Sunday, September 29, 2013

Growth, Poverty and Modi

We got independence in 1947. For nearly, 66 years since then, we soldier along trying to get basics right. One of the only countries where after independence from a colonial power, it still follows the same laws that the British created to exploit the natives and the land. This is a unique case btw, not seen in almost any other country.

So, the British left and what we are left with are natives exploiting natives. With titles like collectors and such like. But the British did not leave their honesty. Why is this important. I will join the dots a little later. Bear with me.

The situation we find ourselves in after these 66 years is best explained by a term 'inclusive suffering'. First we suffered through the socialist years - a failed experiment - that saw other countries surge ahead - despite starting from approximately the same baseline.  (See this video:

We often hear this argument in India - Development versus sustainability. And it is usually asked by those ostensibly in the side of human growth. And they seem to imply that no development is the answer to sustainability. Or that development and sustainability is a zero sum game. What they do not see is that both are eminently possible and can go hand in hand.

And usually these arguments come from those who enjoy 24 hour electricity and piped water. Arguing how others do not need it.

Again, let us park this aside.

Rajiv Gandhi famously said that out of a rupee, 10 paise reaches the poor. Means, our delivery is a leaky bucket. Starting from the top - at the governance level. And then as the middlemen chew away at the deliveries, nothing much reaches the end.

We have experienced this. Sort of. Try going to any government office and see the trouble you get to get basic information. An encumbrance certificate - on your own apartment. Any information that you need - about your own land. Why should these things not be available to anybody? This is what Gujarat has done. First, strenghtened delivery. From the top - na khave, na khava deve. Second, make information available - put it online, on the internet. WTF is a right to information? The NDA had come up with Freedom of Information - basically, it is your goddamn information. Do I need a right to it. See Gujarats record on it.

Second, vision. This is not tough to see. We live in Bangalore. A beautiful city that is networked by lakes. Blessed with beautiful weather. Any idiot, like me, will tell you that the logical thing is to ensure that the lakes and their catchment areas are protected that treated sewage flows into them. That the weather of the city allows for walking and cycling. The city receives enough rainfall each year to sustain itself. Every house should have rainwater harvesting. How difficult is it to implement this? Bangalore (and many cities) have a problem with garbage disposal. How difficult is that. If cities composted waste, farms would not need fertilizer. (Modi refers to this in his SRCC speech and he started it in the GIFT city project).

Rainwater harvesting, composting, taking care of the lakes channels, building good public transport (like volvos and metro). Is this rocket science. No.

Which was the last leader we had with any vision? Vajpayee perhaps. And perhaps PVNR. Modi has vision. And Implements it.

Sonia Gandhi and Rabri Devi are just about the same - but see how we treat the former with deference and the latter with contempt. If Sonia G has vision, we have not seen it, much less heard it - not in the last 10 years. About Rahul, the less said, the better. And see the development indicators of Amethi and Rae Bareily  - which have been the family pocket borough for many decades now. I rest my case.

It is this combination that makes Modi magic work. He uses the existing bureaucracy to make Gujarat work, whatever liars say.
By the way, when was the last time you heard Gujarat officials transferred. Modi does not transfer his people - he gives them time. To work. In the place they are posted. Net result? Nobody hankers for transfer from one place to other. And they have their skin in the same.

How does he measure - he gets them to report on what they did - not what they did not. He gives them the equivalent of google 20% time - do what you want - regardless of department. And there is this story of how a revenue officer built a water supply to the Ambaji temple - despite it being under the purview of the forest department. (He said this in a speech - I think this was the speech at FICCI or one of those.)

Each year, his entire team goes into the villages to enrol girls and they are got 100% of eligible girls in school. Educate a girl and you educate the family. And they actually took the kutumbasree idea from Kerala - so he is not held up on his ideas. He focuses on delivery of the best idea possible given the circumstances. He focuses on motivating his people - his 6 crore Gujaratis.

He makes that stupid English system accountable and makes it deliver.

Much of our ancient systems had its own watershed management - in the form of tanks, bunds, check dams. We have screwed it in most areas. Gujarat has built a system around this. He has also linked rivers - which we drastically need in our country - even as China is eating away the glaciers in Tibet - which feeds our rivers.

Electricity. This is simple enough. Did you know that Gujarat has the largest operational solar power plant in Asia? And when it is fully completed - it will be the largest in the world. And the question on sustainability is simple enough. Think, if people will use electricity they pay for or steal? Logically - for what they pay. So, paid electricity means, yes, sustainability. In general. Second, eliminate leakages - both leakages of transmission and leakages by stealing. Why argue for shortages?

Shortages in any areas is a bad idea. The present system is about equality of outcomes - what we need is equality of opportunity. Why does one need reservations when there are enough seats? Why does one need electricity for only dalit households (Rahul promised a light bulb in every dalit household during the UP campaign), when the electricity does not see any god or caste?  Why discriminate on the basis of religion for scholarships - when everybody is poor regardless of which god they worship?

Lastly crops. A kilo of potatoes costs us about 30 rupees at retail. At a wholesale it is about 30 rupees for 10 or 50 kgs. A small packet of lays costs us how much? 20 rupees for 100 grams. Work out the value addition yourself. By providing opportunities for companies to buy products, farmers make more money. Gujarat grows pomegranates. Ladyfingers. Potatoes, quite obviously. And a desert state with water shortage makes rapid growth in agriculture. People are not deserting farms. Why? Because there is opportunity. They are making money. Therefore, migration is lower. Whereas in Karnataka and TN for example, people are not available to work in farms. First due to migration. And in TN they dont work after 10th when they get their 25 kgs free rice.

Growth has to be in all sectors. Agriculture. Manufacturing. Services. Small business. Entrepreneurship. Handicrafts. Tourism (kuchch din to guzarie Gujarat main)

And by the way, Gir forest has reported a large increase in lions - community policing ensures that they are not harmed. And greenery cover has also gone up.

And actually this is not all about Modi - almost all NDA governed states fare better - Chatissgarh, MP, Goa. More on this later.

Growth at what cost? Surely some of this is answered above. Here are some data links!
Poverty at what cost?

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