On the Gujarat model
I disagree with the contradiction that we are trying to find in today’s topic of discussion: Regional Pride vs National Identity. I think it will create a negative line of thinking. In a country like India, if we think that no matter how the states perform, the country will be on a development path, then it is not possible. At the same time, it is also not correct to think that if the states focus all their energy on development, then it is a threat to the identity of the country as a whole. Both these systems complete and nourish each other.
The government at the Centre should support the state in those sectors that are its strengths, and help the state develop in those sectors where it is weak. If we develop this model of governance, then we can cater to those areas where our country is lacking. And if we support the strength of the states in a collaborative way, then we can make India a strong nation.
Nowadays, a “showcase model” is being followed throughout the world. Instead of talking about the development in the whole of China, the development in China’s eastern region is being talked about and marketed. At some point, New Delhi was also being portrayed as a model in our country. But due to its British legacy and it being a part of the political scenario, New Delhi as a model could not inspire the common man of this country. A similar attempt was made to focus on Mumbai, but it had its own constraints, and hence we stopped after reaching a certain point. So, across the world, when they spoke about India, they spoke only about New Delhi, and Mumbai to a certain extent.
This shows us that knowingly or unknowingly, since we accepted such a way of presenting these places as models, then similarly, we should support the strength of our states and present them as models. If we could develop Hyderabad as an IT hub and Bengaluru as a knowledge hub, then we should showcase these to the world. If the diamonds of Gujarat are appreciated across the world, then we should give it its due credit. In a federal structure such as ours, until we give recognition to these hubs, we will not be able to strengthen or develop these sectors.
It is the need of the hour that we create a healthy environment of competition in India, and this competition is not possible between the states and the Centre. But we can create this sense of competition between the states, its parameters can be discussed, the institutions that are not government-affiliated can lead this process and we can work towards developing on the strong areas of the states and counter their weaknesses. I think this is the model of development that should be followed.
During our struggle for Independence, every person in this country was contributing with fervour to the struggle. Many people sacrificed their lives; many were imprisoned in the jails of the Andamans. But the biggest contribution of Mahatma Gandhi was that he shaped this struggle into a people’s movement. Every person felt that they could contribute to the movement.
After Independence, I wish we had worked with that fervour towards developing our nation, that development would have become a people’s movement, so that every person felt that it is their duty to contribute to the nation’s development. Even after 60 years of Independence, we have not been able to instil this idea in the people’s minds. We need to make development a national movement.
When it comes to Gujarat, I speak about its glory with pride. And since the day I took charge as the chief minister of Gujarat, I have tried to follow the mantra: ‘Develop Gujarat to Develop India’. My ultimate aim is to develop this nation, but in order to do that, it is my duty to develop Gujarat. I should contribute to the development of the nation by developing Gujarat. I can’t have a competition with the nation, but I have to instil this idea in the people of my state that Gujarat should contribute to the nation’s development. I remind the people of Gujarat about the lives of Gandhi and Sardar Patel, of the tradition of entrepreneurship that the state has had.
I will give you an example of how things would have been if I had not tried to do this. The state of Gujarat faced a situation of water scarcity for seven years in a decade. People used to migrate in huge numbers from Saurashtra and Kutch regions and settle in slums in places like Surat and Mumbai. We started a project of water conservation and focussed on people’s involvement. We implemented various methods of water conservation such as check dams, river grid, wells for water recharging, etc. And today, Gujarat is a model for water conservation. Even when Gujarat received good rainfall, the agricultural income was a maximum of Rs 9,000 crore. Four years after we started the water conservation project, this year, the agricultural income is Rs 34,000 crore. If the people would not have actively participated in this project, I don’t think the government would have been able to achieve this. This sense of pride needs to be instilled in people’s minds. They feel happy when their efforts are given recognition.
Gujarat has always been known as a progressive state. I remember that in my first meeting with my officials after I took charge as the CM, the secretary of the education department told me that Gujarat is in the 20th position in terms of girls’ education. And I was shocked! I couldn’t sleep that night, thinking that this is the state of girls’ education in Gujarat.
