Gujarat v UPA: models of non-governance?

By Sunita Narain
Last Updated: Monday 17 August 2015

The 2014 general election, it would seem, is becoming a referendum on the so-called Gujarat model and the something-UPA model. In the heat, dust and filth of elections, rhetoric is high, imagery is weak and facts are missing. Very broadly, the Gujarat model is seen to be corporate-friendly, with emphasis on economic growth at any cost and little focus on social indicators of development. The UPA model, on the other hand, is seen to promote distributive justice and inclusive growth. And our conclusion could well be that this model does not work because we see little difference—high inflation pinches our purse; poverty and malnutrition persist; and crony capitalism thrives.

In this way, the referendum on May 16, when the counting is done, could well be seen as a go-ahead to rampant growth without a human face. But this, I believe, will be missing the key point.

If there is a referendum, it must be on the lack of delivery of programmes for social justice and inclusive growth. It cannot be a decision against the idea of rights-based development. That would be disastrous for India. So, what we need to do is to think about what went wrong. And the next government’s agenda must be to fix it. Not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.


The fact is that the UPA government has invested too much political capital, bureaucratic time and energy of its countless advisory committees to dream up and launch new schemes. It has done little—appallingly little—to ensure that the programmes get implemented on the ground. As a result, when you reflect on the past 10 years, there is a desolate graveyard of good intentions. The million flowers that never bloomed.

Take the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), launched in the early years of UPA I with the promise of providing employment to put a floor on poverty. Ironically, in the first few years when there was commitment to the scheme the Congress Party was not even in charge. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, was rural development minister, who spearheaded the programme and pushed for its implementation.

In mid-2008, when the Centre for Science and Environment reviewed the first two years of the scheme, we pointed to the need to focus on the quality of work that was being undertaken. We showed that even though this programme invested much-needed funds in water augmentation and soil conservation works, the focus was only on “work” and not its completion. The scheme provided for a village infrastructure plan to be the basis of the work’s execution. But this was not implemented. As a result, the crucial water harvesting structures, which would have become the basis of economic growth by providing water for irrigation, were being wasted. Ponds were either half complete or their catchment was not protected. We said that this could change if the right to work was converted to the right to development. But this message, even if heeded, was never implemented. Instead, in 2007, the UPA government decided to make the scheme nationwide. MGNREGA spread from 200 drought-affected poor districts to over 600 districts, where such work was not even needed. It went from being the promise of a new tomorrow, to being a victim of a populist today.

By 2014, eight years later, after Rs 200,000 crore were spent, the government admits that only 20 per cent of the 7.5 million works started have been completed. There is no doubt that this scheme has made crucial difference in rural India’s purchasing and bargaining power. But if it has not put a floor on poverty, it is because the managers of the programme did not believe it could. They never worked obsessively to improve delivery and to evolve this largest human development experiment to become the change itself.

The experience is no different in UPA’s other flagship programmes, be it the Forest Rights Act or the Right to Education Act. The 12th Five Year Plan document, perhaps for the first time, has a separate chapter on social inclusion enumerating an impressive listing of the many programmes for distributive justice and poverty eradication. But sadly, UPA will be best remembered not for removing poverty from our midst, but for mocking the income figures that defined the people below poverty line. It is a sad legacy for a government with so many potential game-changer programmes.

Our demand from the new government cannot be to reinvent the model of development. Our demand should be that development that is socially just and economically inclusive must be delivered.

Manifesto: BJP Election Manifesto 2014 (Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas)

Manifesto: Indian National Congress: manifesto for the Lok Sabha Elections, 2014 (Your voice, our pledge)

Interactive: Green Agenda

Report: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005: report to the people

Act: The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005

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  • Excellent Post. You are

    Excellent Post. You are perfectly right Madam.
    The Development in Gujarat portrayed by the Gujarat Government and Media is confined to mostly Industrialisation and High tech. In Poverty Alleviation Gujarat very much lagging behind.
    India is basically a Agrarian country with Agrarian economy and Gujarat State cannot be an exception. Side by side with Industrial Growth, Farmers and poor prosperity should be ensured.
    Let us first look at consumption expenditure, or spending on goods and services. The percent of people in poverty (below the cut-off) decreased from 2004-2005 to 2011-2012 in all states except three, according to the planning commission's data and based on its definition of the poverty line for different states.

