Gujarat’s Heartaches and ‘Model’ Hangovers

GANDHINAGARHeavy tippling, like lingering love affairs causes hallucinating heartaches and horrible hangovers. Managed by  it’s first woman Chief Minister,Gujarat  is now manfully battling  similar after-effects of a  development model that is currently marked out for India-wide implementation.

Narendra Modi may have single handedly secured   an overwhelming mandate to rule India on the basis of his record in Gujarat but the fact remains that 97 of the  159 municipalities in the state are in such a despicable financial state that they are unable to pay their basic electricity and water supply bills.It is only after a change of guard in the state that skeletons securely locked for long are falling out of the cupboard exposing the deep-set rot within.This is just one of them.

Local self-government body elections are due in Gujarat this year.It is a’ make or break’ elections for Chief Minister Anandiben Patel who replaced Modi last year.In fact, this is the  first major statewide poll after he left to takeover national responsibilities.All eyes are set on the upcoming poll engagement.

According to an official summation,the total dues of all such municipalities in the state up to March 31,2014  added up to over Rs 540 crores.As things stand, a large chunk of these municipalities are BJP controlled and any adverse poll outcome is likely to have a direct bearing on the current chief minister’s political standing.

Saddled with a Himalayan problem,and the debt riddled municipalities making it clear that they were in no position to pay up,the Patel government has decided to offer an OTS (one time settlement) of the total amount which continues to shoot up regularly as fines for non-payment keep adding up on the already bad debts.The money would be adjusted in the books against the money due to be given to the civic bodies in lieu of  the abolished octroi tax.However,according to a published report,in the case of at least two municipalities Halvad in Morbi district of Saurashtra region and Rapar in Kutch, even at the rate of 30 per cent, outstanding dues cannot be recovered even over 20 years.

Meanwhile the Gujarat government’s  one time blue chip company, Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation(GSPC) is  in dire straits.The Company had hit national headlines in 2005  when the then chief minister Narendra Modi had made extravagant claims of 20 trillion cubic feet of gas in the offshore oil and gas fields during it’s exploration of the KG basin, Andhra Pradesh. The  claims fell flat on it’s back and the GSPC which was headed for an unheard  period  of nine years  by a bureaucrat, D.J.Pandian, is now sans both a full time chairman as well as MD. Pandian,however, manipulated his way to become the chief secretary using his PMO connections,overlooking the claims of his senior Dr S.K.Nanda. GSPC is at the centre of an ongoing tug of war  within the bureaucracy as well as among  chief ministerial aspirants within the state cabinet with lethal consequences at both ends. Meanwhile  the overzealous continue to make news for all the wrong reasons. 

The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation school board created a sensation of sorts with a circular asking all it’s schools including 65 Urdu medium ones where Muslim students study,to recite Saraswati Vandana and perform puja on Vasant Panchami. Schools affiliated to the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary board had their own take on another event.The Board  forced it’s schools to reschedule their second term examinations by making it compulsory for them to organize drawing competitions,under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on January 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. 

That the board was  under pressure to take such a decision  becomes clear from the fact that it was well aware that January 30 is celebrated as Martyrs day and yet had gone on to draw up the examination schedule which it subsequently altered, forcing all schools to reprint the examination papers at additional financial costs.The move has neither gone down well with the parents nor even the local BJP leaders who felt  that the issue was subjected to needless politicization due to lack of foresight. 

And as if this was not enough from January 30,all  government and private  secondary and higher secondary schools in Ahmedabad district has students singing  two more songs as part of their  morning prayer ritual. One is “manushya tu bada mahan hai”a song closely identified with the RSS and the other is “Vaishnav jan to”, a Mahatma Gandhi favourite. Apparently the two songs have been clubbed together to mute  already strident criticism of  Sangh Parivar intervention in  education. 

Also not gone unnoticed is the absence of the Gandhinagar MP and the veteran BJP patriarch, L.K.Advani at the Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas and Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit.Both the events were inaugurated by the Prime Minister.This despite the fact that the veteran leader had, at a function attended by chief minister Patel, expressed his desire to attend if invited. Invitations  went out to the US secretary of  state, John Kerry but Advani did not get one. Interestingly, when Modi was first denied a visa by the US government, Advani was  one of the frontline  speakers at the public meeting organized at the Kankaria football ground in Ahmedabad  to protest the denial to  his then  protege. How times change, and  people too!

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