Gujarat- Its Smelly, Its Dusty , Its Poor. Its India.

 (sanjay austa sanjayausta@gmail.)

The hungry wait for a free meal outside a dhaba in Ahmedabad, Gujarati.

Has Gujarat , the western most  lying Indian state finally fallen off India’s map to  sit at the high table of developed nations in the West?  It would seem so if you go by the frenzy that’s been whipped around whats being called the ‘Gujarat Development Model’, and the giant strides of progress that are said to be made in the state under the stewardship of its Chief Minister and Prime Minister hopeful Narendra  Modi.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to make road journeys across this vibrant state twice in the last one year to see for myself and rejoice. Truth be told, at first I did feel that same  tug –a mixture of inferiority and expectancy – you feel when you fly to any Western country from India.

Gujarat was clearly happening from the word go. On the train I met three young men who were chucking their businesses in Delhi to begin anew in Gujarat. “There is no bureaucracy in Gujarat only lots of incentives that no other Indian state gives entrepreneurs  ”, they said.

 (sanjay austa sanjayausta@gmail.)

These three businessmen travelled  to Gujarat to explore business opportunities in the state, Gujarat

But away from the steel  and glass,  in   an old part of Ahmedabad,   where I went walking the next day,  I got the same chocking feeling you get in any Indian city where  filth and noise overwhelms you and sweaty smelly men buffet you about in the milling crowds.

 I saw familiar decrepit men squatting  on their haunches in the typical   Indian ‘shitting position’ – waiting patiently outside dhabas for  God -fearing customers to buy them a meal  just as you see them in Old Delhi.

Across from them, old beggars slept on a road divider buzzed by cheap drugs or the mid-day sun, unmindful of the screeching , chaotic traffic swirling  about them.

Perhaps I was looking for shit and poking my nose purposely into smelly corners, I thought. So the next morning I headed out to check  Modi’s famed highways.

The roads  were indeed smooth and all but a far cry from Hema Malini’s cheeks,  with rough patches erupting abruptly here and there threatening to spill the illegally gotten beer on my  lap. (Booze is illegal in Gujarat. But thankfully the  Indian jugaad works here too )

 (sanjay austa sanjayausta@gmail.)

Giving out their womb  for rent is  their  only shot at living a decent life , Anand, Gujarat.

There is certainly nothing to make you feel you are on   Route 66,  cruising past the American hinterlands  as the Indian media  makes it  out to be. At many intersections the lights simply don’t work and there is that usual pile up of traffic, with people honking mercilessly,  waving arms and fisticuffs. You have to be alert for the sudden diversions, ambling cows or the loonies that drive on the wrong side of the road all of which keeps you well under the  Indian speed limit.

Just off the highway in dusty old Wankaner town, I meet a man who  achieved to greatness and prosperity despite the ‘system’. He  epitomized the Gujarati entrepreneurial  spirit  which perhaps is  the reason  behind ‘Shining Gujarat’ rather than a Chief Minister who has been blowing his trumpet across India wining over every economist, journalist  and jingoist that indeed he is the man that will save India.

Manshuk Lal Prajapati  in Wankaner,  like  the majority of Indians had nothing.  And he literally made everything out of it. He fashioned the good old clay into pots and pans and in less than 10 years has made a huge industry out of it.  Today he distributes  clay refrigerators, clay pressure cookers and sundry home appliances (all in clay) not only all across India but to many countries abroad.

But elsewhere it’s the same Indian despair and hopelessness. In Anand , known to the outside world as the hub of Amul Industries  is also the center of the largest baby factory in India,  where poor, hapless Gujarati women come to sell their womb for a price.

 (sanjay austa sanjayausta@gmail.)

Seema attempted suicide twice due to extreme poverty. A surrogate mother now,  she has the money to provide for her family, Anand, Gujarat. 

“I had nothing to eat. My family and I would have had to consume poison had we not stumbled upon this clinic”, says Sita who gave her womb for rent for over 4 lakh rupees to a childless  couple from Canada.

Gujarat’s record on health and nutrition is worse  than the national average. Over 55 percent Gujarati women in the 15-45 age group are anemic. Modi had famously put the blame on the ‘’figure conscious’’ Gujarati girls who were refusing to have milk lest they get fat.

And as for the red-tape that Modi purportedly removed , it almost threatened to put a spanner in the works of a Nat Geo documentary for which I was travelling. Permissions granted weeks in advance had to be taken again they said at the check post at Gir. A second round of signatures had to be obtained at the district level. Which meant, spending  more days running around government  offices  or paying  the bribe.  The crew thankfully decided to shoot in the non- exclusive zone at the other end of Gir National Park.

 (sanjay austa sanjayausta@gmail.)

