Gujarat Behind the Mirage: The Myth of Good Governance

Written by Gautam Thaker | Published on: November 14, 2017

Gujarat: Behind the Mirage


Gujarat behind the mirage

This book, edited by Teesta Setalvad carries a series of specialised and informed articles on the Myth of the Gujarat Model.

In this capter authored by Gautam Thaker, senior civil libertarian, the repeated interrogations by the Comproller and Auditor General (CAG) on public spending under Narendra Modi's tenure as chief minister of the state are discussed, and dissected.

CAG Report exposes systemic irregularities

Gautam Thaker[1]

Amit Shah
Image: PTI

Good governance of any state can be gauged on the basis of the reports of non-partisan institutions. Certain rules and regulations have been included within the constitutional scheme to determine whether the expenditure incurred by the state and also whether the implementation of planning of the state has been done in a legally proper and accountable manner.

There is nothing orderly and accountable within Gujarat, not only in the economic and political field but neither in the social or cultural field. Individual human rights and freedoms are seriously endangered, the dignity and rights of women, Dalits and minorities under assault from an entrenched system of majoritarian patronage; citizens from these sections do not receive fair and measured treatment. So it also is with atrocities on the working class and the denial of the rights of Adivasis. The Gujarat model which is being presented before the nation is false and misleading - deceptive.

Lakhs of deprived people, Dalits, Adivasis, cowherds of Saurashtra, freely wandering races (tribes), fishermen, salt-workers and unorganised labourers are today, not safe in Gujarat. Pasture lands are being given away to big industry - industrialists are making the life of all classes of citizens, with the exception of the rich, full of hardship. The condition of women workers, labourers, poor workers and farm workers is pitiable. Truly speaking, the poor in Gujarat have no equal opportunities to earn their livelihood with self respect or to improve their life conditions.

There is the rule of fear that has replaced the rule of law in Gujarat. The attitude of the government leans towards high handedness. It is anti-people and authoritarian. As a result, democratic–minded citizens are uneasy, restless.

On the basis of the figures obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, it can be definitely said that there is real chaos in the field of law and order. The life of the common people is in complete disarray with their rights over land and water being snatched away. The government, by deliberately, consciously and shamelessly disregarding the Indian Constitution and the rule of law has been violating human rights. The recently published reports of the CAG and the State Vigilance Commission are shocking eye-openers.

Looking at the CAG report, it can be safely said that the Gujarat government ranks number one in “corruption”. The CAG report clearly states that over the last five years, corruption has crossed the limit and in every department of the government, disbursement of resources are not in accordance with the rules or planned policy. The chief minister and other ministers are using the state treasury as their personal treasury.

The aid from the central government is being misused. Irregularities under NREGA scheme, corruption, confusion about job cards etc. have been raised in the CAG report. A disregard for environment has also been recorded by the CAG in it’s observations. Security of the coastal zone2 has also been squandered away and financial irregularities noted. The state government has provided land to industrialists at extremely low prices and with incentives disproportionate to public good. These same industries are also tax defaulters with serious questions raised by CAG, not being tabled in the state assembly and discussed.

The State Vigilance Commissioner of the Gujarat state in his recently published annual report has observed that of the departments under the control of the state government, the most widespread corruption has been exposed in the Revenue, the Panchayat and Urban Development departments. All three are concerned with disbursal of land user rights.

The State Vigilance department had received a total of 6,924 applications/ complaints related to corruption and monetary malpractices. On the question of implementation of the government schemes, complaints regarding corruption in granting sanction by government servants were also received.
The Vigilance officer has observed that, in comparison with previous years in the past last year there has been an increase in the number of the complaints, consequently his work has also increased.

Of the total number of complaints received, the SVC has recommended the criminal prosecution of 31; process under the rules of the Gujarat government against 705. The CAG report and that of the Vigilance Commission exposes the corruption in Gujarat and the situation of irregular monetary dealings.

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Citizens for Democracy (CFD) have made their presentation before the justice M B Shah Commission appointed for the purpose of looking into allegations of corruption made against the Gujarat government backed with complete documentation. This inquiry Commission had the mandate to investigate the allotment of land to industrialists and the Mundra Port of the Adani Group as also the procedure of land allotment to the Tatas for the Nano car project at Sanand. Besides, there were complaints of the land surrounding Gandhinagar that has been freely allotted to seven companies at throwaway prices, at great loss to the state exchequer. Due process was not followed in these cases as well.

The Commission of Inquiry Act, under which the MB Shah Commission was appointed, clearly states that it is the duty of the Commission to summon witnesses and cross examine them. This procedure has not been followed. To follow due and rigorous process, all documents that are presented before such a Commission need to be verified as authentic and genuine if they are to be used as evidence. For this, established and time-tested procedure demands that with the documents presented, government officers such as collectors, the chief town planner, responsible officers of the revenue departments and the CEOs of the companies receiving the land need to be summoned before the Inquiry Commission so that truth can be discovered substantively, to obtain true justice. Even this basic procedure has not been followed in this Commission.

Under such circumstances how can truth emerge? The land allocation policy in Gujarat over the past years has not followed the procedure laid down in the Gujarat Industrial Policy of 2009. If the very process of allocation of land needs to be neutrally evaluated, but necessary documents, relevant records and witnesses are not presented before an Inquiry Commission, how can any misdemeanour’s or corruption ever be traced? Due process and procedure is being wilfully subverted by the MB Shah Commission, unfortunately and tragically, headed by a sitting judge.

The raion d’etre of any inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act is to restore faith in the system. For this, the process of inquiry should be thorough, faultless, neutral and open. All information and documentary evidence needs to be brought before the commission to enable a thorough probe for the truth to emerge.

