Gujarat, BJP’s development touchstone, gets thumbs down on social progress report

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By Manish Anand

New Delhi, December 20: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the Gujarat Assembly elections with a record tally, while riding on the showpiece development model. But a report released by the PM Economic Advisory Council (PM-EAC), which is headed by Bibek Debroy, has given thumbs down to Gujarat on social progress indicators – basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing and opportunity.

In a clear indictment of Gujarat, the report stated out of the 12 districts in the country which reported 50 per cent of their children underweight, five were in Gujarat.  Also, Narmada and Panchamahal districts in Gujarat reported 90 per cent of the children in the 5-59 months category suffering from anemia.

The report listed the states and Union territories in six categories on the status of the indicators. Gujarat was slotted in the fourth category of ‘Lower Middle Social Progress’. The report explained that the Tier IV category states “haven’t achieved high levels of social progress in terms of nutrition and basic medical care, access to information and communication, and access to advanced education”.

The report was prepared by Institute for Competitiveness and Social Progress Imperative, which stated that India currently is ranked 110th in the fourth tier nations, with lower points than the global average. Within the BRICS block, India had the lowest score of 60.19 in the social progress index. Russia, Brazil, South Africa and China were all ahead of India on the index. India’s gains since 2011 was stated by the report to have been on account of access to mobile phones, shelter, water and sanitation. Such improvements were also mentioned the by the United Nations Development Programme report on multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

Gujarat with a score of 53.81 was ranked 22nd among the Indian states on the social progress report. Gujarat, which is being ruled by the BJP for the past 27 years was slotted in the ‘Lower Middle Progress’ category of states in the company of Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Telangana, Tripura, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Gujarat had only seven districts in tier II, which is for high social growth, while Punjab and Tamil Nadu had their 17 and 11 districts in the category. Another 11 districts of Gujarat featured in the tier III, upper middle social progress. The state had another 11 districts in the tier IV of lower middle social progress.

Among the large states Tamil Nadu and Kerala took places in the top tier of high social progress. It is noteworthy to mention that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sought a debate on ‘Revdi (freebies)’ politics, and Tamil Nadu is known to be among the leading states which practice a high degree of the politics of freebies.

The BJP retained power after the recently held Assembly elections, winning 156 Assembly seats in a House of 182 seats, while decimating the Opposition. The one-sided mandate for the BJP was seen a verdict for the development model of the party in the state. While the report has ranked Gujarat poorly for lower access to nutrition, medical care, sanitation and higher education, the BJP vision document for the state had made a strong pitch for mediclaim, higher education institutions, etc.

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