By Neena Vyas, April 20, 2012, DH

‘Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.’ —Joseph Goebbels.

‘Gujarat is poised to lead national reconstruction…promoting growth and development and excellence in all walks of life.’ —

The celebrations have begun. On April 10, it was officially disclosed in court that the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team has recommended closure of the Gulberg Society massacre case finding no actionable evidence to prosecute Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Immediately, political pundits started predicting Modi’s ascent to the national political stage. The last hurdle in Modi’s path had been crossed. He could now get on with the task of doing for India what he has already done for Gujarat: make it shine.

Modi has been anxious to leave behind the 2002 pogrom and metamorphose into the ‘development man.’

One could be forgiven for mistaking Modi’s new mask to be his real face, for had not ‘Time’ magazine’s Asian edition cover story on Modi last month endorsed him as the new ‘vikas purush.’ Indian media institutions have made it a habit to praise Modi for efficient governance, as have corporate honchos, who hail him as the most investor-friendly of all chief ministers. Modi was the winner of ‘best chief minister’ title in a recent Mood of the Nation survey by India Today-Nielson. He was declared the favourite for the prime ministerial position in 2014. Click to read the long list of awards and accolades he has won over a decade.

If in 2005 Advani tried unsuccessfully to play the ‘I love Jinnah, therefore I am secular’ role in the hope the country would forget his support to 1992 Talibanesque act of razing to the ground the Babri Masjid, Modi has been desperately trying to emerge as the ‘development man,’ putting behind him the 2002 carnage, even as he repeatedly trips over the many skeletons of ‘encounter’ killings that pop out of his state cupboard.

The question is: has he made Gujarat shine? Is Gujarat shining more than Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Haryana or Karnataka? Has Gujarat under Modi achieved something that no other state has?

The hard fact is Gujarat has not been able to bag top position for even one of several key socio-economic indicators: life expectancy, infant mortality, nutrition, literacy and investment – although in 2001 when Modi took charge, Gujarat was already a well developed state, holding 4th state rank for per capita net state domestic product in mid-1996. Currently Haryana holds top rank, while Gujarat is at 6th position as it has mostly been since 1970s.

Last year, the National Council of Applied Economic Research reached the disturbing conclusion that hunger and malnourishment levels in Gujarat were higher than in Uttar Pradesh. The 61st National Sample Survey established that 44.6 per cent children in Gujarat were malnourished and 66 per cent in 0 to 5 age group were anaemic. A larger percentage of children went to bed hungry in Gujarat than in Uttar Pradesh.

Low life expectancy

Life expectancy is a good indicator of nutrition and health services. In Gujarat it was two years shorter than the all-India average of 66.1 in 2006-10 (Registrar General of India). The average Gujarati dies two years earlier than the average Indian and ten years before a Keralite, where at 73.9 years, life expectancy is the highest. Several states, including Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, have bettered the national average.
In Modi’s ‘garvi Gujarat,’ infant mortality rate fell 10 points from 60 to 50 from 2001-08, when the national average IMR fell 13 points from 66 to 53. States that ought to be compared to Gujarat performed better: Maharashtra IMR down 12 points from 45 to 33; Tamil Nadu lower by 18 points to 31 and Karnataka down 13 points to 45.

The sample registration system showed mothers in Gujarat fared no better than their newborns. Between 2004 and 2009 maternal mortality rate in Gujarat fell by 12 points from 160 to 148. Many states did out-shine Gujarat: in Kerala MMR was down 14 points from 95 to 81; Tamil Nadu lowered it by 14 points to 97 and Maharashtra 26 points from 130 to 104. The national average came down by 40 points from 254 to 212. These statistics are a telling beam of light that dissipate the fog of Modi’s propaganda.

Take literacy. The latest census figures showed Gujarat dropping one state rank over the decade: from 17th in 2001 to 18th in 2011, a far cry from Modi’s 2001 ‘vision’ of a 100 per cent literate Gujarat by 2010.

Truth has been the principal casualty of the hyper-active Gujarat state publicity departments.Surely the prize for the most bombastic claims must go to the This site would have us believe billions of dollars worth of foreign direct investment have flowed into Gujarat creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and wiping out hunger and poverty.

In the first three Vibrant Gujarat summits: 2003, 2005 and 2007, a total of $186 billion was garnered as MoUs for FDI, the official website claimed. Of these, 84 per cent proposals ‘had been implemented or were under implementation,’ it said. In the next two biannual events, MoUs worth $240 billion and $450 billion were signed taking the total to a staggering $ 876 billion!

If 60 per cent MoUs had materialised — not 84 per cent as claimed – Gujarat would have matched China’s FDI inflows of $600 billion plus!

Such extravagant claims were punctured by the Reserve Bank of India: a total of $7.3 billion was all that flowed into Gujarat in this period, a mere 5 per cent of total India’s total FDI. As against this, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka cornered 6 per cent of the national pie, while neighbouring Maharashtra garnered a massive 35 per cent.

The Modi PR machine is skilled at blowing its own trumpet to the orchestral accompaniment of a thrusting Gujarati diaspora.

(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist)