Truth vs hype in Modi's boast about Gujarat's women

From birth, through schooling and university, and even in the workforce and in decision making, women in Gujarat have not had it easier under Narendra Modi's rule than his counterparts in the rest of India, statistics show. Charu Sudan Kasturi reports.

delhi Updated: Apr 09, 2013 08:57 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi
Charu Sudan Kasturi
Hindustan Times
Narendra Modi,female foeticide,FICCI women's wing

In 2004, when Narendra Modi saw his state's female foeticide numbers based on the 2001 census, he got goose bumps, the Gujarat chief minister on Monday told the FICCI women's wing.

But Modi, who peppered his nationally televised address with references to "small initiatives" he had taken to help empower women, skipped the fact that Gujarat's sex ratio dropped further under him, from 918 in 2001 to 915 in 2011.

The four-time chief minister who is being seen as the face of the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections may have succeeded in making his state friendlier than most others for investment, and for private enterprise.

But by most parameters, women in the state have not had it easier than counterparts in the rest of India, suggesting that Modi's anecdotes of Jasuben the pizzeria owner who apparently gave Pizza Hut a run for its money and the women behind the Amul milk cooperative revolution, may be more exceptions than pointers to a deeper trend.

From their birth, through schooling and university, and even in the workforce and in leadership positions, women in Gujarat have not seen much -- if any -- improvement under Modi, even slipping on certain indicators during his tenure.

Women's safety is an exception. Gujarat is traditionally a safer state for women than most, and the rate of crimes against women has remained consistent at about 1.4% under Modi.

Nationally, India's sex ratio rose just barely, from 933 to 940, between 2001 and 2011. But only Bihar and Jammu Kashmir, and the union territories of Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli that abut Gujarat saw an actual decline in their sex ratio, apart from Gujarat.

In school, girls in Gujarat have a poorer gender parity index in enrolment than the national average. Nationally, 94 girls are enrolled in elementary and in secondary school, for every 100 boys. In Gujarat, the numbers drop to 88 girls in elementary classes, and 84 in secondary school.

The University Grants Commission offers a post-graduate scholarship for the single girl child, open to all girls who meet a basic set of criteria.

Only 18 eligible girls applied - and won the scholarship - from Gujarat in 2012 out of a national total of 2419, much less than other major states like Andhra Pradesh (161), Karnataka (143), Kerala (577), Tamil Nadu (456), Maharashtra (60) and West Bengal (706).

Women in Gujarat do not have it easier at the workplace either.

Nationally, women constituted 19.9% of the organised workforce according to labour ministry data.

In Gujarat, this fraction has persistently hovered between 13% and 15% over the past decade.

In his speech to FICCI women on Monday, Modi also spoke about the absence of women in leadership roles, with the power to make decisions and affect policies.

But the Gujarat chief minister's own council of ministers has 2 women out of 19 members.

That's a worse ratio than the already poor 9 women in 74 member council headed by a Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who Modi loves to mock as weak and ineffective.

First Published: Apr 08, 2013 21:28 IST