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Neoliberal growth in Gujarat has intensified social and economic inequalities, says new Save the Children report

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report, “Reducing Inequality: Learning Lessons for the Post-1015 Agenda. India Case Study”, by Save the Children has regretted that “the rapid economic growth that Gujarat has experienced over the past decade has been of the nature of exclusionary growth where goals like social equality, sustainable livelihoods, access to education and health, justice and peace have been abandoned in the race for high-speed growth.”
The report, by the world’s leading independent organization that works to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives, states that Gujarat's “expenditure in social sectors, both as a percentage of GSDP and as a percentage of total expenditure, has declined more than the average decline in other comparable States and stands below the national average pointing to a clear shift in the priorities.”
Infant mortality rate among states

The report observes, “There is a decline in the usage of government health services in both rural and urban areas of Gujarat and a very high reliance on the private sector. In urban areas, the decline has been quite significant for the lowest income group.”
It adds, “Data for some select states of IMR for 2010 (based on availability) reveal that across all states and across regions, the IMR for females are relatively higher. This is a clear reflection of the gender bias that exists in India even today. The Western states of Gujarat and Rajasthan and Northern state of Uttar Pradesh show higher differences than the other states.”
Hunger Index among states

The report has been prepared to study rising inequality, which it says has “emerged as one of the most important problems confronting societies across the world.” It underlines, “Within the Asian region, South Asia has experienced rapid increases in income/ consumption inequality during the recent period of its rapid growth. This is quite evident in case of India, the largest economy in the region with over a billion people. There is evidence to suggest that the poorer sections of India were actually further marginalised under the neoliberal economic regime introduced in India in the early 1990s.”
Calorie intake per capita among states
Singling out Gujarat in this context, the report states, “Poorer states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa witnessed only a marginal improvement in terms of per capita NSDP (Net State Domestic Product), whereas the richer states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, etc witnessed substantial rises.”
This has not helped reduce inequalities, it underlines: “States that witnessed greater rise in per capita NSDP during the period 1993- 94 to 2004-05 also witnessed higher rise in state-level Gini coefficients. This implies that the states that experienced more ‘growth’ actually had worsening inequalities.”
The report further says, “Within States, the rural-urban divide worsened. Urban consumption levels were double that of rural consumption levels. The social factor of caste plays a major role in determining household Monthly Per Capita Expenditure (MPCE) levels. The Social Category “Others” had higher MPCEs across both rural and urban sectors in India compared to the other categories, viz. the Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Other backward Classes (OBC).”
The report points towards how “the systematic withdrawal of the state from social welfare activities has undermined the previous progress towards universal access and has resulted in increased inequality and exclusion.” In this context, it believes, “Per capita NSDP does not capture the actual distribution amongst the population as it assumes equal shares for all.”
Life expectancy among states
The report underlines, “The easiest method of measuring actual distribution is by analysing differences in consumption expenditures, as given by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) periodic sample survey reporting.” Even its “household consumption data tend to understate the extent of inequality by underestimating the tails of the distribution (excluding the very rich and the very poor) and because the poor are more likely to consume as much or even more than their income while the rich are more able to save.”
Coming to calorie intake as the criterion of health, the study says, “In the rural sector, Punjab has the highest per capita calorie intake of 2223 Cal while Jharkhand had the lowest of 1900 Cal. It is interesting to note that some of the poorer states like Orissa and Uttar Pradesh had  alorie intakes higher than the national average while comparatively richer states like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu had lower than the national average rate of calorie intake.”
Emphasising that “a significant dimension of health is life expectancy, which has been increasing over the years”, the study says, “It has increased more for females than males. According to 2002-06 estimates, life expectancy at birth for males was 62.6 years as compared to 64.2 years for females. Also the urban male (67.1 years) and urban female (70 years) have longer life spans as compared to their rural counterparts (61.2 and 62.7 years respectively).”
Maternal mortality rate among states
As for Gujarat, it reminds again that it “has one of the highest per capita incomes of all major states (per capita net state domestic product (NSDP) at constant (2004-05) prices of Rs 52,708 in 2010-11)”, but “has only been a moderate performer in this regard. Gujarat’s IMR in 2011 is close to that of much poorer and less developed Bihar despite the much higher per capita income in that state (per capita NSDP of Bihar in 2010-11 is Rs.13,632).”
It says, “Kerala has shown one of the lowest infant mortality rates historically. Its IMR has been many times less than the Indian average. Kerala’s performance is more creditable than any other states as it has managed to reduce the already low IMR even further over the period.”
It adds, “It is surprising to note that even urban IMR is high in the states of Delhi and Gujarat...The relatively richer states of Gujarat and Haryana have shown slower improvements in lowering IMR. incomes of all major states.”
Crude birth rate among states
As for the maternal mortality rate (MMR), the report says, “Gujarat again has proved to be a poor performer as the MMR has actually gone up in Gujarat over the period 1997-98 to 2007-09 recording a negative rate of decline.” It is in the company of “states of the north western region Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar, which still show quite high rates of maternal mortality.
As for education, “while states such as Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, and Manipur spent 10.2 per cent, 9.8 per cent, 9.1 per cent, 7.1 per cent, and 6.4 per cent, respectively, of their total state domestic product (SDP) on education in 2007-08, there were several states (e.g. Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Goa) which spent less than 2 per cent of their SDP on education.”
Even on increase in pupil-teacher ratio (PTR), the report says, “In 2009-10, number of districts where PTR was above 30 has increased to 304 during 2009-10 compared to 284 in 2008-09. These districts are mainly concentrated in Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.”

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