Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Top note investigates how Gujarat govt fudged farm growth rate figures to showcase double digit success

By Rajiv Shah
Has the Gujarat government manipulated figures of agricultural growth? Latest information available from informed sources say this might well be so. According to an authoritative note, prepared by a retired IAS bureaucrat and mean for circulation among influential quarters, the “fudged figure” found its reflection in various ways, but more so in the form of total area under cultivation during Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's speech before the Planning Commission in Delhi a year ago.
Modi asserted that Gujarat’s “cultivated area was 108 lakh hectares (ha) in 2000-01”, which “went up to 145 lakh ha in the year 2010-11”. It was an increase of an unbelievable 37 lakh ha in a year! The claim about the “dramatic increase” in the area under cultivation was repeated in the Gujarat governor’s speech during the budget session of the Gujarat legislature in February 2013, when it was mentioned that the area under various crops had gone up to 145.45 lakh ha. In fact, the note suggests, available data suggest there is little reason to believe in such a whopping rise. Prepared by CJ Jose, who retired in 2008, it says that a careful analysis of government documents suggests it is nothing but “a huge, brazen and audacious” lie, being spread by those in power in order to perpetuate the myth that “agriculture in Gujarat is progressing by leaps and bounds with average annual growth of more than 11 per cent after Modi became the chief minister of Gujarat.” This claim has been so cleverly and persistently disseminated that “it is accepted unquestioningly even by sections of the intelligentsia, too.”
The note refers to certain official documents to prove the point. At one place, the Socio-Economic Review of 2011-12 gives the relative share of agriculture and allied activities in the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) for the last few years. These are based on current prices of 2004-05 prices, it says, adding, “The figures are reproduced along with the calculations of the percentage of growth over the previous year (GOPY) and the compounded annual growth rate (CARG) compared to the base year of 05-06:
Year      Rs. crore    GOPY     CAGR compared to 05-06
05-06    33982                          
06-07    33616           -1.08        - (1.08)
07-08    37155           10.52            4.66
08-09    33920            -8.71       - (0.06)
09-10     34021           -0.29       - (0.03)
10-11     39839           17.10          3.23
Jose underlines, “What is immediately evident is that over a five year period beginning 2005-06 and ending in 2009-10 there was a pathetic and deplorable situation with respect to the agricultural scenario in Gujarat, with no growth but a decline, though marginal. So something drastic had to be done to dress up the growth figures and it was done by some fertile imaginations responding to the distress call of a nervous CM.”
Against this backdrop, the Socio-Economic Review invented that a “sudden” and “substantial” increase in agricultural production had taken place in 2010-11.With this, the value of the 2011-12 agriculture output in the GSDP increased to Rs 39,839 crores. The claimed increase was 17.10 per cent over 2009-10. CAGR compared to 2005-06 improved to 3.23 per cent. Modi sought to explain the “success” to the Planning Commission in Delhi on June 24, 2011, claiming that “last year (2010-11) saw major expansion in irrigation and water management”.The latter was explained as adoption of ‘drip and sprinkler’ irrigation.
However, the note believes, available data on irrigation do not show any possibility of such an increase. “There is little to believe that the surface irrigation potential in Gujarat increased in any way in one year. At the end of June 2011, the availability of Narmada waters remained stagnant, at 2.53 lakh ha, same as at the end of June 2007. Narmada canal coverage had remained constant for more than five years in a row and had come down to 1.93 lakh hectares in 2012-13. Irrigation from groundwater resource of the government also had remained stagnant at 0.87 lakh hectares.”
Then, "the reported increase in area due to construction of check dams was a modest 16,000 hectares. In fact, there was no major expansion in irrigation or water management in 2010-11 or earlier, to explain the agricultural production increase. The increase in area under micro (drip) and or sprinkler irrigation during 2010-11 was also not very substantial”. The area under micro irrigation in 2005 was around 3 lakh ha, and during 2010-11 not more than 40,000 ha was added. About 50 per cent of the area under micro irrigation at the end of June 2011 was in cotton (1.72 lakh ha) followed by groundnut (1.15 lakh ha), sugar cane, banana and potatoes taking up a total of 0.45 lakh hectares and the remaining in miscellaneous crops.”
In the meantime, the Socio-Economic Review and other literature continued reporting different figures of the total area which had been brought under cultivation (in lakh ha):
                         06-07     07-08     08-09     09-10     10-11     11-12        12-13
Kharif                      75.29     88.89        N.R      86.00     89.00       86.00       81.72
Rabi                         25.59    34.26         N.R      25.19     30.00      34.58        29.64
Total all seasons  100.88  123.15       N.R     111.19   119.00   120.58      111.36
A booklet published by the director of agriculture “Margadarshika” has a summation of the district wise area, production and yield of important food and non –food crops in Gujarat. According to this document the total area under cultivation of all these conceivable crops in Gujarat was
2006-07: 103.31 lakh ha
2007-08: 106.89 lakh ha
2008-09: 101.11 lakh ha
The information compiled by the director of agriculture but not yet released to the public gives details for the next two years and the average for the the next three years ending 2010-11:
2009-10: 95.08 lakh ha
2010-11: 115.75 lakh ha
Yet, unaware of the changes effected in the script by the director of agriculture, Modi read out from the old script while addressing the planning commission and made the Gujarat governor to repeat his words during the budget session of March and continued to claim that cultivated area in Gujarat had gone up to 145 lakh hectares. This despite the fact that “out of the total reporting area of the state at 188.1 lakh hectares, the total agricultural holdings, when last counted, was 102.69 lakh hectares”, .the insists.
The note elucidates, “It is highly probable that the area reported under rabi cultivation in 2010-11 and 2011-12 is wrong for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is more than the figure for the year immediately preceding and the year following. Secondly, the utilization of Narmada canal water during the year came down by some 40,000 ha. And finally, the reported increase in irrigation compared to in the previous year has been only less than 50,000 ha.” Further, “Given the fact that the total of kharif and rabi area for 2012-13 is put at only 111.36 lakh ha and for 2009-10 at 111.19 ha, it is safe to conclude that the total is unlikely to exceed the average of the four years.”

