The Aamir Khan Column: Health care for the poor, a dream worth dreamingWhat is the point of having a great GDP if as a society we are unhealthy?I am a bit of a dreamer. I dream that one day we will be living in a country where things will be different, and where the rich and the poor will both get the same, good, quality health care. To many it may seem like a totally impractical, and an unachievable dream. But it's a dream worth dreaming, and one that has every reason to come true.Irrespective of whether you are rich or poor, when you lose a loved one, the pain is the same. To watch my child suffer and die because of an incurable disease while I am unable to do anything is truly sad. But if there is treatment available which can save my child, and I am unable to save my child because I can't afford it — and can only helplessly sit by and watch my child die — that is unimaginably tragic.What is stopping us from having a great public health-care system?A number of us pay our taxes. Some of us don't. And most of us don't earn enough to be required to pay direct taxes. A host of indirect taxes are also collected by each State. Each time we buy something, big or even small, we pay some or the other tax. So it turns out that the poor are also paying for public health care. Only they don't get proper services in return. Less than two per cent of our Gross Domestic Product — 1.4 per cent to be precise — is allotted to public health care.Why?Experts who work in this space say that it should be at least six per cent for a very basic level of public health facilities. I am neither an economist nor a doctor, but I would prefer to err on the safer side and say eight to 10 per cent is what it should be.What is the point of having a great GDP if as a society we are unhealthy? Economic strength will come only if, first, we are healthy; and it will be of some use only if we are healthy enough to enjoy it.Importantly, health is also a State issue and each State collects only indirect taxes. Why isn't more of our money spent on setting up more public hospitals, and more importantly, on public medical colleges? Why are there not enough public medical colleges with attached public hospitals across each State?With a vibrant young population, more public medical colleges are the need of the hour. But it seems the government at the Centre, and all the State governments, are concentrating less on opening government medical colleges, and therefore, the great need of young students wanting to become doctors is getting filled by — you guessed right — private medical colleges, who, I am told, charge Rs.50 to 60 lakh as an unofficial donation.In most cases, private medical colleges are basically springing up as businesses. Many of them don't even have proper working hospitals attached to them, which is mandatory. I sometimes wonder how competent the doctors who are coming out of these private medical colleges would be.We need to firmly tell State and Central governments that we want more public hospitals with attached public medical colleges.Private hospitals are most welcome, but let's concentrate on our public health-care system and make it so strong that private hospitals have to work harder to compete, and therefore, we as a society get better services.When a student sits his/her MBBS exams and is asked what the prescription medication for a patient suffering from diabetes is, he or she might write "glimepiride." This is the salt commonly used to treat diabetes. When this student becomes a doctor and a patient who has diabetes comes to him/her for treatment, he/she might write the medicine name as Amaryl. So, is that young doctor prescribing the wrong medication? No. Amaryl happens to be one of the brand names by which the salt "glimepiride" is sold. So what is the difference between the two, apart from the names? Well, a strip of 10 tablets of Amaryl costs around Rs.125, while a strip of 10 tablets of the salt "glimepiride" costs Rs.2. Both are essentially the same thing. We pay approximately Rs.123 more for the brand name.Here are some more examples:The common cold is one of the most prevalent illnesses. The salt name of the medicine used to tackle it is cetirizine. Now, the manufacturing, packaging, transportation costs of this generic medicine, including a decent margin, is Rs.1.20 for 10 tablets. But the branded version of the same medication, for example Cetzine, costs over Rs.35 for 10 tablets.A common injection used to treat blockages that cause heart attacks is "streptokinase" or "urokinase"; these injections cost Rs.1000. However, in their branded form they cost over Rs.5000 in the market.Malaria is a big killer in India, especially among children. A critical injection used to treat resistant malaria is available for as little as Rs.25 for a pack of three injections; however the branded versions cost Rs.300 to Rs.400.In the case of diarrhoea, another big killer of children in India, the vomiting that causes dehydration can be stopped with a medicine whose salt name is "domperidone," which is available at Rs.1.25 for a strip of 10 tablets; its branded version, Domstal, sells at Rs.33.How can our poor, or for that matter even our middle class, afford medication?Generic medicines are the answer.In this regard we have to applaud the efforts of the Rajasthan government. It has set up shops selling generic medicines across the State in an effort to make good quality medicines available to people at the lowest possible rates.Roughly 25 per cent of all ailments go untreated in India because of financial reasons. Think of the difference generic medicines can make to every Indian! If the Rajasthan government can do it, why can't other State governments do the same?An interesting piece of information: the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers offers Rs.50,000 to anyone wanting to open a shop selling generic medicines, and at their discretion they sometimes offer space to open such a shop.Looks like my dream of good, quality, public health care being available to the rich and poor alike may be possible after all.P.S: Can our doctors please write out the generic name of the medication when they write out our prescription, and allow us to choose the brand — or not.
