Is India’s ‘iron man’ Modi a spinmeister or is there something everybody is missing?

Mr Modi has become synonymous with Gujarat's growth

Is Gujarat’s red hot economy a myth?

BBC’s New Delhi correspondent, Soutik Biswas writes in his column:

Is Gujarat’s so-called red-hot economic growth a myth peddled by the government of the controversial chief minister Narendra Modi?

Mr Modi, who was blamed for not doing enough to stop the horrific 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state after the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, has modelled himself as a no-nonsense economic reformer leading one of India’s fastest-growing states.

Gujarat also signed on to a fiscal responsibility law only after five other states did, and 20 states preceded Gujarat in implementing value added tax.

More interestingly, states like Uttarkhand (13.2%), Bihar (10.9%), Maharashtra (10.7%), Tamil Nadu (10.4%) and Haryana (10.1%) recorded double-digit growth in the seven-year period under review.

None of these states have the kind of hype associated with them as does Mr Modi’s Gujarat, which is often called the most business friendly state in India. So is Gujarat really the “breakout” state that Mr Modi wants the world to believe?

So is Mr Modi a spinmeister or is there something everybody is missing?

Read the full column: Is Gujarat’s red hot economy a myth?

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Indian Politicians on Twitter:Modi Express #1

As the state of Gujarat commemorated its 52nd Gaurav Diwas (Foundation Day), the Modi Express on Twitter celebrated another milestone when it crossed the make of 600,000 ‘followers’ in record time! This once again reaffirms why he is truly called the ‘King of Social Media’ among the politicians!
This mammoth increase among Narendra Modi’s followers comes at a time when he featured on the cover page of Time Magazine, which lauded the decade of peace and development in Gujarat. Other luminaries who have come on the cover include Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Incidentally, he is the only Indian Chief Minister and the first BJP leader to feature on the list. Roughly at the same time, Brookings Institution, one of Washington DCs oldest and most reputed think tanks carried a comprehensive story by William Antholis, its managing editor. Brookings lauded the atmosphere of development that prevailed in Gujarat.

India’s Young Social Reformer: Mittal Patel

Mittal Patel: A journalist and a social reformer.

More than four million nomads reside in Gujarat and approximately 60 million exist in the country. It was shocking to find there was no data or information available on them even in the government departments. Though the government is aware of certain communities, to avail of the benefits, people are supposed to submit a number of documents. These, unfortunately, they did not possess. The benefits, therefore, reached them in a very limited way. We are now working for 40 nomadic and de-notified tribes in eight districts of Gujarat. 

says, Mittal Patel, a young gold medallist in journalism from Gujarat University, has been trying to give a voice to nomadic tribes for the last six years.

Running an NGO, Vicharata Samuday Samarthan Manch, Patel has aided thousands with fading livelihoods, whose existence was hardly recognised or acknowledged by the state or the central government.

Nomads earlier provided services such as sharpening knives and weapons, repairing tools and supplied a variety of goods including ornaments, perfumes and medicinal herbs. During the days of princely states, they accompanied a king’s convoy to help them repair their carts. But due to industrialisation, traditional occupations became non-existent for them.

Mittal has been striving to find alternative employment for men and women and is working towards providing educational facilities for the children. She has been instrumental in helping them claim land rights, getting voter ID cards and fighting with bureaucrats to extend welfare schemes for them.

Click to Read the full interview taken by Nilima Pathak for the Gulf News

Has Narendra Modi really made it large in the ‘Hindutva Laboratory’?

‘Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.’  or  &  ‘tell a lie a thousand times and people will believe it is the truth!’—Joseph Goebbels.

If we just spend sometime, scratch the surface a bit of the Gujarat Shining tag, we would realise that plenty that is being flaunted about the so-called progress and prosperity of the State is merely due to a propaganda blitz – through ‘paid media’ and through a Washington based publicist company ‘Apco Worldwide’ which boasts among its clients several dictators and fascist regimes from across the world. For Indian Diplomat Lalit Mansingh is in the Global Political Strategists list of Apco. Below Narendra Modi‘s “Hindutva’s laboratory” one finds a reality which will make one grimace and even struggle for breath! Has Modi really made it large?

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.

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.

The Vibrant Gujarat as it is pictured today by media, has the following stars on its shoulder too:

These include:

