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Less government, better governance…
Dr. Bibek Debroy, a former colleague of mine in the Ministry of Commerce, and now a well-known columnist, was among the first to highlight the achievements of Gujarat even while he was working with the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. He stuck his neck out objectively and it was cut!

While the Gujarat model has been recognised and applauded internationally, it has been kicked around in the recent elections.

Forget about the statistics and white lies. The common man looks for provisions of basics like food, shelter, uninterrupted power, good communication, good roads and also for e-mails and internet. Health and education are important, but could be taken care of by the private sector too. Apart from maintenance of law and order, we want ‘less government but better governance.’

Gujarat provides these in good measure. That is the reason why this model of development is applauded.


Focussed agriculture…

Gujarat is essentially an agricultural state. Cotton, groundnut, milk and non-Virginia tobacco grow well here. These flourish in dry soil prevalent in North Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch. Drinking water is a problem in Mehsana, Barnaskantha and Kutch. But, thanks to the efforts of the Modi government, the growth of agriculture increased from 2 per cent per annum in the 1990s to 10 per cent today. The Narmada project was implemented successfully in the teeth of opposition. It is a rare sight for old timers to see canals full of water in dry districts of Mehsana and Banaskantha, irrigating thousands of acres and providing drinking water to lakhs.

Recently I saw high-rise buildings coming up in large numbers in Ahmedabad similar to the ones on OMR in Chennai. I was told that there was no problem of power, water or drainage unlike in OMR, thanks to the Narmada canals and handsome capacity created for power.


Power play…

Gujarat has augmented power supply by continuing liberal investments. The Ahmedabad Electric Supply Company in the private sector has been an efficient organisation. The Modi government concentrated on generation of power and its proper distribution. It has categorised consumers sectorwise -– agriculture, industry and individuals. The government ensures that there is 24x7 power supply even in villages. There are no subsidies or free power. Solar power generation and other non-conventional energy are also encouraged in a big way. Gujarat has become a power surplus state, exporting power to other states at profit.

Gujarat has also concentrated on gas-based thermal electricity with a market share of 8 per cent. It has undertaken gas exploration in other parts of the country like AP. Gujarat is second nationwide in nuclear electricity generation.


Incentivising industry…

This naturally leads us to the question of making available land for industry. Industry has had initial momentum because of early start and enterprise of her people. Gujarat is noted for textiles, engineering, chemicals, drugs... The diamond industry shifted from Mumbai to Surat and other places in Gujarat because of the efforts of the Modi government. Out of 10 diamonds sold in the world, 9 are cut and polished in Gujarat. (Incidentally, I created the Hindustan Diamond Corporation).

Similarly, modern industrial units on a world scale have been set up by the Modi government who has been busy making Gujarat another Singapore. Modi bought in the Tata Motors in quick time from West Bengal. There is the criticism that valuable land was given at low prices. But these are not agriculture lands. Moreover, for years almost all state governments have been attracting industry by giving all sorts of incentives including free land. In Gujarat, one should be thankful if an industrialist goes to Banaskantha or Kutch where the land could be given free!


Focus on Ports...

The Modi government has also concentrated upon the large coastline of 1600 km. With a good maritime board, various ports like Mundra, Pipavav and  Dahej were set up. Sardar Vallabhai Patel thought of Kandla Gandhidam as a substitute port for Karachi after partition. The development of Kutch is phenomenal. It was a punishment posting in my days – it is now a place certainly worth a visit. One should not forget the salt and fisheries industries in Gujarat.

Modi has stated that apart from foreign investment in industries, agriculture, Internet (incidentally, all villages in Gujarat have internet–broadband connection), commerce and finance, he will concentrate on tourism for long a neglected sector in Gujarat, as in the Government of India. The Central budget never used to mention ‘Tourism’ till I pointed out in 1996, when I was Secretary, Tourism, GOI. In the next year’s budget, they added a line! This is because ‘Tourism’ is considered in India, an elite activity. Whereas the UN World Tourism Organisation rightly emphasises it – rural, gender, skilled and unskilled employment generation through tourism. Modi has already realised this and brought in Amitabh Bachchan as brand ambassador.


Rooted to tradition, modern in approach…

It should be remembered that Gujarat was formed only in 1960. It was an amalgam of the separate state of Saurashtra, Princely Kutch and later numerous princely states. It did not have the advantage of a presidency like Madras with ICS administrators. So the Human Development Index may be lagging behind in pockets. However, governance since 1960 has been good with emphasis on public participation – more than in Tamil Nadu and other states – in the form of strong panchayats and co-operatives. Apart from the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, which is international, co-operative institutions like Land Development Banks are allowed and performed as true co-operatives.

The Modi Administration has become modern. I have not seen a book on ‘climatic change’ by any other state government. Creation of Gujarat International Finance Tec-city in Gandhinagar is also something modern. Sabarmati cleaning and new embankment remind me of Clark Quay in Singapore.  The modern approach is clearly visible and it could also be replicated in other states. No wonder Gujarat is in the league of Malaysia and Singapore with 10 per cent growth in GDP far above the rest of India’s average.

These are the reasons why I recorded in my autobiography published in 2008, Plight of Honesty : an Untold Bureaucracy, that inspite of the corruption in India including the  BJP as exposed by the Bangaru Laxman tapes and also the lags in administration, Modi’s Gujarat is an exception.

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