Jai Hind. Satyamev Jayate.(Aamir Khan is an actor. His column will be published in The Hindu every Monday.)
Monday, May 28, 2012
Saturday, May 26, 2012
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
As the great feast of Pentecost approaches, there are several dimensions of this festival which strike me. These include:
Pentecost is SPIRIT
It is the celebration of the birth of the Church. The Lord breathing the wind and fire of his Spirit upon his Church fifty days after he rose from the dead. It is the day when we allow the Lord's Spirit to permeate the innermost core of our being: to touch us, to transform us, to make of us Spirit-filled people; visibly and vocally, his disciples in every sense of the word.
Pentecost is STRENGTH
The one great sign of this feast is the fact that once they were filled with the Lord's Spirit, the disciples showed incredible strength. The courage to stand up and speak out. To proclaim who Jesus is, what he did, how he lived, died and rose from the dead. The strength to face hostility of every kind; in order to stand up for the truth; to speak truth to power; the strength to be a fire in order to kindle other fires.
Pentecost is SOLIDARITY
Pentecost symbolizes solidarity among all peoples and all nations. The disciples, we are told were able 'to speak in tongues'. A more profound understanding is that people from across the spectrum, from every race and nation, were able to understand them; the ability to be open to the working of the Lord's Spirit in spite of their differences. A real bonding which was able to transcend the narrow confines of nationality, ethnicity, race, colour, caste, whatever The event truly created a union of hearts and minds.
Pentecost is SERVICE
"Not all who say 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father" is a strong remark given to us by Jesus. In this context, Mary becomes the symbol of Pentecost. She is there with the apostles accompanying them in their desolation and their loneliness. She provides them with a new hope in the Cenacle, serving them, ministering to them. On the day of Pentecost, she is surely the motivating factor, encouraging them to go out and serve the whole world. In her selfless service, she is the Queen of the Apostles.
Pentecost is SUSTAINABILITY
Pentecost is not a once-and-for-all event. It cannot be limited to 'the feast of harvest' or to 'the feast of the weeks' or 'a commemoration of the Law that was given at Mount Sinai'. It is essentially the beginning of a lived faith which is meant to be sustainable and renewed every moment of our lives. It is a celebration of life: a life that gives life to others!
"Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful
And enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created
And you shall renew the face of the earth".
26th May, 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
Thursday, May 24, 2012
May 16, 2012, 5:33 am
An Online Guide to India's Political CartoonsBy MALAVIKA VYAWAHARE
If India's parliamentarians, who were recently incensed by a 63-year-old cartoon, decide it is time to eradicate any political cartoons that might offend, where should they start? India Ink has put together a short compilation of potential targets, compiled for cartoon lovers and outraged politicians both.
While cartoons that appear in textbooks have loomed large in the news, it is newspapers, of course, which have spawned thousands of distorted caricatures and wickedly satirical cartoons.
The Times of India carries "Ninan's World" by cartoonist Ajit Ninan, who earlier produced the "Just Like That" cartoon series along with Jug Suraiya, published bi-weekly in the Times of India.
Mr. Ninan, incidentally, sides with the politicians on the Ambedkar-Nehru cartoon issue. "The cartoon drawn by Shankar was perfectly valid, for its time, but a cartoon has absolutely no business in textbooks," Mr. Ninan told India Ink. "I do not blame the government or the protesters for what is happening, it is the babudom that is responsible. Somebody in the NCERT made mischief by putting the cartoon in a textbook."
The Times of India also hosts a gallery of pioneering cartoonist R.K. Laxman's work on its Web site. Mr. Laxman is a Ramon Magsaysay Award winner who created the hugely popular character "The Common Man."
