Gujarat Reality: We need to read the “fine print”!
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
When one looks / buys something of high value (particularly a machine) what comes into our hands, naturally is a catalogue or a manual. Many ordinary mortals often skim through these without reading the fine print. We are often attracted to the jingles in the commercial, the curvaceous figures that attempt to sell a car or by the sheer gloss or hype of the advertisement. It is a human frailty and one cannot be faulted with this! But the fact remains, that if we pay closer attention to the ‘fine print’, our being hooked by a particular hard-sell would be a very different story!
The same holds good for the so-called “vibrant” Gujarat; myths, lies, half-truths and glossy ads try to proclaim that ‘all is well and hunky-dory’. But let’s attempt to read the fine print. In a seemingly innocuous news item which appeared in a leading national daily on August 13th 2012, an application under the Right to Information received an answer from the Navsari District Collector that for the Sadbhavna Mission of the CM early in the year, the Collectorate had purchased 28,000 skull caps (normally worn by Muslims) and distributed among the Hindus to wear. It is well-known that such things took place in several other Sadbhavna programmes across the State. In fact, media in Ahmedabad exposed of how a local person came dressed up as an Arab Sheikh and sat prominently on the dais during the Sadbhavna programme in the city.
A leading English daily in Ahmedabad on August 23rd highlighted how a fairly large section of the urban poor lived in the most miserable conditions, in a city which attempts to flaunt a “Riverfront mirage”, after displacing thousands of poor. The same paper highlights how more than 400,000 tribals are leaving Saurashtra because of the drought that has gripped that area. The Government has also demonstrated a tremendous amount of callousness in their statements on the many farmers committing suicide in of Gujarat.
The much-hyped Nano project which made heads turn some years ago, has apparently gone sour! Only time will tell the extent of damage caused to the tax-payers in Gujarat because of this project. Headlines in another newspaper speak about the Gujarat Housing Board’s callousness which has cost the State over 600 crores; the Governor of Gujarat has now given the sanction for the prosecution of a key-aide of the CM in the 400 crore fishery scam. These cases are only the tip of the iceberg and one is aware that the Government is doing all it can to prevent an impartial and honest Lokayukta being appointed for the simple reason that he will easily open a ‘can of worms’.
It is also common knowledge that hardly 25% of the MOUs made in the vibrant Gujarat jamborees have actually been realised these past years. The total public debt of Gujarat in 2012 has risen to 1,34,000 crores from a measly 32,000 crores in 2001.
Well, plenty of money is being spent on big hoardings, on false advertisement all over Gujarat and in the contracting of high profile publicity groups. The fact is, we need to read the fine print now and there lies the truth!
23rd August, 2012
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333 Fax: 79 27489018
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.humanrightsindia.in