    State 2004-05 2011 ÔÇô 12 % point decline % decline
    Andhra Pradesh 29.9 9.2 20.7 69
    Kerala 19.7 7.1 12.6 64
    Tamil Nadu 28.9 11.3 17.6 61
    Punjab 20.9 8.3 12.6 60
    Rajasthan 34.4 14.7 19.7 57
    Maharashtra 38.1 17.4 20.7 54
    Haryana 24.1 11.2 12.9 54
    Gujarat 31.8 16.6 15.2 48
    But the extent of the decline varied across states, and here, of all big states, Gujarat ranked 8th in percentage decline (column 4) of the percentage of people below the poverty line.

    Here are some People's Policies for prosperity for your consideration Narendra Modiji:
    There are millions of acres of waste land in the country. In this vast land care-free growth plants like Agave and Opuntia can be grown. Both are CAM Plants and regenerative. Being CAM Plants they can act as Carbon Sing when grown on a massive scale.There are several uses of these plants. Agave thrives in desert regions and is traditionally used to produce liquors such as tequila in Mexico. It has a rosette of thick fleshy leaves, each of which usually end in a sharp point with a spiny margin. Commonly mistaken for cacti, the agave plant is actually closely related to the lily and amaryllis families. The plants use water and soil more efficiently than any other plant or tree in the world, Arturo said. "This is a scientific factÔÇöthey don't require watering or fertilizing and they can absorb carbon dioxide during the night.The plants annually produce up to 500 metric tons of biomass per hectare, Agave(Americana),Sisal Agave is a multiple use plant which has 10% fermentable sugars and rich in cellulose. The fibre is used in rope making and also for weaving clothes in Philippines under the trade name DIP-DRY. In Brazil a paper factory runs on sisal as input. A Steroid HECOGENIN is extracted from this plant leaves. Since on putrification,it produces methane gas, it can be cut and used as input in biogas plants. Also in Kenya and Lesotho dried pieces of Agave are mixed with concrete since it has fibres which act as binding.
    Agave Competitive Advantages:
    Thrives on dry land/marginal land. Most efficient
    use of soil, water and light.
    Massive production. Year-around harvesting.
    Very high yields with very low or no inputs
    Very high quality biomass and sugars
    Very low cost of production. Not a commodity,
    so prices are not volatile
    Very versatile: biofuels, bioproducts, chemicals
    World-wide geographical distribution
    Enhanced varieties are ready
    Biofuel,Biogas and subsequent power generation as decentralised power utilising local resources and resourcefulness is the need of the hour. About 10 acres of waste land can be given on lease to Unemployed youth and 10 such youth can form a CO-OPERATIVE. This way vast wasteland can be brought under use and provides employment in rural areas.

    Also there are 2.6 Crores of Agricultural pumopsets which are old and inefficient. A scheme can be chalked out to replace these old pumpsets with advanced efficient sets by giving a subsidy of Rs 15,000(out of Rs 20,000 per 5 HP Motor set). This yields immediate results. Electricity is a high grade energy which finds use in Industry,lighting,computers etc. In many states the power tariff for agriculture is nominal or nil. As such about 30% power in the agricultural sector can be saved.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Madam, Thank you for


    Thank you for covering this topic but it seems very brief. It is well known that many of congress program mes were implemented in Andhra Pradesh maybe with the best intentions but we have seen on the ground that MGNERGA doled out work here without any purpose that is definitely a wasted effort. Giving money into the hands of the needy has definitely increased their purchasing power but the power situation in the state is so bad that its useless having a home appliance without the power to use it.
    In spite of Andhra Pradesh having voted Congress to power with a good majority in 2009 elections and earlier, the state stands divided and the new state of Seemandhra will have enormous problems to tackle before things can get normal.

    Vijaya Rao

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Good attempt to quickly

    Good attempt to quickly cash-in on the electioneering slogan of Gujarat vs UPA. Pray what stopped you from exploring GujaratÔÇÖs attempts in implementing MG NREGA vis-a-vis other UPA ruled states. I am sure diplomacy is not DTEs forte though the provocative statement is flagged-managers of the programme did not believe it could. Did managers of the programme in Gujarat, or, for that matter in other states, use any space and opportunity to incorporate suitable correctives to the programme? No all of them went by the ready- made shortcut template of the guidelines. The operating protocols of these top-down programmes have a distinct yet common gene footprint of skepticism. For instance, TPDS operating protocol has a PDS footprint that was rehashed only four years later in 2001 through a control order. Take another instance of the additional central assistance-ACA- that provides each states a stake to design and implement the most apt schemes for their state. The case in point here is the rashtriya krishi-kosh se vyarth vyaya yojana-RKVY initiated since 2007. Did not we know that the very visible hand of the babudom reproduces such disbeliefs, of course, with timely and effective prodding by the turncoat spin-doctors .