It also started a series called "Dubyaman," which began as a spoof of former United States president George W. Bush's policies but acquired a more national flavor later, poking fun at Indian politicians and politics.
The Hindustan Times has its very own blog "Dabs and Jabs," where cartoonist Shreyas Navare jabs his pen into some political balloons. Mr. Navare firmly steered India Ink away from a conversation on the politics of cartoons when contacted by phone this week. "I make my political comments through my cartoons," he said.
"By trying to keep students away from cartoons they are being denied the fullest scope of what democracy offers through a unique art form," said Mr. Navare, when asked about the recent controversy surrounding a six-decade old cartoon of India's constitutional authors, B.R. Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Cartoonist Surendra adds color to the pages of the otherwise politically conservative daily The Hindu. "The Nehru-Ambedkar cartoon controversy is good and at the same time bad. This particular cartoon may have been all right 60 years ago, but is definitely offending to [a] large section of people. The people who chose to put it in textbooks did it for wrong reasons." Mr. Surendra said.
Outside the newspapers, there are dozens of private blogs, carrying the published works of India's famous cartoonists and of amateur artists. There's everything from Cartoon India, which claims to be the "first daily updated cartoon Web site" to Cartoon Watch India the "only monthly magazine" dedicated to cartoons.
Then there is the Indian Institute of Cartoonists, which the Web site claims is the first of its kind in India, and the Kerala Cartoon Academy based in Kochi.
Courtesy of Indian Institute of Cartoonists/Media Voice The cartoon by Balraj K.N., that won second-prize in the Maya Kamath Memorial Awards Competition-2011 organized by the Indian Institute of Cartoonists.
The Kerala school has been proactively taunting politicians — it launched an online exhibition of cartoons about West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, after she had Prof. Ambikesh Mahapatra arrested for allegedly circulating a cartoon of Ms. Banerjee. Recently it organized another online exhibition to honor Kesava Shankara Pillai, better known as Shankar, who penned the Ambekar Nehru cartoon at the center of the recent controversy.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Cartoons All! Politicians and Self-Seekers
The uproar over what is being referred to as the 'Ambedkar cartoon' in the class XI textbook prepared by NCERT first began over a month ago, that is to say, almost six years after the books have been in circulation, been taught and received high praise for their lively style and a critical pedagogical approach (more on this below). It was a political party – one of the factions of the Republican Party of India – that decided to kick up a ruckus over 'the issue' – that is, the 'affront' to Dr Ambedkar that the cartoon in question supposedly constitutes, and the resultant 'hurt sentiments' that it has caused. Very soon everyone began to fall in line, and practically every member of our august Parliament was vying with one other to prove that they were indeed more hurt than their colleagues. One of them, Shri Ram Vilas Paswan has even demanded that the NCERT itself should be dissolved!
Good old Jurgen Habermas – and good old Habermasians - have always invested a lot in forums like the parliament, that are to them the hallowed institutions of 'rational-critical discourse' where through reasoned argument people convince each other. That is how the voice of Reason ultimately prevails in democracies. I have always been suspicious of this claim and have thought that Habermas' empirical work on the decline ('structural transformation') of the public sphere was more insightful than his normative fantasies. Long long ago, his empirical work on the transformation of the public sphere showed that it was the rise of political parties that had actually destroyed all possibilities of 'rational-critical discourse', where organized passion in the service of immediate political interests carried the day.
But believe it or not, the text book and the cartoon that is now in the eye of the storm, isnormatively speaking a Habermasian tract. In other words, it invests too much in this fantasy of rational communication. The text below the cartoon (reproduced above) says:
" Cartoonist's impression of the snail's pace with which the Constitution was made. Making of the constitution took almost three years . Is the cartoonist commenting on this fact? Why do you think the Constituent Assembly took so long to make the Constitution?"And much as I personally disagree with this romantic representation of what went on inside the Constituent Assembly, here is what the textbook it self has to say, perhaps as its own answer to the question posed in the text below the cartoon:
"Each member deliberated upon the Constitution with the interests of the whole nation in mind. There were often disagreements amongst members but few of these disagreements could be traced to members protecting their own interests…
The Constitution drew its authority from the fact that members of the Constituent Assembly engaged in what one might call public reason. The members of the Assembly placed a great emphasis on discussion and reasoned argument…The very act of giving reasons to others makes you move away from simply a narrow consideration of your own interest because you have to give reasons to others to make them go along with your view point. The voluminous debates in the Constituent Assembly, where each clause of the Constitution was subjected to scrutiny and debate, is a tribute to public reason at its best." (pages 17-18)
One of the reasons for the delay was perhaps, in the view of the text, this emphasis on deliberation. It is this textbook, by the way, that perhaps for the first time, gave Ambedkar the place in the history of modern India that he deserves, a fact lost today in the cacophony that marks Parliament, as the cartoons inhabiting it strut about making speeches outdoing one another in idiocy.
