Gujarat model of development is being hotly debated these days. It is neither a new topic nor unexpected at this time though. As NaMo gained prominence politically, everything related to him also got hitched automatically. Predictably, his detractors cannot be tired of finding fault with everything that is remotely connected to him. Gujarat was formed in 1960 in its current geographical extent. The state was ruled by Congress party uninterruptedly until 1995. Although the fact remains that people of Gujarat are entrepreneurial by nature, the rate and nature of growth for the 2 periods for the first 48 years (from 1947 to 1995) and the subsequent 18 years (from 1995 till date) can throw some insightful data. The latest 12 years starting from 2002 come to be universally and popularly recognised as NaMo's Gujarat model of governance.
All kinds of numbers are being dished out by NaMo's political detractors comparing the state of affairs in Gujarat vis-à-vis other states of India, intended to deny any possible credit going his way. It is sad if statistical numbers are used to fool or mislead people. There is something more to the process of development than mere statistics. First, the feel good factor by general public which is more than amply demonstrated by 3 consecutive victories by NaMo and his party. For quite long period since independence, entrepreneurs from Gujarat preferred to shift to Mumbai or areas within Maharashtra adjacent to Gujarat to set up their business. Better infrastructure in the neighbouring state was the main attraction. 12 years under NaMo, Gujarat is not the state it used to be - which is demonstrated by the reverse-migration of entrepreneurs from Maharashtra to Gujarat. In the final analysis, clarity of purpose, sincere commitment to the goals are much more important than degrees from IIT or Harward.
It is well documented how Gujarat runs on a well oiled administration machinery. NaMo not only coined the slogan "minimum government, maximum governance" but also implemented it in reality. For a relatively large state with 33 districts and a population of about 60 million, there are only 26 ministers, which must be one of the lowest sized cabinets in India. Many of the social initiatives of Gujarat government are quite novel and have won awards even from Rajiv Gandhi foundation. Here is a summary of the different activities under which Gujarat model can be analysed, if anyone cares to do it in a non-partisan way.
- Extensive use of IT is the hallmark of NaMo administration. A brief visit to Gujarat state government's website (www.gujaratindia.com) will make this point clear. From whatever I have seen so far, this is one of the finest websites officially uploaded by a state government. E-Governance is NaMo's key strategic initiative to control corruption. Digitising the administrative process reduces manual interference in official work and also minimises "discretionary powers" at different levels. NaMo's approach to tackling corruption is definitely very practical and sincere. We will realise it when contrasted with Kejrival's approach which seemed more like knee-jerk reactions and mere publicity stunts.
- Road and buildings department, as it is called in Gujarat, can easily be a role model for all other states, if anyone cares for efficient implementation of government's infrastructural projects. National & state highways in Gujarat are by far the best in the country. Endless other public amenities have also sprung up all over the state due to sincere efforts of this key government department.
- Balanced growth of the economy focusing on 3 areas – namely agriculture, industry and service - have been highlighted as NaMo government's mission. NaMo's vision statements are truly inspirational. His hands on style of management is credited with successful implementation of many fast-track projects of importance to the state.
- Revival of public sector : It is well documented how GSFC (Gujarat State Fertiliser Corporation), a sick state government enterprise when NaMo took over, was turned around within a short period of time. Announcement of NaMo as PM candidate by BJP has brought hopes to several central PSUs (not just the Navratnas but all those which are sick). They can definitely look forward to better days ahead.
- Water resources management is not just one of those routine departments to float a few government tenders every year and keep blaming monsoon failure for every other disaster. In a state like Gujarat which receives scant rainfall and does not have the luxury of exclusive access to the captive water resource of any big river within its own territory, it is important to have a clear policy to efficiently manage water as a critical resource. Canals carrying Gujarat's share of water from Narmada dam not only bring drinking water to different parts of the state but also fill up several natural ponds on their way, thus replenishing the ground water levels in the surroundings. As per reports, solar panels were planned to be erected along the long stretch of canals. If implemented, this scheme would help to compensate loss of ground space lost for construction of canals by allowing its parallel use for generating solar power. In addition, solar panels will offer some shade to the running canals and minimise loss of water by evaporation. Government schemes have rarely been so imaginative.
- It is no secret that congress party and some NGOs "fed" by that party have a very clear agenda to ensure that ghosts of 2002 riots keep haunting NaMo. For all practical purposes, it has lost steam. However, it is surprising that even the media conveniently ignores Gujarat's track record of riot-free administration in more than a decade since 2002. It is sad that our media lacks even basic courtesy to acknowledge such rare religious harmony in a state that was witness to many riots at regular intervals, much before 2002.
- Under NaMo administration, Gujarat enjoys the rare distinction of 24 hours power supply in all parts of the state. Turning Gujarat into power surplus state is no mean achievement, considering the fact that NaMo managed to achieve this within his first term in office.
- NaMo demonstrates his vision when he articulates the theory of balanced growth. According to him, Gujarat's development model is based on equal focus to 3 areas of interest to state's GDP - Agriculture, Industry and Service sector. Normally, development of one area comes at the cost of another because of inequitable attention. He has been careful to nurture all important segments of the economy.
- Another infrastructural initiative unique to Gujarat is the Mass Rapid Transport system in Ahmedabad. This is the local transport system using normal buses which runs as efficiently as a Metro. When we compare the cost and time involved in any metro project, we know why the system in Ahmedabad is so special.
- Gujarat state is also known for its efficient public grievance redressal system. Gujarat CM has a laid out a very efficient process to receive and solve public grievances. It is unfortunate that such sincere initiatives do not receive the publicity they deserve, as compared to the political gimmick of Rahul Gandhi visiting a dalit household in a remote village.
- NaMo administration is also credited with technological support to its fishermen which allows them to be more efficient in their daily efforts in the sea. This is a small example of hoe a committed administration can bring positive changes in the daily lives of its citizens in many different ways.
There are many more unique projects initiated by NaMo government - Proposed statue of Vallabhai Patel, Sabarmati purification, Initiatives by Gujarat
More importantly, whatever has been achieved in Gujarat is inspite of a no-holds-barred hostility by central government ruled by UPA for most part of NaMo's tenure in office. Some individuals flourish and shine under tough challenges – NaMo is definitely one such rare, inspiring leader of our times.