Debraj Bhattacharya is an alumnus of Presidency College, Calcutta, and currently is with Institute of Social Sciences, a civil society organisation, where he researches on contemporary development issues. He has earlier edited a book of essays, "Of Matters Modern: The Experience of Modernity in Colonial and Post-Colonial South Asia" (2008) and has written several reports on rural development issues of India. He also writes in more popular vein in newspapers in English and Bengali.
The debates surrounding Gujarat has in the last decade revolved perhaps a little too much around Narendra Modi. His followers have tried to portray him as India's best Chief Minister who has made Gujarat a developed state while his detractors have tried to portray him as a fascist responsible for communal carnage and marginalisation of the minorities. The debate has become shriller as Gujarat prepares itself for another election. In my view, we need to move away from this individual centric discourse to a more objective assessment of how Gujarat is doing as a state in terms of key development indicators. Neither the success nor the failure of a state can be attributed to an individual and hence we need to focus on Gujarat and not simply the charismatic Chief Minister.
Key Development Indicators
In order to understand the present status of Gujarat's development story I have looked at some important quantitative data on Gujarat and compared them with the all-India average and have also tried to ascertain where Gujarat stands in comparison to other states/Union Territories. The result is as follows:
|Status of Gujarat as per Select Development Indicators
||Rank among states/UTs
||%GSDP Growth Rate at Constant Prices, average 2004-05 to 2011-12
||% BPL 2009-10, (2004-05), as per Planning Commission
||Sex Ratio Females per 1000 males 
||% Households living in houses with concrete roof ( 2011)
||Literacy Rate (2011)
||Average Person days per Household getting job under MGNREGS 2011-12
||Infant Mortality Rate 2010
||Maternal Mortality Ratio 2007-2009
|Sources: 1 - Planning Commission; 2 - Planning Commission; 3 - Planning Commission; 4 - Census 2011; 5 - Census 2011, Planning Commission; 6 - Annual Administrative Report, MoRD; 7 - Planning Commission; 8 - Census 2011; # Among major states
Growth: Let us take each of these indicators one by one. Gujarat is well-known for its economic growth. Indeed the state has done better than the national average. However it can been seen from the rank column that Gujarat is not the best performer though it is in the top ten. Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Bihar, Chandigarh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have done better than Gujarat during the same period.
Secondly, we come to poverty. Is Gujarat's growth translating into significant poverty reduction? Is the percentage of people below poverty line decreasing at a rapid rate? Here Gujarat's performance looks less than impressive. All India BPL percentage has gone down from 37.20 to 29.80 between 2004-05 to 2009-10 whereas as in spite of the impressive growth record Gujarat's percentage has gone down by only 8.6 points. Hence Gujarat's poverty reduction effort does not seem to be remarkably superior to the national average. Also in term of the rank among states Gujarat is at 18th position. So clearly there is lot of room for improvement in this regard.
Sex Ratio: The sex ratio of a state tells the story of how patriarchal a state is. Here again Gujarat is doing quite badly. For every 1000 males there are only 918 females which is well below even the national average. In terms of rank among states Gujarat is currently at 20 whereas Kerala leads with 1084 females per 1000 male. Certainly a matter of serious concern.
Houses with Concrete Roof: What percentage of houses in a state have concrete roof is a good indicator of the economic well-being of a state. Leaving aside some north-eastern states where concrete roofs are not popular, we can safely say that in rest of the country Indians would like to have a concrete roof above their head if they can afford it. Here Gujarat is doing better than the national average as is in the top ten states at number 9. If we leave aside smaller states/UTs like Chandigarh, Delhi, Puducherry and Lakshwadeep, then Gujarat's rank will be higher. However states like Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Punjab are ahead of Gujarat.
Literacy Rate: This is the simplest indicator of basic educational achievements of a state. Here Gujarat is marginally better than the national average but not doing very well in terms of ranking. It stands at 15th position. Kerala leads the country with 93.91 per cent. Clearly Gujarat could have done better.
MGNREGS jobs: The average person days per household under the most important rural development scheme in the country is a good example of how well the rural development programmes are running in a state. Here Gujarat is exactly at par with the national average and is ranked 7th among the states. Good show but not exceptional. Tripura leads the country with 62 days.
Infant Mortality Rate (IMR): The health of children should be of utmost importance to any state. In terms of the infant mortality rate Gujarat is marginally better than the national average and is ranked 18th among all states. Again not an exceptional performance. Goa leads the country in this regard.
Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR): MMR measures the number of women aged 15-49 who dies due to maternal causes per 1000 live births. This is a crucial indicator of the status of public health in a state. Here Gujarat is not doing badly and is placed at number 5 among major states in India. However Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are doing better than Gujarat.
So what is the overall verdict? Gujarat is doing well in terms of economic growth but can do much better in terms of improving certain key development indicators. India needs Gujarat to become a success story in both growth and development.