  • a Government of Gujarat profile of 18,066 villages of the State has revealed that a significant percentage of the villages of the State do not have potable drinking water, toilets or educational facilities.
  • the gap between the rich and the poor grows wider and wider
  • cosmetic development policies help a few but are detrimental to the large majority, very particularly the poor and the marginalized
  • environmental laws are blatantly flouted
  • adivasis, dalits and other sub-alterns are denied basic human rights
  • Muslims and Christians are treated as second-class citizens – many of them do not have access to quality education, good employment and other basic amenities needed for a citizen
  • most of the victim-survivors of the Gujarat Carnage 2002 are still struggling for justice
  • a good percentage of the Muslims are confined to ghettoes in urban and rural Gujarat
  • corruption is highly institutionalized in the State
  • the recent report (March 2012) of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on Gujarat revealed a Rs. 17,000 crore loss to the State exchequer due to corruption and financial irregularities
  • “encounter” deaths are rampant in Gujarat besides there have been more than 180 other custodial deaths in the last few years in the State
  • salt-pan workers in the Kutch area have to travel 15 to 20 kms away to get potable drinking water
  • the clear nexus between Government and some of the corporate sectors raises serious issues with regard to land acquisition, displacement, tax-payer’s money being used for the purpose of industries, etc.
  • thousands of fishermen all along the coast have lost their livelihood because of certain ports and other mega-projects
  • 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 2011 Human Development Report of India states that hunger and malnutrition (are) worse in Gujarat than in India’s other large states.  According to the report, almost 45 percent of children in Gujarat are malnourished.  A larger percentage of children go to bed hungry in Gujarat, one of India’s richest states, than in Uttar Pradesh, one of its poorest.
  • the 2011 Human Development Report of India states that hunger and malnutrition (are) worse in Gujarat than in India’s other large states.  According to the report, almost 45 percent of children in Gujarat are malnourished.  A larger percentage of children go to bed hungry in Gujarat, one of India’s richest states, than in Uttar Pradesh, one of its poorest.
  • in terms of infant and maternal mortality, Gujarat’s record during the decade that Modi has run the State is poorer than that of the country at large.  In 2006-2010, life expectancy in Gujarat was two years shorter than the national average (about 66 years).  Gujarat ranked 17th among all Indian states in terms of literacy in 2001, the year Modi took over.  Now it ranks 18th.
  • child labour is rampant in Gujarat with thousands working in the cotton fields of Sabarkantha, the brick-kilns, in the ‘kitlis’, and in several other areas of the unorganized sector.
  • sex ratio has dipped to a new low with just 918 females to a 1,000 males as against the national average of 940 (female foeticide is rampant)
  • the Sabarmati River “is one of the most toxic rivers” in the country,
  • a recent report ranks Gujarat 18th in the increasing crime graft making it one of the least peaceful States of the country
  • Gujarat ranks a poor 12th in the country in issuing forest land to the tribals.
  • a fairly significant sections of the population is still involved in manual scavenging

 The list is endless indeed, and one can go on listing the many human rights violations and injustices which abound in the State of Gujarat…..!

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? Has Modi really made it large?


Modi-1st Indian OBC leader in TIME

Soon after Narendra Modi was featured on the cover of Time magazine last month, his media managers went into overdrive saying the Gujarat chief minister was the firstIndian OBC leader to get this distinction.

Surprising this from a former poster-boy of Hindutva who has shunned the caste tag for wider acceptance in the majority community.

But as he faces assembly polls later this year – and aspires for a larger national role later – Modi is clearly positioning himself as an OBC leader for two reasons. First, he is wooing the OBCs to offset a deviant Patel vote-bank. At another level, he is pitching himself against two possible NDA contenders for prime ministership – Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan – both OBC leaders. The strategy makes sense. OBCs constitute about 30% and Patels around 20 % of the population in Gujarat.

For me though, nothing beats the ‘alphonso’ mango!

 writes in theguardian blog:

As anyone who’s tasted an Alphonso mango knows, its short season, from now until the end of June, is a major cause for celebration. Often making an appearance on “1,000 things to eat before you die”-type lists, this Indian variety has become more and more popular in UK..

…Alphonso is named after Afonso de Albuquerque, a nobleman and military expert who helped establish the Portuguese colony in India. It was the Portuguese who introduced grafting on mango trees to produce extraordinary varieties like Alphonso. The fruit was then introduced to the Konkan region in Maharashtra, Gujarat and parts of south India.

…A national obsession in India on a par with Bollywood and cricket, the start of the mango season signals the beginning of summer and makes headlines. Newspapers give continuous updates on prices and availability. It’s customary to send boxes of Alphonso mangoes to friends, colleagues and bosses as a mark of love and respect; and many courier companies in India even offer a separate mango delivery service.

Many Indians eat little more than the fruit for breakfast, lunch and dinner during its short season. In Mumbai, top restaurants put on mango festivals, and street vendors sell freshly squeezed mango juice. Indians celebrate with “mango parties”, using the fruit in dishes such as pakoras, curries, mango leather, drinks like lassi and falooda, sweetmeats likebarfi and desserts such as shrikhand.

Spring brings many delicious things to eat – rhubarb, asparagus, wild garlic and the first broad beans. For me though, nothing beats the Alphonso mango.

Read the full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/apr/27/do-you-know-alphonso-mango

‘Sandesh’ Go Green Campaign

To commemorate Earth Day, Sandesh, a leading gujarati newspaper, initiated a ‘GO-Green Campaign’ from April 22 to June 22.

The objective of this campaign is to explain the importance of green and healthier environment to the people of Gujarat. Over the next two months it will be Sandesh’s endeavour to educate and encourage active participation in this movement to nurture, preserve and protect the planet Earth. A multi-pronged, multimedia campaign is being launched in an effort to provoke thinking and create awareness and also offer convenient means to join in the positive action.

Some of the mediums being used for this ambitious campaign include: print, web, OOH, special contents in newspapers. The first step is the ‘Plant a Tree’ activity. This is being organized over a week- from 25th of Apr to 1st of May. For this, Individuals, Corporates, educational institutions, societies and NGO’s have come together to give an overwhelming response with more than 200,000 saplings expected to be planted across Gujarat.

Parthiv Patel, Managing Director of Sandesh Group, says

“At Sandesh we have always believed in empowering our readers with cutting edge news along with a wealth of entertainment, information and indepth analysis. Our Go Green Campaign is a part of this- giving our readers and people of Gujarat the power to make a difference to our environment”.