Opinion: Gujarat Model Is Glasshouse Model

From Ahmedabad to New York. Is the Gujarat Model export quality?

Developments in the last 48 hours may turn out to have major geopolitical ramifications. An indictment filed by federal prosecutors in the US has alleged that an Indian official directed a plot to assassinate a US citizen.

As you've read, the go-between person in this conspiracy was a man involved in narcotics and weapons trafficking, Nikhil Gupta. The Indian official had assured Gupta that his criminal case "has already been taken care of," and that "nobody from Gujarat police is calling." He added, "Spoke with the boss about your Gujarat [case]," and "nobody will ever bother you again".

Leave the export quality version aside for today. Instead, let us look at six parameters to bust the myth marketing that is the Gujarat Model: poverty, education, health, SPSUs, public infrastructure, and labour.


Around one-third of the state's population, 31 lakh families, lives below the poverty line (BPL). Of them, 16 lakh are classified as extremely poor. Between 2020 and 2022, over 3,100 families fell below the poverty line, while only 17 families managed to move out of it.


Over the last 20 years, Gujarat has allocated less than 2.5% of its Gross State Domestic Product (GDSP) to education. This is far below the 6% allocation mandated by the National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020, and the Kothari Commission of 1966. The prescribed pupil teacher ratio in the state was not achieved in over 1,100 primary schools and 3,000 upper primary schools.

Children aged 5 years who attended pre-primary school during the 2019 school year was 7% in Gujarat compared to the national average of 14%. For five years straight (2012-2017), the state failed to achieve the Right To Education target. While 41% women have 10 or more years of schooling nationally, this is true for just 34% women in Gujarat.

Health and nutrition

Per the National Family Health Survey or NFHS-5, Gujarat is the second highest among all major states in the number of underweight children. Children aged 6-59 months who are anaemic was a high 80% in Gujarat, compared to 67% nationally.

Four out of 10 children below five are stunted (short height compared to age) in Gujarat; the national average is 35%. Children below five who are wasted (less weight compared to height) was 25% in Gujarat compared to 19% nationally. Children below five who are underweight (less weight compared to age) was 40% in Gujarat compared to 32% nationally. Only 6% infants receive proper nourishment in Gujarat, compared to the national figure of 11%.

Women aged 15-49 years who are anaemic was 65% in Gujarat compared to 57% nationally. Only 43% mothers could access public infrastructure for childbirth, compared to the 62% in the country. The number of beds in ICU wards in Gujarat's Civil Hospitals is less than what is prescribed by Indian Public Health Standards.

State Public Sector Undertakings

As on March 2022, 22 State Public Sector Undertakings (SPSUs) had accumulated losses of Rs 29,000 crore. A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report reveals that of the 77 SPSUs (excluding power sector in the state), net loss was reported for 57 SPSUs during the four Fiscal Years ending 2018-19. Therefore, Return on Equity was nil. Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited (GSECL) has been accused of breaching the Ministry of Environment and Forests' guidelines by utilising the amount recovered from sale of fly ash for purposes other than those specified. In more than 10 years, no action has been taken for the 195 items taken.

The sole business plan of the Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation Limited Company was not achieved. The Company had 24 mining leases, of which nine were non-operational. Of these, in five leases, the Company had neither submitted an application for extension nor engaged in mining.

Public Infrastructure

A suspension bridge in Morbi collapsed in 2022, killing at least 135 people. The Mumatpura bridge in Ahmedabad collapsed in 2021, after one of the 113 slabs of the bridge fell through. No FIR was lodged or departmental action taken.

Claimed to be Gujarat's longest flyover, multiple cracks were spotted along the 'covering wall' of the ramp of the 3.5 kilometre Atal Bridge in Vadodara. This was just months after its December 2022 inauguration. The middle portion of the newly built 100-metre bridge on Mindhola River in Tapi district collapsed on 14 June this year. On 28 June, just 42 days after the bridge built on the Tapi River was virtually inaugurated by Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, cracks appeared on it.


In 2021, the daily wage for non-agricultural labour in rural areas in Gujarat was Rs 239 while the national average stood at Rs 315, as the Reserve Bank of India reported. Gujarat ranked 17th among 20 states and Union Territories in terms of the average daily wage for non-agricultural labour in rural areas.

In reality, the Gujarat Model is actually a Glasshouse Model. Sparkly only from the outside.

(Derek O'Brien, MP, leads the Trinamool Congress in the Rajya Sabha.)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.