In sum: Make development the key electoral issue

In the last six posts we saw how it was Tehelka that juggled facts and figures in order to poke holes into the “Vibrant Gujarat” story. In the concluding piece of this series, let’s take stock of where we are at the end of our examination. Well, that apart from some clever jugglery of facts, Tehelka doesn’t really offer enough evidence to support its conclusion that Gujarat is ‘just another socio-economically vulnerable state’.

And, yes, less Tehelka please!

In the last six posts we saw how it was Tehelka that juggled facts and figures in order to poke holes into the “Vibrant Gujarat” story. In the concluding piece of this series, let’s take stock of where we are at the end of our examination of Shivam Vij’s article.

There is no truth to his claim that Gujarat’s poverty reduction figures are the result of it shifting the goalposts. He presents insufficient evidence to prove his claim about the public health system’s failings. In contrast, the reduction in the infant mortality rate—the barometer of a public health system—suggests that public health delivery is likely to have improved. His argument on the widening rural-urban divide falls flat for want of evidence. He makes wrong associations to imply causal links between low agricultural productivity and a decline in the state’s production of foodgrains, while falling into the illiberal trap of denying farmers a way out of agriculture. He offers incomplete facts to mischaracterise Gujarat’s power sector, which happens to be among the best in the country. And he dismisses the state’s investment and employment record without bothering about such inanities as facts. We saw that the UPA government’s inability to reform India’s restrictive labour laws is hurting Gujarat’s ability to translate the investments it is attracting into more jobs for its people.

Shivam is on firmer ground on the Sardar Sarovar project: according to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, the state’s water authorities diverted water designated for “drought prone areas” to the urban areas of Gandhinagar. It is good to see Tehelka—whom one would usually associate with the anti-dam agitation—making these arguments. Similarly, Shivam might have a point when he talks about people displaced by development, underscoring the need for India to make its property rights regime more robust.

Where does this leave us? Well, that apart from some clever jugglery of facts, Tehelka doesn’t really offer enough evidence to support its conclusion that Gujarat is ‘just another socio-economically vulnerable state’. The Congress party in Gujarat, Shivam writes, “wants ‘development’ to be the key issue in the elections”. More power to it. The interests of Gujarat’s electorate will be best served if it can present robust and well-supported arguments to argue where and how the state could have done better. Now that would cause some tehelka, wouldn’t it?

(Download the whole series as a PDF file)

16 thoughts on “In sum: Make development the key electoral issue”

  1. Hi Nitin,
    just wanted to heap praises on you for a job well done. You’ve addressed sensationalism by simply letting the facts be told. I respect your effort!

  2. I doff my hat. I hope this encourages others to take up similar data digging to puncture holes in such articles in the future. Also, why dont you include this in Pragati?

  3. It seems to me like one bunch os twists and turns has been countered by another bunch of twists and turns, depending on what side each propagandist is supporting. Not to mention, dim followers heaping praise on their hats.

    Truly election time…

  4. paradise.mine

    The difference is one bunch of twists and turns is factual, the other is not. I won’t be surprised though that the inability to hold up dubious arguments will cause people to trot out equivalence. But there’s no room for equivalence or ambivalence here.

  5. “dim followers heaping praise on their hats.”

    paradise.mine, are you that super intellectual who doesn’t need facts to make a case. Salam to your intellectual capabilities then. God knows we need more of you.

    -a dim

  6. I don’t mind being called dim-follower as long as I am praising such excellent (and timely!) deconstruction.

    Good job Nitin,

  7. Nitin,

    Not telling the whole story does not mean its not factual, as you have claimed probably just to prove a doubter wrong. This contradicts your posts itself where you have had problems with the conclusions but not the figures mentioned. Its like there is an elephant behind a curtain and 2 people are showing only their side of its legs to claim which way the toe is.

    Regarding about “dim-followers” and similar sentiments (from both sides on this blog and others), I say Good for you. Sardar khusss hoga, saabaasee dega. May there be more of your creed…..and mine (as has been so graciously wished).
    Chandra, What you call facts, I call half-facts because from what I have seen, there is always an ulterior agenda however written.

    Happy Diwali everyone!

  8. paradise.mine, don’t even bring your creed here. Instead of talking of elephants behind curtains and visible toes, present “your” full facts – until then your agenda is questionable. May be you can make them up because you have already decide what the conclusions should be.

    What innocence until proven guilty – proof can made up because we already know the guilty. It always works until, one day, you are the perpetrated guilty party – then the bar has be raised pretty high. Like tehelka, plant a few evidences and draw the conclusions you pre-decided and with enough obfuscation may be people will believe your facts and conclusions.

  9. Various data from this dissection can be used to prove that Gujarat is not doing any better than the rest of India by any yardstick except power generation -in fact ‘its part of the national trend’ is one sustained, running defence/ explanation and many figures compare almost equal.

    I would say this blogger has undone the tehelka effect, but could have continued to ask, IMHO, on the basis of the very same data he presented, the BJP/Modi to justify their ‘shining claims’.

    After all ‘as vibrant as the rest of India’ isnt quite their poll plank.

    Thanks,
    Jai

  10. … according to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, the state’s water authorities diverted water designated for “drought prone areas” to the urban areas of Gandhinagar. It is good to see Tehelka—whom one would usually associate with the anti-dam agitation—making these arguments

    Actually the “anti-dam agitation” has made this point for years: that the state has no plans, no intention, to deliver water to the truly drought-prone areas.

    To give just one example: As far back as 1992, the Morse Commission Report had this sentence: ““Despite the stated priority of delivery of drinking water, there were no plans available for review.”

    There’s plenty more in that vein, and not just in Morse.

    It is good to see The Acorn — which one would usually associate with the pro-dam sentiment — finally understand this argument.

  11. From what little I know of the NBA/SSP, reading and discussions with Gujju friends, *every single* political party in Gujarat is pro-dam and there is no specific anti-BJP/ anti-Modi potential to be extracted from the project per se.

    There may be nothing spectacularly different about how communal govts mismanage our water resources (vs. secular ones) either.

    regards,
    Jai

  12. Dilip

    It is good to see The Acorn — which one would usually associate with the pro-dam sentiment — finally understand this argument.

    touché!

    I change my opinion when I come across new facts.

  13. Nitin,

    I change my opinion when I come across new facts.

    Hats off to you. That’s more than can be said for many of the rest of us.

    Thing is, these are not “new” facts. They have been known, or predicted, for at least two decades.

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