What is worse, of course, is that now Ambedkar has become the excuse for all manner of politicians to claim that it is not just him but all politicians who are being denigrated by the use of cartoons in the textbooks. Apparently a 40 member body of parliamentarians is now seized of the matter and has taken up the task of cleansing the textbooks. According to a report in The Indian Express, a letter by Saroj Yadav, head of the Department of Education in Social Sciences (where??) has written to one of the supervisors of the NCERT textbooks, that the forum of MPs felt "the cartoons show disrespect to politicians and depict them in a very poor way. " Apparently the esteemed members held that "depicting politicians in a poor light in textbooks for children of impressionable age erodes their faith in democracy and in politicians (the tautulogy is in the original letter as cited in the TOI report) in general."
So it is not really the multi-crore scams that politicians are involved in, the loot of the mineral and other resources that they make possible, the fixing of ministers, the cash for votes in parliament, MP's watching porn on their laptops while parliament is in session – it's not any of this that really erodes people's faith in democracy. The real culprit is the depiction of this in cartoons!
We need to go back to the cartoons – each one of those that the MPs want deleted, and have a public debate in the only place a reasoned debate is possible – outside the parliament, in the public, in academic institutions, in seminars and discussions. And let us call all the self-righteous MPs to come and explain to us – bewildered citizens – what is it that they are objecting to and why.
In conclusion, some background about these textbooks, placed on record for what it is worth. The NDA government had reduced NCERT to a pathetic forum peddling the ruling Hindutva ideology in textbooks, and after its exit, the question of rewriting textbooks came up afresh on the agenda. That was when the National Curriculum Framework 2005 was produced, evolving out of an uncommonly democratic process, involving about three hundred people all over the country – teachers, academics and educational activists – over a period of seven months. After the NCF 2005 was released, it was followed by a prolonged public debate. One opinion then expressed was that in order to 'detox', we needed to simply bring back the old, pre-NDA textbooks which upheld secular values etc. As opposed to this, there was another opinion, espoused by a large number of academics and educationists, that we needed to upgrade the textbooks in more ways than one. For one thing, many strides have been made in the field of knowledge and we cannot simply revert to older text books. Our new books should reflect the latest developments in thought. Secondly, the pedagogical question should now be placed on top of the agenda. The old textbooks that gave ready-made 'gyan' to students that they had to then memorize, should be replaced by more creatively produced textbooks that pushed students to think for themselves. The idea was to raise questions that would encourage critical thinking among them. This also meant a move away from the boring, pedantic style of old textbooks. It meant further that even supposedly settled questions like those of 'secularism' would not be taught as if there is nothing to debate there. In this attempt to refashion textbooks, a huge public debate took place, first around the NCF 2005 in which hundreds of the best social scientists of the country participated, followed by an even more intensive collective process of textbook writing.
The process of actual writing of textbooks that followed, involved literally hundreds of teachers and researchers throughout the country. This process would not have been what it became but for the stewardship of the new NCERT Director, Krishna Kumar who made it into a veritable movement for writing textbooks across all disciplines. So it is misleading to see these textbooks as the outcome of the fertile imaginations of one or two individuals who became the public face of part of the process. Indeed, some others like historian Neeladri Bhattacharya who co-ordinated the writing of the history textbooks, and educationist Sarada Balagopal who co-ordinated the text-books on Social and Political Life, deliberately emphasized the collective nature of the process and placed themselves outside of any high profile publicity. It was over months of intensive collaborative discussions of drafts and repeated writings and re-writings, that these textbooks finally saw the light of day.
Now that politicians and MPs are seized of the matter, will the old debate be rekindled in the old way? Are we to go back to textboks that stifle the imagination of the learner? To get back to those good old days when no questions were encouraged?