Manipulating growth rate figures
The note suggests how the government cleverly takes 2000-01 as the base year for showing a high growth rate of agriculture. Suggesting that this too is a manipulation, it says, “It was an exceptionally bad year as far as monsoon was concerned with all the 25 districts of the state receiving less rain fall than the average during the period 1995-2004 and uniformly the lowest during the six years begining 2000 and ending in 2005. The previous year (1999-2000) had deficient rains in as many as 14 of the twenty five districts and was by no stretch of imagination a normal year for agriculture.”
In the circumstances, it points out, “if an honest assessment was to be made about the state of agriculture in Gujarat in 2004-05 or thereafter, the comparison should have been made with the production levels in a normal year, i.e. the position in 1998-99, which would have shown that there was nothing to shout from the roof tops.”
“The value of the agricultural output in 2000-01 at Rs 14,092 was lower than even 1981-82. The value for 1999-2000 was barely above that of 1981-82. The secret of Modi's agricultural growth lies in these numbers. The agricultural crisis of 1999-2001 was simply used to create and maintain a fiction of high growth in subsequent years which turned out to be normal years”, the note underlines.
It gives following figures to substantiate its claims of “the Modi growth game in agriculture”:
Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CARG)
1996-97 to 2008-09: 1.52%
1996-97 to 2009-10:  1.23%
1998-99 to 2008-09:  2.13%
1998-99 to 2009-10:  1.73%
2000-01 to 2008-09:  10.59%
2000-01 to 2009-10:  8.91%
“With a little sleight of hand you can manipulate 1.73 per cent into 10.59 per cent and get an away with it! The great gift of Modi is not in making development to happen but to pretend to have caused it”, the note argues, pointing towards failure of senior experts Tushaar Shah, Ashok Gulati, Hemant P and Ganga Shreedhar to look into this factor while talking about Gujarat agricultural miracle in a recent paper, adding, even this “growth rate has to be further moderated for unsubstantiated productivity increase claimed. It has to be also moderated for the over-reporting compared to the area reported by the director of agriculture.”
To “verify”, the note refers to arrivals in the agricultural produce marketing committee (APMC) yard of Unza in North Gujarat, which is the biggest in Asia and is under the control of the BJP for the last 10-15 years, handling a large variety of agricultural crops including seed spices, isobgul and castor. If there is anything atypical about Unjha, it is that it has a hinterland which benefited from the Narmada canal network so far made operational in the state. Details show:
Year            Arrivals ( quintals)       Sales value(Rs.Cr)      CAGR
2004-05        1912179                   632.76
2005-06        1751066                  566.23
2006-07        1478965                  625.14
2007-08        1816463                  832.11
2008-09        2052182                1151.00
2009-10        1813409                1118.65
2010-11        1846586                1235.43                      -0.58
2011-12        2121611                1798.02                       1.83
“So when Modi went to town with his cock and bull story of spreading the state's agriculture to 145 lakh hectares and achieving 25 per cent growth in agricultural production compared to 2009-10 , he was far off the mark and was simply pulling a fast one, that only he is capable of, in terms of its design and extent. Compared to 2004-05, agriculture had a negative growth of 0.58 per cent during 2010-11, and the rate of growth for the seven year period including 2011-12 is 1.83 per cent”, the note concludes.

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