Column: Don’t let Modi facts get in the way

Apr 26 2014, 05:59 IST
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SummaryIntellectuals need to back up their outrageous conclusions about Modi with at least some evidence

scheduled tribes (STs) in Gujarat. In pursuit of intellectual excellence, let me assert that it is nobody’s case, not even the intellectuals, that Modi should have made the tribals the richest citizens of Gujarat. The yardstick is simple and straightforward—improvement in the standard of living of tribals in Gujarat should at least be equal that of tribals elsewhere in India. If there is less improvement than the average, then one can begin to question the worthiness of the Gujarat model; if greater than average improvement, then perhaps there is something to be said about the Gujarat model?

Data on poverty levels, and reduction in poverty levels, for all states with an ST population above 10%, and all-India, are reported for the years 1983, 1993/94, 1999/00 and 2011/12. Woman does not exist by bread alone, and it is not my contention that only income levels matter. However, especially for the poor, decline in absolute poverty should be the number one policy concern. In this regard, Modi’s Gujarat is a stellar performer, or in plain English, has done the most (along with Assam) for the tribal population. Madhya Pradesh and Orissa are some distance behind, and Rajasthan, of Sonia Gandhi’s Congress dole economics fame, and the darling of the intellectuals, performs the worst. The rate of poverty decline in Rajasthan, in the Modi years (1999/00 NSS) to 2012, is less than half of the average pace of decline in India, minus 0.7% per annum.

The ST population in Gujarat has witnessed a 29 percentage point (ppt) decline in poverty since 1999/00 compared to an all-India decline of 22 ppt. And this is the largest decline in the country, i.e., the tribals, notwithstanding Mascarenhas or Vishwanathan, have done the “best” under Modi. My plea to all, laypersons and intellectuals, is to look at both qualitative and quantitative conclusions before pontificating, or lecturing, or just plain evaluating policies and outcomes. Of course, if we look at only qualitative evidence, then the intellectuals have an unfair advantage, an advantage derived from insider trading. And that is grossly unfair, no?

The author is chairman, Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory firm, and a senior advisor to Zyfin, a leading financial information company. Twitter: @surjitbhalla

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