Prajapati with his clay products which have a great demand in india and abroad, Wankaner  Gujarat

In Gujarat,  pride is everything.  But unfortunately it is also extended to the felines-the Asiatic Lions now found only  in Gujarat. The lions are a pride of Gujarat,  roared Narendra Modi refusing to share some of them with neighboring Madhya Pradesh(MP)  as directed by the Supreme Court in Aril 2013. An epidemic can wipe them all out,  warn conservationists,  if lions are  geographically sequestered in just one pocket in the country. But Modi would not have any of it.  A local conservationist who had suggested the relocation of lions to MP had to run for his life when the Supreme Court order came and the angry Gujaratis confronted him.

Where sloppy journalists  present loose street-talk as facts and get swayed by public perceptions, writers usually step in and do a course correction. But on a week long road trip in Gujarat last year with bestselling Indian writer Chetan Bhagat, I was horrified that the man who would  later go back and write reams about ‘Rising Gujarat’ had probably not seen any of it at all. From the moment he landed in Ahmedabad to when he exited it out of Rajkot,  the author  remained glued to his Blackberry looking up only when he was asked to pose for the camera.

However if  you keep your eyes, ears (and nose) open, Gujarat is just another   smelly, congested, dusty, inept  Indian state stuck firmly to India’s side to its West.

 (sanjay austa sanjayausta@gmail.)

And thats  how Chetan Bhagat saw rural Gujarat, Sasan Gir. 

 (sanjay austa sanjayausta@gmail.)

So has the Media been spinning a yarn about Gujarat’s ‘development’? Sabarmati Ashram, Gujarat.

 (sanjay austa sanjayausta@gmail.)

Just lazing around. A street in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.


 (sanjay austa sanjayausta@gmail.)

‘Pride’ of Gujarat. Modi refused to part with the Asiatic lions despite a Supreme Court order, Gir, Sasan. 

22 Responses to “Gujarat- Its Smelly, Its Dusty , Its Poor. Its India.”

  1. I enjoy the posts of Sanjay Austa because deep down I have gut feeling that he writes what he sees and feels from the gut.
    Gut. A sensing that a lot of us don’t acknowledge. Sanjay, inspires me a lot as I love the simplicity in his posts. The candidness, purity and starkness of thought process.
    Food for thought.

  2. Kapil Kant Kaul says:

    I am sure if you travel across usa you would see pictures of similar poverty. It would be preposterous to believe that everyone is well off and well fed . As for the asiatic lions, I hope you did read about the reason why gujarat government refused.

    • sanjay austa says:

      Kapil, Incidentally I did travel across the US and was surprised to see the homeless there (whom I documented also). Yes I agree its preposterous to believe that everyone is well off and well fed, thats why one should take all the noise about ‘Shining Gujarat’ with a pinch of salt. Or better still travel there and see for oneself

      • Ruben Quadros says:

        The media has sure done a swell job of painting Gujarat as something deviating from the norm. Even I really had a different picture in my mind till I read your piece. We’ve been made fools of. I hope it’s not too late for the aam aadmi to wake up from the delusion that the Gujarat Model is going to wipe off their tears.

        • Pritesh says:

          Ruben, Poverty is everywhere, but check the per capita Income of Gujarat citizens. Had government not been doing its job, Do you think people would vote same party for 3 times??? I would request this author to check out BRTS Routes in Ahmedabad and Surat, Talk about 108 Ambulance Facility which is available to one and all. Check out recently made Vadodara’s ST Bus stand (You’ll get airport feel for sure…)
          I’m from Mumbai and keep travelling to Gujarat many a times in a year and have seen the growth of the state. Illegal encrochment of Land is a major issue in Mumbai, If you’ve seen S.V.Road from Malad to Kandivali in Mumbai you’ll understand what I mean. Area called Mani Nagar faced similar Problem in Ahmedabad. See how the same was tackled…

      • Atin Chaudhuri says:

        Hv your thoughts clear please . I was a regular visitor to Gujrat still a year back . Gujrat is not an island made of Gold inside India . It is a part of India and levelling off effect is there also . But it is far better that Nitin ruled Bihar , Mamta ruled Bengal and so on I know businesmen who got limited power conectuion in Maharastra by paying Mamuls and got double the requirement in Gujrat without paying an anna . I have seen Ministers without guards in open grounds (terrorists do not dare to strike here but can elsewhere .I have seen my friends living near Halol where domestic electic breakdowns are repaired within an hour .The story is endless.Overall better administration and better governance than we see in other parts of India .Rather than discrediting a person try to see what is good hin him so that the country has an option to take it from him.

  3. Aleem Shah Mohammad says:

    Kudos to your candidness & courage, which seems to go far beyond Chetan’s!

  4. Gun Nidhi says:

    Happy to read true story of so called Vibrant Gujarat. Congratulations. Wish it could be read few days earlier.

  5. Nitin Hajela says:

    This is undoubtedly a Biased blog with ulterior motives written to demean Gujarat.

    here’s what our most revered president said about Gujarat.…/artic…/10951501.cms

  6. Poonam Tanmayo says:

    yes, the shiny front covers a stark reality

  7. Akhila Ramaswamy says:

    Honestly, did you expect everyone to be a multi-millionaire or something?

