For Hooda and company, Haryana way ahead of Gujarat

Chandigarh, Feb 23 (IANS) Is Haryana in stiff competition with Gujarat on the development front? To go by Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and company, this is indeed so.

At most functions and rallies and even in statements, Hooda and his colleagues rattle off figures to prove their point that Gujarat, which its ambitous Chief Minister Narendra Modi never fails to herald as a 'model of development' and is projected as the most sought after destination for big investments, is actually behind Haryana in most parameters.

"Although some people talk about development in Gujarat, Haryana is in fact ahead of Gujarat in 50 areas of development and Haryana is the second largest contributor of foodgrain to the central pool," Hooda said at a recent function in New Delhi.

"Gujarat is at number six in per capita income, whereas Haryana is ahead of big states. When I assumed the office of chief minister in 2005, Haryana was at number 14 in per capita investment in the industrial sector. But now, it is at number one," Hooda claimed.

Haryana is number two after Goa in per capita income. Officials here however assert that since Goa is a small state, Haryana is at number one among the big states.

Among the other claims made by Hooda are: "Haryana is at number one in productivity of wheat and mustard and availability of milk is 708 grams per capita per day (against the national average of 281 grams), whereas in Gujarat it is 435 grams. The plan budget of Haryana is Rs 10,446 per capita, whereas in thecase of Gujarat, it is Rs 8,380........

"The Haryana government has initiated a number of schemes in the social sector. It is giving scholarships ranging from Rs.75 to Rs.400 to the poor children studying in Classes1 to 12. This has benefitted 19.70 lakh (1.97 million) children and the percentage of drop-outs has reduced from 40 to 5. In Gujarat, the students belonging to the Scheduled Castes studying in Classes 6 to 8 get Rs.125 in a year and those in 8 to 12 are paid Rs.200 each. In Haryana, over 12.86 lakh aged men and women are given old age allowance of Rs. 500 to Rs.700 per month whereas in Gujarat, it is merely Rs.400 per month and benefits only 7.21 lakh beneficiaries."

But that's not all, according to Hooda.

"In Haryana, widow pension of Rs.750 per month is being given, whereas in the case of Gujarat, it is just Rs.400 per month. In Haryana, the number of beneficiaries is more than 5.37 lakh whereas in Gujarat, it is merely 85,179. The Haryana government also gives monthly pension of Rs 20,000 to freedom fighters, whereas in the land of Mahatma Gandhi, it is merely Rs 6,000," Hooda asserted.

These figures are being bandied about not only by Hooda but also by some of his ministers and advisers. In the run-up to last December's assembly elections in Gujarat, where Narendra Modi returned to power for a third consecutive term, the voices from Haryana drawing comparisons only grew. With Modi's name being mentioned for national level politics, including being projected as the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate, the comparisons are being made fast and furious.

It is another matter that Haryana, which used to be the focus for investment by the automobile industry, has recently seen Maruti-Suzuki, the automobile giant that drastically changed the state's industrial landscape, investing in Gujarat for its new project.

Thus, is Haryana India's new development hotspot? The jury is certainly out on that one.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted atjaideep.s@ians.in)