Vibrant Gujarat Investments? RTI Shows They Don’t Want You to Know
"What are the actual investments made in the Vibrant Gujarat summits over the years?” I thought to myself in the morning meeting when it was decided we would file RTIs to get the exact number.
Gujarat elections 2017 were months away and I was keen on getting some stories in time to publish. In my research I came across several stories on Vibrant Gujarat which included numbers only for the investment intentions.
Why Are Vibrant Gujarat Investments Important, You May Ask?
This question needs answering.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fought and won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections by campaigning on the Gujarat model of development. The Vibrant Gujarat summits are one of the key features of this model which promise to bring in investment into the state.
Eight Vibrant Gujarat summits have been held till date, spaced every 2 years from 2003 to 2017. RTI applications were filed to see how three Vibrant Gujarat summits in the latest BJP assembly term from 2012 to 2017 fared.
RTI Revelation 1: Gujarat Avoids Queries on Investments Already Made
The first RTI query was to get the number of actual investments made in Gujarat, the number for which has no clarity whatsoever.
When asked about the amount of investment already received by the government in the 2013, 2015 and 2017 summits, the Industries Commissioner, Government of Gujarat, responded instead with a number of implemented and completed projects.
These numbers were given with no details to make sense of them. When I called and spoke to the concerned officer who drafted my response, Jayne Bhai, who said he got the responses from another asked me to speak to K N Ghadvi who had given him the details. I dialled Ghadvi but he was on leave then. (The copy will be updated as and when he responds.)
RTI Revelation 2: Govt Stonewalls Query on 2013 and 2017 Investments Intentions
My efforts to get that magic number weren't successful and quite unnerving. But I found out something else. I had also made queries of investment intentions of the summits in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Intentions that don't necessarily change to actual investments.
While in the 2015 summit the government announced the investment intentions of Rs 25 lakh crore, in the 2013 and 2017 summits they made no such announcements raising eyebrows. I filed RTIs to find out what the promised investment was in 2013 and 2017 and got a response stating: "Details of the amount of investment promised for Vibrant Gujarat 2013 and 2017 is not in our attention."
For the concerned department to not have any records of the worth of MoUs signed is odd; Especially since the state government even announced that 25,578 MoUs were signed in 2017. To know the number of MoUs signed but not the amount the same was signed for shows how the responses aim to obfuscate facts.
RTI Revelation 3: Same Year but Different Investments Figures
As mentioned above the government did mention 25 lakh crore as the investment intentions for the 2015 summit.
After the summit, the government had then made the claim of signing 22,602 MoUs that will bring in investment worth Rs 25 lakh crore. On filing the RTI query of 2015 investment intentions, I observed that the number the industries commissioner gave was drastically different.
In 2015, investment intentions worth around Rs 16 lakh 30 thousand crore were made, contrary to the Rs 25 lakh crore claim.
What numbers are we to rely on? The government stonewalling RTI queries could indicate that maybe the government's numbers are not as vibrant.
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