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • I totally agree withthis

    I totally agree withthis editorial. But we must gobeyond circulating emails

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • I do not agree that there is

    I do not agree that there is only chest thumping with respect to Gujarat model as compared to 10 yr corrupt and media supported UPA rule. Chest thumping alone could not win three consecutive elections, few corporate are not the only voters. Though i have seen things on ground and figures are available with state government, but unbiased data could be collected on promotional schemes on drip irrigation, number of ponds check dams constructed, technology transferred, government schemes explained through annual krishi mahotsav programmes, rural roads constructed, potable water supplied, solar and wind energy promotions in tribal areas, canal network created, Sardar Sarovar dam nearing completion after 50 yrs (theoretical life of dam is 100 yrs, promotion to waste water treatment, organic farming, etc. list goes on but biased journalism tilted to defend misrule of UPA cannot comprehend and accept work done under nationalist leader.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • The editorial does not

    The editorial does not mention development in agricultural field in Gujarat and extremely high
    corruption by UPA. Economic development is the first step. Distributive justice and inclusive growth should follow after some progress has been made in the first step.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • ÔÇó Excellently analysis. The

    ÔÇó Excellently analysis. The governance suffered under the Prime Minister Dr MMS, a highly qualified, professional of repute as an economist. Did he feel frustrated, mentally down during UPA2 due to so many scams / exposes? If his conscience was clear he should have stepped down rather letting the entire nation down through poor economic policies. In fact the reforms bills he was proposing to bring FDI in retail or insurance or pension etc ÔÇô are really worthless- as it would have resulted in further erosion of value of rupee. The economy was left directionless or put in wrong direction- for which he has to take sole responsibility. History will remember him for this misdeed.
    ÔÇó BJP may claim a lot about Gujarat model and Congress and AAP may be denouncing- but people outside Gujarat know little. Man is not satisfied with statistics- the anger today against the Congress is due to inflation, scams, mis-governance etc.
    ÔÇó China can build massive roads, bridges, infrastructure, and become a strong manufacturing / exporting economy with similar size of population, keep inflation lower- while none of their top leaders are American qualified economists. Chinese win more gold medals in Olympics while India returns empty handed. Chinese currency is trying to dethrone US Dollar as the strongest currency.
    ÔÇó This only shows that our national leaders do not even have a good mission and vision while Dr MMS claimed that inflation will be under control in a few mounts when they came to power in 2009.
    ÔÇó Economy was steadily going down and signals were very clear- inflation was high, interest rates (which are kept above inflation) had been pushed up, manufacturing was down, and Rupee had become weaker against US Dollar. As far as common man is concerned the inflation meant more rupee to buy daily needs for food, rents, petrol expenses, clothing was expensive. May be a few salaried in IT sector could afford it- what about the rest- old, retired etc
    ÔÇó Why the Government was after foreign currency ÔÇô was it to siphon out corrupt deals to Swiss accounts?
    ÔÇó The economist PM should know that when Dollars are brought in for any investment (for Coca Cola, McDowellÔÇÖs, road / power project, insurance sector, pension fund where earnings are in Rupees, The responsibility falls on the Government to arrange Dollars fro repatriation of profits or capital). Basically The Government must allow Dollar investment where the companies earn dollars from their own efforts by exports which are simple common sense.
    ÔÇó One thing must be remembered that the common man votes for a candidate. Do people really look at manifestoes? Suppose I agree with only a few points in the manifesto- is there a way that I can communicate with the elected representatives?
    ÔÇó The President of India Mr Pranab Mukherji says in his interview to a Brazilian TV that the Government had become aware of huge burden of subsidies in 2008 (UPA2 came to power in 2009) when Mr Mukerji was still a Finance minister. But this was hushed up from public.
    ÔÇó Where is the need to allow free import with least customs duty of latest mobiles, ipads, white goods etc- which gave a signal that India Inc could keep trading and never get into innovative development and manufacturing suffered.
    ÔÇó BBC said a few days back that in Japan the inflation was highest at 2.7% in 22 years just a few days back!! Now imagine Indian engineering goods ever trying to compete with Chinese or Japanese with high inflation (and hence high banking interest rates). Surely Dr MMS an economist of repute msut have known this.
    ÔÇó Dr MMS started talking like a politician (which he was not) when he said ÔÇ£History will be kind to himÔÇØ- certainly not. The public have a 6th sense and were reeling under mis-governance, inflation etc. Every time the UPA spokes persons only attacked the media or the opposition parties justifying they were shade better than NDA decades ago. As far as the common man was concerned- his interest were totally ignored under ÔÇ£Parliament is SupremeÔÇØ slogan by UPA. So they had started cutting themselves off from the common man and that gave rise to AAM ADMI PARTY.
    ÔÇó Dr MMS is leaving an economy in shambles as he leaves his office and people wish to forget at the earliest for his misdeeds, than anything good. Lal Bahadur Shastry also had a clean image but is known to be a good administrator ÔÇô though his term was cut short by destiny, Clean image alone of Dr MMS will not be sufficient to pardon him for bad governance and poor economic policies.
    ÔÇó What India needs is a decisive ruler who takes decisions in the interest of the nation and common good. He acts with his clear conscience and does not adopt vote bank politics, treats everyone equally ÔÇô irrespective of caste, religion, region, maintains national integration, encourages manufacturing- rest will happen automatically. Need of the hour is for transparency, Good governance, and use of technology to prevent corruption.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Please note that NO model is

