Attacks on Migrants in Gujarat: This is the Gujarat Model, My Friend!

The attacks against the migrant workers primarily from UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh across Gujarat has led to an exodus of up to 50,000 workers (as per some estimates) over the last few days. The rape of a 14 year old girl inside a factory in Sabarkantha by a worker from Bihar has been used as an immediate excuse to threaten, intimidate and use violence against the Hindi speaking workers in the industrial belt of North Gujarat.

 

Fifty-six cases of attacks on migrants, mainly from UP and Bihar have been registered and 431 people have been arrested. The incidents have mainly occurred in Himmatnagar, where the the rape was committed, Mehsana, Gandhinagar, and Ahmedabad. Now Vadodara, Anand and Panchmahal have also been caught by the fire. The girl belonged to the Thakore caste and the youth from the Thakore community are at the forefront of the anti-migrant violence. The sudden exodus of the workers and that too of such a magnitude has broken the back of the industries of North Gujarat and the factory owners have reported production droppage of upto 20%.

 

BJP has been trying to put the entire blame of the turn of events on the young Thakore leader and MLA Alpesh Thakore, who has been giving statements in the past on how the migrants are responsible for the increasing crime in the state and also that they are taking away the employment opportunities of the youth of the state. Even though Alpesh Thakore has tried to distance himself from the entire events and has also released video on FB appealing youth to restrain from violence and claiming that Gujarat is for everyone, the can of worms has already been opened.  The ministers of the BJP government too are sensing an opportunity in it. Gujarat labour and employment minister Dilip Thakore has said that “We have so far held two meetings on the law for more employment opportunities for Gujaratis and those domiciled here. State has the power to make such rules. We will make a law that will make it mandatory for the industries coming to Gujarat to provide a minimum of 85% of jobs to local Gujaratis.”

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The anger over the rape of a minor girl and its use as a justification to attack the entire linguistic nationality of working class is actually a chimera which hides the frustration and anger among the Gujarati youth over the lack of employment opportunities. The much touted ‘Gujarat Model’ has created a condition wherein the unemployment levels have reached explosive levels. Landed castes like Thakores have sold off significant portions of their land when private players pumped in money into the state and the BJP government facilitated this sale of land to the private players. However, the hype and hope around the ‘Gujarat Model’ got punctured long ago and youth from communities such as Thakore have no employment opportunities to avail. Purabiya workers are an easy target in the project of ‘otherization’ to blame for this grim job situation since they have the remarkable ability to live below subsistence levels under extremely low wages and hence are the first choice for the employers, whose main motive is anyways to depreciate the wages to minimum, so that profits are maximized.

 

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The demonetization and GST have worked to deteriorate the job scenario further. Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced in December 2017 that the ‘State has the lowest unemployment rate in country at 0.9% against national average of 5%.’This lie was soon exposed and economist Prof Hemant Shah released a detailed note highlighting the gravity of the job situation in the state. Socialist India is reproducing some of the main points of this note:

  • During 2001-11, 29.86 lakh fresh jobless were registered and only 13.38 lakh people got jobs in the state of Gujarat. Thus, during that period, 16.48 lakh people had remained unemployed. Taking into account the span of 2004-15, 43.44 lakh fresh unemployed people registered their names in the state employment exchanges but only 24.41 lakh people got employment and 19.09 lakh people could not get employment. In this way, there has been consistent rise in the number unemployed registered persons in the state.
  • As for the unorganized sector, we don’t have any figures of the people who may be unemployed or underemployed. Nearly 90% of the workforce in Gujarat and India is employed in the unorganized sector, which includes agriculture.
  • One of the reasons for tremendous rise in unemployment in Gujarat is attributed to thoughtless, sudden, haphazard and abrupt demonetization (2016) and GST. Over 90 % of the workers in the State are employed in the unorganised sector. Major portion of rural and urban population of the State is engaged in sectors such as construction, transport, home –based industries, small and tiny sectors etc. These people were producing 61 % products for the State’s GDP in the year 1997-98. Presently, its share has come down to 50 %. Due to the blows caused by demonetization and GST, a 2 % reduction has been observed in the GDP growth rate. As per one calculation, reduction of 1 % in the GDP reflects into 0.75 % reduction in the employment level. If one takes into account all this, then it will reveal that reduction of 2 % in the GDP has resulted into 1.5 % decline in the above-mentioned unorganised sectors, which accommodate over 90 % of the work force in the state of Gujarat.
  • While tall claims of employment generation were made in the Vibrant Gujarat Investment Summits organized at a huge public expenditure of crores of rupees, these have not been realised. In the Vibrant Gujarat Summits of the years 2003, 2005, 2013, 2015 and 2017 no announcements were made on the employment potential of the prospective capital investment. Whereas, in the summits of the year 2007 the employment potential of 13,12,436 persons and in the summit of the year 2009 employment potential of 29,81,021 persons was announced.  In the  2011 Vibrant Gujarat Summit, employment potential of 60 lakh  jobs was anticipated. With the implementation of Vibrant Gujarat Summit of 2007, employment opportunity for 55,463 jobs and in the summit for the year 2009, employment opportunity for 3,84,954 jobs was created.
  • Under the NREGA, during  2016-17,  3,46,608 people of Gujarat had demanded  work but only 1,35,112 persons i.e. 39 % people were provided employment. During the entire year, 25.23 man days employment was provided. Thus, merely 7.22 % target had been achieved. Under the 2005 law, the government is bound to provide employment for 100 days to every family but employment was provided only for 18.76 days. If this is the situation for the last year, then how can the state government falsely claim that 340 lakh mandays employment will be provided during the current year?

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‘Gujarat Model’ is a ticking bomb today. RSS-BJP needs to create an external enemy if it has to survive politically and it has found a perfect ‘other’ in the form of the impoverished Purabiya worker.

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