But after all, text-books are only part of the universe of the student. How will you stop students outside the classroom from thinking for themselves, and and seeing for themselves who the actual cartoons are?
Sunday, May 13, 2012
PRASHANT (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
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Saturday, May 12, 2012
Politics through Food Habits
In the middle of April 2012 Osmania University (OU) witnessed an unusual violence on the issue of eating beef. A section of dalit students' were demanding that University Hostels should have beef on the menu. They also organized a beef festival in which a large number of students ate beef biryani. The festivity was not to last long as the ABVP, the student wing of RSS, created rampage, a student was knifed, a bus was torched and ruckus was created in the university. The Vice Chancellor of OU knelt to the aggressive cow protectors and said that beef will not be introduced in the menu.
Just a month ago the in the Kurmaguda area of Hyderabad a group of youth associated with Hindu communal group were arrested for throwing beef inside a Hanuman temple, who later spread the word that Muslims have defiled our temple and turned their guns against the hapless minority, torched few buses. A little while ago the ruling BJP government in Madhya Pradesh had introduced a bill prohibiting the consumption of beef in the state. Other BJP ruled states in one form or the other are introducing legislations, which prohibit the slaughter of cow.
The place where Muslims were butchered mercilessly under the Chief mastership of Modi the 'care of cow' has gone one step up and state has opened centers for cataract and dental surgery of the Mother Cow. The goal of the Hindu state of Gujarat under Modi is to open more such centers so that Mother cow does not have to travel more than three kilometers for accessing these services, this while innumerable victims of Gujarat carnage, are yet to recover from the trauma of the carnage, aided by the apathy of state.
So far most of these legislations and the accompanying propaganda have been directed primarily against Muslim minority, which is demonized as the butchers and eaters of 'our holy cow'. The OU episode shows the other side of the agenda of cow politics. While there had been cases of murders of dalits on the pretext of skinning a dead cow (Jhajjar, Haryana) and VHP defending the act saying that cow is too holy to spare the dalits. Still primarily it is the Muslim community which has been the target of propaganda emanating from RSS- Combine stable.
With dalits, the other target of RSS combine, the issue is not just of identity. It is related to the livelihood and food habits of dalits-Adivasis. The cow as a symbol of RSS combine has been in the fore since the rise of communal politics during the British rule. As such the cow has been in the forefront of communal battles of upper castes in India earlier also. The Brahmanical reaction to rise of Buddhism was countered by putting forward the symbol of cow. Some Dalit scholars hold that cow was cleverly chosen and one of the reasons cow stole a march over the equally useful buffalo was its color. It is not a coincidence that the dark skinned people have faced the wrath of the elite in one form or the other.
The scholars of Vedic India Prof D.N.Jha, Dr. Pandurang Vaman Kane and champion of social justice Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, all have pointed out that cow was verily eaten during Vedic period. With the rise of agricultural society, and need for preserving cattle wealth; the religions-ideologies promoting non-violence in the form of Jainism and Buddhism came up and campaigned against senseless sacrifice of cow in Vedic yagnas (sacrificial ritual).
The current communal politics has twin agenda. At surface it wants to subjugate the minorities and is using the emotive issues to create a mass hysteria against minorities. Lord Ram and Cow are the major tools of communal political mobilization. While the supporters of RSS combine generously donate for the welfare of cow, it is the dalits who practically take care of the grazing and other needs of Holy mother. Last some time a pressure is being built up culturally and politically that beef eating communities give up this integral part of their habit.
The food patterns are changing under intense propaganda still as of now the consumption of beef in India is higher than that of mutton and chicken put together. Its export is also a major business. The RSS combine on one side aims to subjugate the Minorities and on the other wants to maintain the status quo of social relationship of caste and gender. These are subtle and overt maneuvers implemented through political and cultural conduits. Attitude of communal politics to dalits has been a complex one. The anti dalit violence of 1980 against reservation, the anti OBC violence of 1986 against promotion of OBCs in jobs, and its strengthening of Kamandal politics (Rath Yatra and the Babri demolition) in response to Mandal were a part of this.
