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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 42, October 8, 2011

Truth of Gujarat vis-a-vis Modi’s Fast

Saturday 8 October 2011, by Rajindar Sachar

The fast by Narendra Modi has got an excessive coverage, which defies logic. The critics have rightly projected it as self-image building by Modi to project himself as the Prime Ministerial candidate and under the cover of the slogan of sadbhavana as an attempt to wash off his sinful conduct in the post-Godhra period. I am clear in my mind that in the matter of the government’s complicity in the gory happenings like the 1984 genocide in Delhi and the 2002 Godhra genocide in Gujarat, there can never be a question of forgiveness. There are certain crimes and human right violations which can never be forgiven or forgotten though no doubt we must learn from them and so modulate our political and social programming, that such like events never shame us again. But that process can only be if the perpetrator of the crime is seen as genuinely contrite which alone can create confidence in those who suffered untold miseries. That has not yet happened.

One is sad and amused at the carnival response of the Congress in purporting to observe fast at the same time. I wish the Congress instead had programmed and brought out the unspeakable condition in Gujarat camps where a large number of Muslims are still living in misery. Also Vaghela would have done well if he and his colleagues had chalked out a definite programme to create a conducive atmosphere so that hundreds of Muslim families who are afraid to go back to their villages could return there with dignity and assured safety.

The media, though somewhat critical of Modi’s sadbhavana/secular pretensions, have unfortunately swallowed the propaganda of development-oriented programmes in Gujarat and ignored their perversions which have in fact led to greater pauperisation of the masses, possibly because those policies coincide with the neo-liberal and anti-farmer policies of the corporate sector. All this information, uncomplimentary to Modi, was placed in a public hearing when Anna Hazare visited Gujarat in May 2011 [in a report prepared amongst others by the PUCL (Gujarat), Socialist Party and other concerned citizens of Gujarat].

Thus 30,000 farmers walked nearly 350 km to protest against the cement plant being set up at Mahuva which, if it happens, will lead to a total loss of 25, 000 bigha land on which 1,25,000 people survive. The cement factory would provide direct employment to only 498 persons.

ONE of the biggest scandals and violations of human rights is taking place in the much-touted Narmada Dam. Even at present hundreds of families are still displaced though the award postulated complete rehabilitation of the oustees. The boast of Modi that Narmada was to supply water to the farmers is belied by the established fact that only 29 per cent of the canal work has been done. As recently as the 2009 came the Rs 260-crore scam pertaining to the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

As for Right to Education, a fundamental right, the Gujarat Government is ironically closing 3000 primary schools on the alleged unacceptable plea of lack of attendance and the plan is in fact to lease these to private bodies.

One of the biggest scandals highlighted was the land allotment at throwaway rates to private industrialists in the capital Gandhinagar, without holding public auction. The beneficiaries are big builders, construction companies and other corporate houses with not-so-good public acceptability. This has resulted in a loss to the Gujarat State as per the market rate allotment of Rs 5197,16,22,317 (that is, Rupees Five thousand one hundred ninetyseven crore sixteen lakh twentytwo thousand three hundred and seven-teen).

The labour disputes have increased by 600 per cent in the last five years, but instead of 100 per cent increase in the labour machinery staff the government has reduced the staff by 40-60 per cent.

Regarding expenditure for the social sector by 18 large States of India, Gujarat embarrassingly stands at 17th. (Monthly Bulletin of Reserve Bank of India, February 2007)

Gujarat stands 14th in infant mortality rate (IMR) for 0-1 year and 13th for 0-5 years; there is 47 per cent malnourishment among 0-5 year old children. About 67 per cent women are anaemic and of them 80.1 per cent aged between six to 35 months are anaemic.

The Global Index on Hunger reports India with 66th rank, whereas Gujarat is ranking 69th, which is actually as low as Haiti in Africa. [Inter-national Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), 2008]

While I unreservedly accept some positive features of Gujarat, like it has 90 per cent paved roads to villages, 98 per cent electrified villages with 80 per cent electrified homes and 18 hours of electricity everyday, 86 per cent piped water supply compared to other States, unfortunately it cannot be overlooked that amidst all this, poverty, hunger, lack of sense of security amongst the minority communities thrive. To gave an instance: to overcome the Muslim deficit in different levels of education, the Central Govern-ment has launched a nationwide scholar-ship scheme with effect from April 1, 2008. All States have responded favourably, with the only exception of Gujarat which has not implemented even the pre-matric scholarships for minorities. There are 55,000 scholarships allocated to Gujarat of which 53,000 are to be given to the deserving Muslims, but Gujarat has not even cared to implement this programme.

Modi proudly proclaimed at his alleged sadbhavana jamboree that he did not recognise doing anything especially for the minorities but that they are to be treated only as Gujaratis. Modi apparently has not been properly coached about the Indian Constitution. Of course, all residents (six crores) living in Gujarat are Gujaratis. That is their one identity. But the minorities have also other identities—they are Indians and Muslims (or other minorities) just like the majority—they are Gujaratis, Hindus and Indians. As emphasised by Noble Laureate Amartya Sen, each one of us has multiple identities and each of it deserves equal recognition and protection. Somebody must tell Modi that our Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, has loudly proclaimed: “The purpose of law in plural societies is not the progressive assimilation of the minorities in the majoritarian milieu. This would not solve the problem; but would vainly seek to dissolve it.”

It is axiomatic that in any country the faith and confidence of the minorities in the impartial and even functioning of the state is the acid test of being a civilised state—this is accepted wisdom, and was expressed succinctly by Lord Acton thus: “A state which is incompetent to satisfy the minorities condemns itself; a state which labours to neutralise, to absorb or to expel them is destitute of the chief basis of self-government.” Can one hope Modi to modulate his future policies in the light of these consti-tutional and wise pronouncements?

The author, a retired Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, was the Chairperson of the Prime Minister’s high-level Committee on the Status of Muslims and the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing. A former President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), he is a tireless champion of human rights. He can be contacted at e-mail: rsachar1@vsnl.net/rsachar23 @bol.net.in

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