Development economist and activist Jean Dreze today said there was “no evidence” that the so-called “Gujarat Model” was a model in any sense, pointing out to the state’s backwardness in social indicators. “If you look at almost any ranking of development indicators, whether it is social indicators, human development index, child development index, multi-dimensional poverty index and all the standard poverty indexes of the planning commission…Gujarat almost always comes around the middle,” said the noted economist at Times LitFest here. It was the case much before Narendra Modi became chief minister and it remained the case after that, said Dreze, who helped draft the first version of NREGA (now called the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) Dreze, who once wrote an article titled “Gujarat Muddle”, recalls that the term, “Gujarat model”, was coined around the time of the last Lok Sabha elections (2014).
He describes the model as a counter-example, because of the disappointing social indicators inspite of the high growth in terms of standard economic indicators. There is obviously, Dreze believes, something lacking and, in that sense, it can be an illustration of the limitations of relying on private-enterprising growth for development in the larger sense. Commenting on ratings-agency Moody’s recent upgrade of India’s sovereign-credit rating to ‘Baa2’ from ‘Baa3’, Dreze says he doubts the credibility of such an index.
“If you dig into the methods behind these indexes, there is very little to them, except that they are taken seriously!” He also raised concerns about the Aadhaar scheme, fearing that it will create an “infrastructure of surveillance”. Underlining that his opposition to Aadhaar was not related to welfare programmes, but civil liberties. “Aadhaar multiplies the power of the state to keep track of everybody over time,” he said, flagging apprehensions that it could lead to stifling of dissent, as a lot of the databases that are going to be linked will be accessible to the government.
Speaking about the recent agitations of Patidars, Jats and others for reservations, Dreze partly blamed the stagnation of agricultural growth for the unrest. According to Dreze, the people, who have seen the size of their landholding shrink and with the population explosion in the last few decades, have certainly suffered. “That probably creates a sense of grievance, which must have translated to some of these movements, but there must be other things also,” he adds. The ‘Gujarat Model’ has remained the BJP’s favorite example of success in election campaigns over the years. Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, goes to polls on December 9 and 14.