim to head administration

By Rajiv Shah
The Gujarat government is learnt to have made an unlikely move – it has "approached" the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for finding out possibilities of a third extension for the incumbent chief secretary Varesh Sinha. Well-informed sources in the state bureaucracy have revealed that while the reason being offered for seeking Sinha’s third extension is the need of his “indispensable” services for the forthcoming Vibrant Gujarat investors’ world business meet, to take place in on January 11-12, 2015. “Sinha is already deep into preparations. His services have become necessary for the next summit”, a top Sachivalaya source said, quoting officials close to Sinha.
The extension is being sought, according to sources, despite the fact that the rule book does not allow the chief secretary to serve for more than six months post-retirement. Retired in April 2014, his first extension was from May to July 2014, and the second began in August and will end on October 31, 2014…