Truth, hype and the Gujarat development model | columns | Hindustan Times
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Truth, hype and the Gujarat development model

Modi's assertion to 'build toilets before building temples' could be considered laudable but for Gujarat’s dismal record on sanitation under BJP rule. Sitaram Yechury writes.

columns Updated: Oct 08, 2013 10:37 IST
Sitaram Yechury

The RSS/BJP had perfected the art of double speak long ago. It’s not rare to find the same leader speaking in contradictory terms. During the 1990s, while leading the infamous rath yatra that left behind a trail of mayhem and communal bloodshed, the precursor to the demolition of the Babri Masjid, LK Advani called for a debate on secularism.

Recently, the RSS/BJP prime ministerial candidate, who presided over the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat, thundered in Delhi — “Pahale shauchalaya, phir devalaya (build toilets before you build temples)”. He was echoing a similar comment made by Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh weeks earlier.

Such assertions could be considered laudable but for Gujarat’s dismal record on sanitation under the BJP government. The 2012-13 India Rural Development Report shows that one in every five rural households has none of the three basic facilities — drinking water, electricity and sanitation — while only about 18% have access to all three.

The situation in Gujarat is no better with just a quarter of the households having access to all three, while Kerala has 71% and 13 other states have a higher figure.

In a recent survey, a community-based organisation fighting for the rights of the scavenging community, Manav Garima, found that there are 126 spots where manual scavenging is practised under the aegis of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

This practice continues in violation of the 1993 Act that provides punishment for those employing manual scavengers.

In response to the National Human Rights Commission, the Gujarat government had replied that it is serious about implementing the 1993 Act and that there is no manual scavenger in Gujarat. This track record underlines the insincerity of the Gujarat CM’s comments.

The RSS/BJP’s much-hyped ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ campaign has been punctured after reports showed that the state is well below the national average on human development indicators.

The ‘Gujarat model of development’ has been further demolished by the recent report of the Committee For Evolving A Composite Development Index Of States that is headed by the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.

The report places Gujarat at No. 12 in the list of states according to the development index and says that on the basis of its index, “we could label states that score 0.6 and above on our (under)development index ‘least developed’ states.

States that score below 0.6 and above 0.4 are ‘less developed’ states, while states that score below 0.4 are ‘relatively developed’ states’. Gujarat has a score of 0.49 on this index. So much for its ‘vibrancy’!

Predictably, VHP leader Pravin Togadia reacted sharply to such ‘toilets/temples’ comments calling them “nothing short of an insult to the Hindu society”.

Even the remotest of doubts regarding the RSS/BJP’s intentions of using the sharpening of communal polarisation as its prime electoral card are set at rest by the proud assertions of the VHP leader Ashok Singhal.

He reportedly said that like the minorities were taught a lesson in Gujarat in 2002, they have once again been taught a proper lesson in western UP for indulging in what the communal forces call ‘love jihad’.

Such efforts at stoking communal passions came to the fore once again in the RSS/BJP’s reaction to the recent letter written by the Union home minister to all chief ministers asking them to ensure that no innocent Muslim youth is wrongfully detained in terror cases.

This has come belatedly as a response to the demand to undo the wrong of detaining innocent youth thus depriving them of their fundamental right to life and liberty.

It has now been shown that wrong arrests of nine Muslim youth for the Malegaon blasts in 2006 led to them being in jail for six years and then released.

20 Muslim youths who were arrested for the 2007 Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast have been absolved of all charges and released after spending five years in jail. In the 2012 Karnataka LeT terror plot, of the five arrested, two Muslim youth have been released after being absolved of all charges.

Terrorism has no religion nor does it belong to any particular section or region. It is unacceptable as it is anti-national. There can be no compromises in the fight against terrorism.

However, in the name of fighting terrorism, innocent youth, irrespective of their religious affiliation, should not be victimised. This would be a travesty of liberty and justice. In this connection, it is of particular concern that repeated harassment of innocent Muslim youth has come to light.

This is unacceptable and goes against the grain of our secular democratic Republican order.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, the BJP president has stated that the Union home minister’s letter “goes against the spirit of the Constitution (sic).

The PM should direct the home minister that the letter he has written to the CMs be withdrawn”.

Further, he says, “[The] Congress is the biggest communal party of this country. Earlier, the prime minister had said that Muslims had the first right on Indian resources. Now our home minister has written to chief ministers to ensure that no innocent Muslim youth is wrongfully detained in the name of terror” and so on.

In the background of such whipping up of communal passions, the BJP’s PM aspirant’s comments on improved sanitation sound hollow.

A line from Lady Macbeth comes to my mind: “All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand”.

Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed by the author are personal.