In June, when the summer is at its peak, the officers and politicians of my state used to go to hill stations for vacation. I decided that every year from 13-15 June, I will go and stay in those villages where girls’ education was low. Then, even my officials started going to these villages along with me for those three days — a team of around 750 people, including IAS and IPS officers. And today, we have been able to achieve 100 percent enrolment of girls in schools. The rate of dropout of girls from schools, which was earlier 49 percent, came down to 3 percent. If I had not instilled this sense of pride in my people, then this development would not have happened. And development is not possible until the people become involved. People don’t get involved until they are emotionally attached to the cause.
People won’t work towards development if it was only for financial betterment; they will work when they can see a change taking place. What good is it to talk of nation building when I chew paan and spit in train compartments? We can only bring about a change when we truly understand our country. We cannot bring development until we make people emotionally attached to it.
Before going to Gujarat in October 2001, I used to stay in Delhi and I was not very aware of the problems in Gujarat. After I went to Gujarat, some journalists who came to meet me said, “You should ensure that there is power supply in the houses in the evenings, at least when we are having dinner.” We started a project Jyotigram Yojana for 1,000 days, under which, 23 lakh new electric poles, 56,000 new transformers and 75,000 km of wires were put up. There was no new recruitment for this — the same officers, the same bureaucrats and the same workers who were there before I took over, they did all this within 1,000 days. And when the President came on a visit to Gujarat, we had 24-hour — three-phased, uninterrupted — power supply to each and every corner of Gujarat. This sort of change is possible.
After we were able to provide electricity to the villages, the quality of life changed there. The doctors started staying back in the villages, instead of coming to the cities to practise. Opportunities of distance education, computer education, etc, started to come up in the villages. We were able to make the villages a hub for manufacturing. The economy of the villages started to shape better and a market for those products was automatically created in the cities.
It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. In Gujarat, I met people from the judiciary, and in our discussion, I gave three suggestions: to start evening courts, to increase the timings of the courts, and to reduce the time of the vacation of the courts. In our country, we cannot afford to create more infrastructure. So, with the existing infrastructure, Gujarat was the first state to start evening courts last November. Those people who are daily-wage earners and for whom coming to the courts during the day is a loss of wage for the day, their cases are heard in the evening courts. About 80 evening courts are functioning in Gujarat, and in the past 11 months, judgment has been pronounced in close to 1.5 lakh cases. They also agreed to my suggestion and increased the court timings by 30 minutes. I am glad to say that the courts reduced the vacation time by one week.
We cannot say that since the infrastructure is not available, we will counter it by taking steps on our own. But we should take steps within the available infrastructure and work towards providing justice to the poor. My aim is not to create hindrance or denigrate others through my work. My state and I are working towards this because we believe that whatever we do, we should be a part of the nation’s development. I believe that if we can imbue a sense of pride and attachment in people and motivate them to work towards development, we can achieve great success.
Today, the development that has taken place in Gujarat is being talked about and appreciated all across the country. Almost every week, official delegations come to Gujarat from different parts of India to study how we have brought in changes in all these sectors and implemented them.
Hinduism says that truth is one, but there can be several ways of finding it. It says that god is one. Hinduism also says that each devotee sees god in his own way. For example, if the devotee is a wrestler, then his god is Hanuman. Where this philosophy exists, the question on whether there is space for any other religion to survive arises because we have not understood the meaning of Hindutva.
In the official book of Israel, it is said that “the atrocities against Jews were not only committed in Germany, but they faced atrocities in various forms all over the world in 2,500 years of their history. But India is the only country where they never faced any hardships in these 2,500 years”. When Parsis came to India, they requested the kings in the borders of Gujarat that wherever their sacred fire is placed, no non-Parsi should be allowed to enter the 50-km radius of the sacred fire. Even if their demands were against the people of the land, they were allowed to settle here. The Hindu kings made arrangements for the Parsis and ensured that their beliefs are respected.
In my opinion, even terrorism is being supported in the name of religion, and it develops on the notion of “holier than thou”. Terrorism is an extreme form of the notion that one religion is holier than another religion. Hinduism is the only religion which says that no matter which god or holy book you are a devotee of, you will find god if you are a true believer. I think it is problematic if we do not understand these core values of Hinduism itself and question it.