On the whole – water, land especially forest land are being looted under the Modi government’s form of governance. Such an Inquiry Commission is a mere ‘eye-wash’ not meant to expose corruption or correct the faulty methodology and practice of the executive. Such is the reality of life in Gujarat.

In recent years, one fact is clearly evident. The present government establishment wants to crush those activists who are struggling for justice for ordinary people and their well being. It becomes very difficult to break and oppose the Hindutvavadi and fascist administration. Hence a wider movement for freedom of citizens, challenging all injustices is the critical need of the hour.

It is possible to re-establish values of democracy, our attitude towards justice, equality and communal harmony. This stupendous movement will bear fruits by the combined efforts of those who have faith in human rights and democracy. Democratic forces that believe in equality, social justice, inclusiveness and inclusive, people-oriented development should come together and join hands for the creation of a democratic, justice-loving and safe Gujarat. Such a movement is the one and only resistance against increasing fascist attacks and for protecting human rights.

References
CAG Report with reference to Gujaratpublished in the newspapers from Naya Marg, a fortnightly
1.  With reference to child-development, Gujarat government’s claims are a sham. Every third child in Gujarat is underweight 25,225 anganwadis have just not been started, 63.37 lakh beneficiaries deprived of nutritious food (Gujarat Samachar)
…From 9 to 40 percent anganwadis in 8 districts have no clean drinking water and latrines (wash-rooms).
2.  CAG tears asunder. The warming system for fisher-folk, approved at the cost of Rs.46 crores was to no avail. Check-posts were created but they are of poor quality. CAG deflated the claim of ‘safe and secure Gujarat’. Expecting terrorist attack, the Modi government spent crores of rupees; implementation: zero. What kind of administration is this? No police available for preventing intrusion; 90 percent reduction in marine-patrolling, 60 percent of the trained staff moved elsewhere. Damaged boats to be taken to the end of the village which would take 13 months to be repaired. For want of demand of the Gujarat government from the centre, jetties meant for secrecy have been erected (Gujarat Today).
3.  ‘CAG………implementation too’ (Times of India)
An incident like the Mumbai terrorist attack can take place again at anytime. As regards land and sea border watch it is zero (nil). Modi Government inactive in implementing the central government’s plan to prevent cross border intrusion. In erecting 5 out of 10 sea-coasts, a delay of 73 to 535 days. The construction quality of 23 coast check-posts and 29 coast outposts is very poor. A population of 1.87 crores have no anganwadis. Even after the suggestion made by the central government, Gujarat sent no proposal. 40 percent anganwadis have no basic facilities. In one year, no nutritious food was provided for 96 days. As against the state’s requirement of 75,480 anganwadis only 52,137 are sanctioned. 6.48 lakh children are victims of malnutrition, 63.37 lakh beneficiaries did not receive supplementary nutritious food. Lack of health-kit, insufficient listing. (Sandesh)
4.  In spite of money provided by the district development officer, health kits not purchased. During the five year period from 2007 to 2013 there was a 4 percent increase in the number of extremely malnourished children (Divya Bhaskar).
5.  Gujarat Government is bragging about building 50 lakh houses, have completed only 5 schemes out of JNNURM’s 72 schemes. As a result of faulty management Rs.37.46 crores more had to be paid. The simplification work of Rent Control Act and revenue structure was also not done. The claims of Rs.13.50 crores for 36 projects could not be settled as the relevant documents were sent in Gujarat (Gujarat Samachar)
6.  Due to lack of land, the Baroda Municipal Corporation and the Surat Municipal Corporation could not utilize Rs. 115 crores and Rs.53.23 crores respectively, could not undertake habitation schemes inspite of sufficient funds available. The Surat Municipal Corporation after spending Rs.6.72 crores left 1776 habitation incomplete. (Divya Bhaskar, October 5,2013)
7.  Building of clay and sand dams was against the guidelines given under MNREGA. The sand and clay was of a very poor quality so the dams were simply washed away. Rs. 101.25 crore of public (people’s) money was simply wasted. By showing one and the same individual at the same time working at different places, the associates (of the state government) were paid. More than 30 lakh families registered without photographs! The percentage of these receiving daily wages for 100 days was hardly 4 to 6 percent (Gujarat Today)
8.  Fraud of crores of rupees in the construction of sand clay dams, gutters, canals, wells, roads and in-tree plantation. The Centre allotted Rs.2230 crore but the state government gave employment to only 6 percent (Sandesh, October 6, 2013)
9.  Out of 21 recommendations by the Finance Commission, the Gujarat government implemented only 7. For government programmes and for praising the chief minister, crores of rupees were spent, while for the celebration of national feasts, panchayats were given just Rs.50/ (each). For the celebration of the silver jubilee of the Panchayati Raj at Mahatma Mandir, people were called from all over the country but there was no decentralisation of power. Out of the 29 activities to be performed by the panchayati institutions, complete authority has been given only for 14 activities (Sandesh, October 6, 2013)
10.  The revenue income of the municipalities (nagar palikas) increased 52 to 67 percent, but leave alone the grant, the nagar palikas do not care to spend even their own income. The funds amounting to crores of rupees meant for roads, gutters etc. are just not used (utilized) (Divya Bhaskar, October 7, 2013)
 
[1] * Gautam Thaker an active political worker since he joined the Chhatra Yuva Sangharsh Vahini established by Jaiprakash Narayan, Thaker along with civil libertarians in Gujarat fearlessly fought against the Emergency in 1975. Thaker is general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL - Gujarat) and also active in the Indian Radical Humanists Association and the Narmada Abhiyan. He has also been conferred with the award in recognition of his 35 year long valuable services in the Central Bank Staff Union, Gujarat. He is also the chairman of central Bank Staff Union and the Central Bank Officers Congress.