On occasions Gujarat’s development and growth scenarios look enviable but at the same time, it is also perceived as an enigma. How is this state able to attract investments and at the same time invest outside the state substantially? In every nook and corner of the world one can find a Gujarati, yet in some sectors notably in education there is a shortage of qualified manpower. The state’s growth rate is indeed worth emulating by others, however, there are serious questions raised on the human development front. This book, a collection of eleven articles by eminent scholars, takes these questions head on and presents some indications; it could have been more forthright in presenting perspectives for the future though. Yet, the analytical rigour is evident in many of the articles. Sunil Parekh traces the industrial development in Gujarat over the 18th and 19th centuries.
This insightful paper not only puts the industrial development in a historical perspective but also provides the basis for many of the arguments in the other papers as to how the industrial capital in Gujarat is the highest compared to other states in India. Parekh also lists sectors where the state has emerged as the significant player. Awasthi and Kashyap also point out the large spatial spread of industries and the types of clusters of industries that have developed in the various districts of Gujarat. Evidently, the large-scale industry composition has always been biased in favour of the chemical and now petrochemical sector. And, the dispersed clusters contribute to the engineering sector. The price this structure calls for is to be paid in future—in terms of pollution.
Though in recent times investment in physical infrastructure is being made yet on the score of human development much needs to be done. As Parekh has pointed out ports have provided a great impetus for the growth of hinterland but the investment need of the hour besides physical infrastructure is a bold policy initiative for exports and labour reform. Sebastian Morris while tracing the recent growth experience has pointed out that during the recession period from 1998–99 to 2001–02, Gujarat had higher variations with respect to industrial growth than India and due to the nature of industries has a high dependence on national industrial growth scenario. Thus inappropriate national level policies have larger adverse effect on Gujarat and that the state has to have a policy advisory and lobby to work for it. The critical area that needs the Government of Gujarat’s attention is energy. According to Morris a large part of electricity produced is sold to industry, the agricultural demand being around thirty percent, and the household demand is quite small. Though the Gujarat government has adopted a farsighted energy reform, the initiative seems to be much on the regulator. Morris also discusses other infrastructures like oil and gas, water and so on but cautions that merely opening up to the private players even on PPP mode is not sufficient.
‘The Macroeconomic Framework for Development of Gujarat’ by Ravindra Dholakia is an important chapter in the book. Based on meticulous calculations and econometric models, Dholakia first identifies the growth of various sectors and later identifies growth drivers and argues for a need to develop official estimates of macro-aggregates. In the face of the finding that Gujarat is not a major (savings) consuming state but more investment oriented is important for the Indian economy as a whole since the state invests heavily outside. This is what makes Raksha Alagh comment that even a 15 per cent annual growth is possible provided as suggested by Sunil Parekh the policy environment is appropriate.
What is this appropriate policy environment? Dholakia quotes from Archana Dholakia’s earlier works to show that ‘human development efforts of the government have increasing returns whereas the efforts on development of physical capital have started yielding diminishing returns in terms of basic welfare objectives’. Important among these is the enrolment and literacy. In fact, there is clearly a need for the state to address the issues of infant mortality, adverse sex ratio, school enrolment and the need for higher education institutions. Not only does the state lag behind in institutional infrastructure for higher education but policies toward educational institutions need to be more inclusive and progressive. The path forward on this should be as Rashu Vakil has enunciated in his chapter on ‘Education 2010’. There are certain mandatory policies needed to make Gujarat a global destination for education. As he has shown Gujarat has the necessary ingredients for becoming a good educational centre, yet there has to be a vision that sees the educational sector also as one that could provide an identity to Gujarat.
In fact, Indira Hirway and Darshini Mahadevia have clarified correctly that human development should fall under the broad rubric of the social sector. The section on trends in human development and gender development reflect the glaring disparities and provide useful data and analysis too. This chapter mainly focusing on macro aspects also highlights the health aspects of the population and the impact of environmental pollution. Besides the polluting industries what is alarming is the rising incidence of water borne diseases in the state mainly due to shortage of potable water. As the authors point out the state needs to strengthen the agriculture and allied sectors though the economy has diversified in non-primary sectors. For too long these problems have persisted and one has to factor in these aspects while drawing the future growth scenarios. B.B. Patel and Raksha Alagh emphasize health care and education. They discuss in detail the education scenarios and suggest the need for more investment, use of advanced technology and provision of infrastructural facilities to augment enrolment and retention of students from primary to higher technical education levels. Patel and Alagh also provide a detailed analysis on nutritional and health status of women and children and highlight the serious gap in requirement of manpower in health care especially in the rural areas. Whether it is community health care centres or OPD and IPD sections in public sector hospitals the shortage of medical and para-medical staff is palpable. The paper while highlighting the need for better infrastructure emphasizes the need for augmenting the water supply and sanitation facilities as part of health care strategy.
One of the prime outcomes of industrialization is urban growth. Shivanand Swamy and K. Mukundan have provided the pattern of development and have also identified issues of concern. What is of interest is also the increasing urban sprawl in Gujarat where the growth is shifting from the urban core to the periphery. In this emerging scenario the supply-demand gap is found to be widening in almost all the urban services even as the urban development authorities restrict themselves to real estate development and physical planning. The case in point is Ahmedabad’s water supply strategies which reflect lack of planning and coherent policies. The authors also point out cases from other areas that highlight the inequities and shortages in essential services be it drinking water or sewerage system or public transport in otherwise booming urban areas. The analysis also gives details on the sources and extent of air pollution. In the absence of coordinated efforts therefore, the quality of development and life is indeed a matter of concern in Gujarat. This chapter complements the findings of Dholakia and Hirway and Mahadevia on the lack of focus on critical areas of the economy by the agencies concerned.
Sudarshan Iyengar and Somnath Bandopadhyay describe the environmental aspects of the state and recommend an approach called Strategic Environment Assessment. This assessment, the authors argue would provide a framework to identify the outcomes of a policy namely, for JFM or ecotourism. This paper also points out the importance of Gujarat outlining a blue as well as brown agenda to mitigate the problems brought about by industrial contamination of water sources and industrial and vehicular pollution. H.S. Singh highlights the biodiversity in Gujarat and articulates the concerns of many regarding the threats to the rich flora and fauna. He outlines the current conservation laws and policies and the importance of protected areas. This chapter is useful to understand the extent of diversification and the potential of environmental resources in the state.
Mahesh Pathak and P.K. Singh’s chapter on ‘Gujarat Agriculture’ attempts a detailed analysis of Gujarat’s agriculture. The productivity analysis shows improvement of growth rates over time of all crops, however, the fluctuations in the yield of most crops on a year to year basis are pronounced. The reason is not far to seek: first, a large part of Gujarat agriculture is rainfed and second, the spread of new technology is also unsatisfactory. On the water development and management front, the achievements are as noteworthy as the shortcomings. The actual utilization of surface irrigation, implementation of soil moisture conservation and planning for Narmada waters are the strengths. However, the concerns remain the huge extraction of ground water, tardy progress in the implementation of the Narmada project and the slow pace of the participatory irrigation management programme. For a state that has about two-thirds area under arid and semi-arid tropics, water development and utilization programme has to take precedence either as investments toward infrastructure or as environmental development. This book is a welcome addition to literature on present day Gujarat. In fact, this volume fills the void of a much needed analysis of the various sectors of this vibrant economy. The book would be of use to scholars and administrators alike.
- Parthasarathy is Director, Gujarat Institute of Development Research, Ahmedabad.