Vibrant Lies & The Cold Truth !
A lie has many variations, the truth has none, or so goes an African proverb.
The eighth edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017 unfolded-January 10 to12, 2017- with all the razzmatazz associated with a Narendra Modi event. It has ,in any case, been carrying his indelible stamp from his chief ministerial days, gaining in size, pomp, grandeur and reach with every biennial happening.
The figures of proposed investment triumphantly trotted up at the end of each event, have gained in girth from a robust Rs 65,000 crores worth in 2003(80 MoUs), to an obese Rs12 lakh crore in 2009 (3574 MoUs) to an obscene Rs 21 lakh crore in 2011(8380 MoUs) to subsequently ‘disappear’ in the 2013(17719 MoUs), 2015(21305 MoUs) and 2017(25578 MoUs).These were ‘lies’ clothed as half-truths, designed to fulfill a specific purpose which it did.
One of the main reason that the then chief minister, Modi stopped announcing proposed investment figures after 2011 was the realization that it had bloated to ludicrous levels and the actual investment was a mere fraction of it. No wonder then the word ‘Investor’ quietly disappeared from the global summit as other states began mimicking Gujarat and even outdoing it with cap-drop figures.
Nevertheless what the Vibrant summit did to Gujarat was a mere miniscule for what it did for Modi. Aided by APCO Worldwide, the US global public affairs and strategic communications consultancy hired to promote the 2011 summit, Modi not only managed to wash off the 2002 communal stains but metamorphosed from the ‘hindu hriday samrat’ to development messiah through his hard-hyped ‘Gujarat model’ to become the prime minister in 2014. Interestingly, as its record illustrates, APCO is usually hired to handle sensitive political and crisis management issues worldwide for governments, corporates and even NGOs.
The endorsements so liberally dished out by both business and industry in India as well as global head honchos played no mean a role in catapulting Modi to the position he holds today. This summit also saw dollops of it. One sycophantic head honcho even invited the indian prime minister to head their country!
With Modi having achieved what he set out to do, the Gujarat summit has now lost focus and is in a directionless drift. Put up by Gujarat at its own cost, it was the prime minister’s show through and through. No sooner did he leave on the inaugural night that it petered into a lacklustre affair. Empty seats greeted seminar halls with speakers either not turning up or leaving after a namesake presence. Volunteering government staff was used to fill up empty seats to save face. Lack of interest bordering on mismanagement was on full display. The Canada country seminar wound up in less than two hours with only about 20 delegates present. A corporate VP from Toronto got a blue pass while the pantry worker from her office flaunted a golden pass, just to give a few examples.
On the day Nobel Laureates from different parts of the world gathered to discuss ways to improve the quality of education,6000 students of Ahmedabad municipal schools went without regular studies as their teachers were ordered on duty at the summit venue to chaperone VVIPs and CEOs for the inaugural function of the summit addressed by the prime minister. Ordered to be present in formal attire they were left to buy blazers, shirts and ties from their own pocket. Over 300 teachers had similarly been pulled out from their teaching work for assorted duties at the summit. The Closing ceremony was equally insipid with the chief minister and the deputy chief minister speaking in Gujarati and international delegates walking out. Though the state government had budgeted Rs 70 crores for this jamboree, the actual expenditure is estimated to be more than double. Touted as a platform to showcase the ‘make in India ‘resolve it ironically had procured high end cars like Lamborghini, Volvo, Porshe, Mercedez, BMW, Audi and the like to ferry the VVIPs at an estimated expenditure of Rs7.5 crores. A total of around 1000- cars had been hired by the state government for such and allied duties during the summit. Provisions had been made for about 60 listed people to have dinner with the prime minister on the terrace of the mahatma mandir as his last engagement before he left Gujarat, each meal billed to cost Rs 5000(per person).Slums en route from the airport as well as in Gandhinagar were shut off from public view with green cloth to hide these eye-sores with all handcarts ordered off the road for the period of the summit. Double standards galore. Days after tightening liquor prohibition laws and arresting high profile sons- of- the- soil industrialists in a much publicized ‘raid’ in Vadodara, special liquor permits were being liberally issued for visitors.
Gujarat, post-Modi is sitting on a volcano of social dissent fuelled by visions of gigantic development doled out through high profile summits but marred by swelling ranks of educated unemployed. Patels, OBCs and dalits are up in arms but no sooner did their leaders Jignesh Mevani,Atul Patel and farms right’s activist Sagar Desai announce their decision to protest the summit, they were summarily detained.
According to figures published by Gujarat’s own Directorate of Economics and Statistics only about 8 per cent of the Rs 40 trillion of the investments proposed at the summits from 2003 to 2011 have been implemented. The Gujarat government ‘bravely’ put the figure at 66 per cent last week. Maharashtra without such a high profile ‘shindig’ bagged 30 per cent of India’s total investment between 2000-2016 while Gujarat ranked fifth with 4 per cent.
The Department of Industry Policy and Promotion(DIPP) study brings out that Gujarat’s share in actual cumulative Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) inflows to India between 2000 to 2013-coinciding with Modi’s rule- was only 4 per cent. Gujarat garnered only Rs 39,000 crores out of the cumulative national FDI inflow of 9.1 lakh crore. More significantly Gujarat’s share in the kitty has been on the decline in the last three financial years from 3.4 per cent in 2011 to 2.9 per cent in 2012 to 2.4 per cent in 2013.
So much for what has been billed by no less than the present prime minister as the ‘Davos of the East’ and as the 2017 summit tagline goes ’India’s Economic Expressway”! Is it?