  8. Kapil Kant Kaul says:

    The role of the government is to create infrastructure and provide opportunities. Has the government failed on that front ? Shining gujarat has to be looked at from branding perspect to generate more investment and not necessarily promote modi. Having travelled across India myself too, I can safely say that gujarat collectively has the best quality of roads in india.…/Guj…/articleshow/9559331.cms

  9. Priyadarshini P Naidu says:

    He just has an amazing marketing n PR team!!! I hope there aren’t many who are dumb enuf, not to see that!

    • Vishal says:

      Agree with Priya !!

      I too saw the same muck and filth in Gujarat.

      Hes just a loud fart. There is nothing special about Gujarat. Good PR Team – bunch of liars.

  10. Bhavesh Patel says:

    A set of images are enough to talk about exploits of any state in India.These are the times when Mr. Narendra Modi would talk about ‘Shining Gujarat’.Gujarat is no different – as you clearly mention – its India.Being from the place I can say that Gujarat is not all about Modi.If you can go through the history, Gujarat has been and will continue to be what it is.So its very unfortunate for people think that Modi is behind what Gujarat is today.Stories like this to contradict an unethical campaign like ‘Shiny Gujarat’hurts me.

  11. Kapil Kant Kaul says:

    To an extent it is also observer bias. The eyes see what the mind wants it to see. When kejriwal went to gujarat noone expected him to praise it.

  12. Iqbal Naiyer says:

    We shouldn’t be blaming Modi as he is a seasonal politician and that;s his job to do whatever it takes to win, what we voters do is scream, get frustrated and again and again support these politicians blindly cause chances are if you check back in after the election, many of these same lawmakers will be right back in Power and doing the same-thing what they are good at it means NOTHING except for themselves and their family/relatives and elite circles.

    Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Here’s my question to voters: Why won’t Indians vote these seasonal morally and ethically corrupted politicians out of office?

  13. Tekal Srihari says:

    Absolutely,,,,not all of Gujarat is what NAMO claims to be beyond the best…there are pockets for improvement in a big way and the improvement is happening in those areas in a bigger way….
    Not like Congrust….pulling the GDP from 8.2 to 4.4…escalating the debts,,,making us go back to pre-independence days with struning of burden in every path of progress,Making the citizens Slaves to Western claws till the last minute of their lives, National Security put at risk-high risk where even our enemies doubt if an attack would be so senseless and easy,,,No self-respect, No identity….what an Obliterated species…

  14. Yunus says:

    Having been born in Gujarat, I would always laugh at the ‘shining Guj’ model. Great pics and great work. Too bad people are jus not ready to believe that Guj is just like every other place.

  15. Shauryaveer says:

    Bravo… its time to show the blindfolded people who just read about Gujarat, see media and are very happy. I agree to the point that poverty and exploitation is everywhere including the so called civic nations like usa, uk, Ireland and Australia. But what is important to showcase here is why this wrong publicity of Gujarat being the best governance model.

    Land at Ahmedabad airport of travel to railway station, and people are ready to con you because there are no prepaid metered public transport available. Bus Companies like Eagle and Patel who have been funding elections campaigns had monopoly to provide bus service until people started raging against the traffic jams their buses create. Where is the ease of transport model from airports, railway stations and bus stands that the joker modi claims. Now that was a metro city, lets talk about villages.
    Go to junagad, manavadar, botad, bhuj and Bhavnagar. Unless you fall under industrial belt, do not expect good roads or traffic regulation in those places. The civic sense is horrible and there are no public bathrooms available.

    If you ever get a chance to go near jamnnagar towards pimpri sarsoi dam, you can see the divide very clearly. the road towards reliance factory and population around that has water, electricity but a small village with relatively larger population of farmers have no well constructed roads…. and not even decent electricity. I have agricultural interests there and 3 out of 4 times I have visited, there has been a power failure. So what is Gujarat story…. play a PR card around good governance even if it doesn’t exist ? or abuse anyone and tag them as a congress mouthpiece if you start questioning the publicity……
    In any case, you cant blame these politicians….a modi voter is as dumb as a sharad Pawar voter for they get conned by promises and later would not prefer questioning their elected person on why development has not happened.

    The time has come to stop blindfolding ourselves and if you prefer to vote for modi, question is motives, question his false claims around Gujarat… and set your expectations….

  16. If you go around like this, New York is poor too! haha . When will indians stop complaining and start working hard? stop making excuses and stop pulling each others legs! mind your own business. Just be good in your deeds thats all.

  17. n.s.mani says:

    should see all other staes and other countries and make comaprision as to how they are making every effort to improve conditions.
    i am sure you would not have bothered if you did not hear somuch about gujerat.
    it is always easy ti fin faults and accuse but shoul understand how best you have used the resources available to make the best for people of thev state and country.

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