Friday, February 19, 2010

India's fastest growing state - and it's underbelly..

About a year back, I had posted some links in a post about India's fastest growing state - Gujarat's stance on "India Inc. vs Mera Bharat"...

Gujarat's model of Economic Growth is one model of Growth - even though, all growth is not necessarily good, e.g., cancer cells...

Today, I was forwarded - by a friend - Mallika Sarabhai's open letter to Gujarat's "Brand Ambassador" Amitabh Bachchan. Here are some excerpts, which details the underbelly of the Gujarat Story:

....So, as a Gujarati, permit me to introduce my State to you.

Everyone knows of our vibrancy, of the billions and trillions pouring into our State through the two yearly jamborees called Vibrant Gujarat. But did you know that by the government's own admission no more than 23% of these have actually moved beyond the MOU stage?

That while huge subsidies are being granted to our richest business houses, over 75,000 small and medium businesses have shut down rendering one million more people jobless?

You know of Gujarat's fast paced growth and the FDI pouringin, you have no doubt seen pictures of the Czars of the business world lining up to pour money to develop us. To develop whom?

Did you know that our poor are getting poorer? That while theAll-India reduction in poverty between '93 and 2005 is 8.5%, in Gujarat it is a mere 2.8%? That we have entire farmer families committing suicide, not just the male head of the household?

You have heard of how some mealy mouthed NGO types have been blocking the progress of the Narmada project, how the government has prevailed, and water is pouring down every thirsty mouth and every bit of thirsty land. But did you know that in the 49 years since it was started, and in spite of the Rs.29,000 crores spent on it, only 29% of the work is complete?

That the construction is so poor (lots of sand added to the you-know- which cement perhaps) that over the last nine years there have been 308 breaches, ruining lakhs of farmers whose fields were flooded, ruining the poorest salt farmers whose salt was washed away?

That whereas in 1999, 4743 of Gujarat's villages were without drinking water, within two years that figure had gone up to 11,390 villages ? (I cannot even begin to project those figures for today - but do know that the figure has gone up dramatically rather than down.)

With our CM, hailed as the CEO of Gujarat, we have once again achieved number one status - in indebtedness. In 2001 the State debt was Rs.14000 crores. This was before the State became a multinational company. Today it stands at Rs.1,05,000 crores. And to service this debt we pay a whopping Rs7000 crores a year, 25% of our annual budget.

Meanwhile our spending on education is down, no new public hospitals for the poor are being built, fishermen are going a begging as the seas turn turgid with effluents, more mothers die at birth per thousandthan in the rest of India, and our general performance on the Human Development Index is nearly the first - from the bottom.

One rape a day, 17 cases of violence against women, and, over the last ten years, 8802 suicides and 18152 "accidental " deaths of women are officially reported. You can imagine the real figures.

You have said that you are our Ambassador because we have Somnath and Gandhi. Somnath was built for people. Gandhiji was a man of the people. Do the people of this State matter to you?....

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mao-ists vs. MoU-ists

Today, India's Home Minister, P Chidambaram made a statement to the media: "We are willing to suspend all memorandums of understanding [with mining companies] until we talk to the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and review them".

This is a significant statement, since as I had once mentioned in one of the earlier blogposts that there is a huge overlap among the "poverty map of India", the "maoist-infected map of India" and the "mineral map of India" - reproducing the 3 maps below:

Poverty Map of India

Maoist/Naxal Affected Areas of India

Map of Mineral Resources and Forest Cover in India

The Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) are strange documents, which are signed between the government and the corporate entities, with no representation from the people whose life will finally get affected - mostly for the worse - by them (economists - of the Milton Friedman kind - call these "externalities").

I first realised this when I read the bookCatterpillarand the Mahua Flower: Tremors in India's Mining Fields (click to download pdf), which is collection of case-studies. Here is an excerpt (once again quoted in an earlier blogpost):

"...That companies are coming by the dozen to Chhattisgarh to mine its mineral wealth is hardly surprising. The state is rich in natural resources, with abundant deposits of iron, gold, tin, diamonds, coal, uranium, bauxite, corundum, dolomite, copper, limestone and other minerals. It’s estimated that the state has 35,000 million tonnes of coal, 2,336 million tonnes of iron ore, 3,580 million tonnes of limestone, 606 million tonnes of dolomite, 96 million tonnes of bauxite, and 29 million tonnes of cassiterite. With such bounty, Chhattisgarh accounts for over 13 percent of India’s total mineral production, worth around Rs 4,000 crores a year. Most importantly, 23 percent of the country’s iron-ore deposits are located here. The deposits in Bailadila in Bastar are considered to be among the best in the world....

....While the government cheered about the MoUs with Tata and Essar, the locals were curious about the agreements’ terms. How much land had been given to these two steel giants? Whose land was it? Would tribal land be confiscated? Would there be compensation, rehabilitation, or employment for the locals at these units? But no replies were forthcoming from the government on these issues.

MoUs have always been considered as public documents but a veil of secrecy hung over the government’s agreements with Tata and Essar. When the people demanded a copy of the MoUs under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the answer they obtained was both shocking and surprising: it was stated that a condition in the MoU prevented the government from revealing it to a third party! ...