At another level the strategy is to co-opt dalits into Hindutva fold. From middle of decades of 1980s RSS has activated Samajik Samrasta Manch (Social Harmony Forum) which has been mobilizing dalits around that. The Gurus like Sri Sri Ravishanker have been saying that there should be harmony between upper and lower caste, while he keeps quiet about the prevalent social injustice in various forms. The aim of the communal politics is to maintain the status quo of caste and gender.
Through Samajik Samrasta Manch the message of undermining caste atrocities and social injustice is actively propagated. Supplementing this is the cultural assertion and imposition of elite norms on the whole society. Food habits are a part of culture and for large sections of dalits and Adiviasis beef had been an integral part of their food. Incidentally there is a vigorous campaign to promote vegetarianism and denigrate non vegetarian food practices.
While the large section of dalits is struggling for social and economic justice, a section of dalits is undergoing the process of sanskritization as well. It is in this light that the symbols of dalit assertion in the matters of food habits and cultural expressions are being attacked openly. The compromised state apparatus is not able to stand up to this onslaught of communal politics to preserve the social and democratic rights of dalits and other marginalized sections of society, be it the matters of their physical security, questions of equity and food habits. It is a blatant attempt to manipulate culture, to impose elite norms, through influencing the food habits, which are so much cultural in their nature.
It seems Mother Cow may be the major emotive weapon to be used for the politics deriving its legitimacy from Hindu religions' identity. Interestingly it reveals the twin goals of this politics. At surface it is to reduce the minorities to a status of second class citizen and at deeper level to subjugate dalits at social, political and cultural level.
Issues in Secular Politics
II May 2012
response only to firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Is Gujarat's red hot economy a myth?
Is Gujarat's so-called red-hot economic growth a myth peddled by the government of the controversial chief minister Narendra Modi?
Mr Modi, who was blamed for not doing enough to stop the horrific 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state after the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, has modelled himself as a no-nonsense economic reformer leading one of India's fastest-growing states.
In March, a senior minister of his cabinet told me that Gujarat has been recording scorching double-digit growth, prompting even The Economist magazine to call it India's Guangdong. "Modi Means Business" said Time magazine when it put him on the cover recently.
But a raft of recent articles in the Indian media suggest that that Mr Modi's claims may be overblown.
Examining data on the economic performance of Indian states during a seven-year-period - 2004-11 - AK Bhattacharya, editor of Business Standard, is puzzled by Gujarat's performance.
He finds that its economy grew by 6.3% annually during this period, up from average growth every year of 3.6% - a relatively low base - in a 10-year period ending 2003.'Breakout' state?
More interestingly, states like Uttarkhand (13.2%), Bihar (10.9%), Maharashtra (10.7%), Tamil Nadu (10.4%) and Haryana (10.1%) recorded double-digit growth in the seven-year period under review.
None of these states have the kind of hype associated with them as does Mr Modi's Gujarat, which is often called the most business friendly state in India.
Of the five states with double-digit growth, Mr Bhattacharya notes, three are ruled by the Congress party, which has come under fire in the capital for going slow on economic reforms!
So is Gujarat really the "breakout" state that Mr Modi wants the world to believe?
"It has seen the most stable of governments for the last several years," Mr Bhattacharya writes. "And yet, it has seen its growth hovering around 6% for the last seven years." Is there something amiss?
Analyst Salil Tripathi has written about how "of all the hype surrounding Mr Modi, the oddest are some of the claims concerning the state's economic performance". Gujarat, he says, "has done well in recent years, but it lost ground soon after the riots, picking up pace only later".
Mr Tripathi writes about how states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have bigger economies, and Gujarat actually spends more than it has earned, thus depleting its surpluses.
Gujarat also signed on to a fiscal responsibility law only after five other states did, and 20 states preceded Gujarat in implementing value added tax.
I have written in the past on how Gujarat fares the worst among Indian states in terms of overall hunger and malnutrition - 45% of children there are malnourished, according to the latest Indian Human Development report.
The state also has a poor record in checking infant and maternal mortality. And as journalist Hartosh Singh Bal pointed out recently, Gujarat's ranking among states in terms of literacy (18th) had actually slipped one place, the year Mr Modi took over.
"These figures belie Mr Modi's reputation as an efficient administrator" he wrote. "But you wouldn't know it reading the foreign media."
So is Mr Modi a spinmeister or is there something everybody is missing?
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