    Please note that NO model is a fool-proof one, unless corruption can be removed or minimized from the country.UPA2 was fully embedded in a massacre, there was no governance at all, corruption was rampant at all levels, from ministers to bureaucrats,from industrialists to local political managers.UPA2 did not make any honest effort to take proper actions at the proper time. What is dangerous is the fact that even at the military establishments there were corruption at high offices. It is so sad!
    Our revered PM could not do anything, but remained speechless in the Parliament again and again. It appeared that someone was showing him red eyes. It was so sad to witness all these over the years.UPA2 has to vacate now and new people is to take over to save the nation.MAY GOD BLESS INDIA!

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Disappointing that, contrary

    Disappointing that, contrary to what the headline promises (Gujarat v UPA: models of non-governance?), the editorial stops with critiquing the UPA model and sheds no light on the Gujarat model.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • There is no doubt that

    There is no doubt that Gujarat has attracted good investments in last few decades. In fact, large numbers of industries have shifted their base to Gujarat. But we should not get into the illusion that the same has made Gujarat a better place to live. Last year I traveled in Gujarat extensively by road. Certainly I could see that new industries were coming up. But at what cost? It was obvious that restrictions and regulations were kept aside. As an example, large numbers of Ceramic industries are there at Morbi. Those industries may be providing employment to large numbers of workers and generating good revenue for the State. But the environment of the area was such that it was difficult to imagine how people lived and worked there. The air in the town and and even outside was heavily polluted. There was no need to measure the same in ppm etc. Just being there could give me an idea of the quality of the environment. I am sure if the SPM level and RSPM level were measured, the figures could go far far beyond the safe limits. Similar situation was there in several other industrial areas.
    If those are the indicators of development and prosperity, we need to be extremely cautious before drawing any conclusion. Certainly industries would love to be at places where they have not to follow environmental norms.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Gujarat v UPA: models of

    Gujarat v UPA: models of non-governance?), the editorial has well analysed the UPA model but not the Gujarat model which speaks for itself with NDA coming back into power at the Centre under the leadership of a true nationalist Shri Narendra Modi whose swearing-in ceremony takes place today! We hope that India will further progress and prosper under his dynamic leadership!

    Dr. Parmjit Singh Sehra
    (Former NASA/USA & UN Expert, and 1st Indian Antarctic & South Pole Explorer having visited and worked in all the seven continents of the world including its coldest place 'Vostok in Antarctica with -89.3 deg C' and the hottest place 'El-Zizia in Libya, Sahara Deserts at 58 deg C' with more details in the internet under this historical name)

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply
  • Dear All, Before posting the

    Dear All,

    Before posting the comments about Modi's method of governance, one should visit Ahmedabad and see yourself. I spent 10 years and I often go to Ahmedabad. Every time I see changes.

    I did discuss in 2008 with a worker. At that time he said almost every one can earn 100 Rs. a day. The city transport has improved. There may some places where you may find discrepancies. You want to seen similar thing in Mumbai visit some by lanes away from Main roads.

    We should appreciate a person who tries to do good. In this you are displaying your bookish knowledge.

    Please let me know when you visited Ahmedabad last time? Did you use rapid transport system?

    Posted by: Anonymous | 6 years ago | Reply