INDIAN POLITICS HAS BEEN seeing an encouraging trend in the past few years. Every chief minister who is freshly elected to the office makes an identical promise: to make his state among the five top performing ones in the country. The assurance may or may not come to fruition, but the lofty goal itself is a sign of the changing socio-political ambitions of the people and their expectations from the ruling class. It fosters competition among chief ministers, making all-encompassing economic growth the centrepiece of any political narrative. And in an economy ravaged by a year and a half of the Covid-19 pandemic, this motivation and competition can come in particularly useful.
The India Today Group can claim some of the credit for firing this competitive spirit. It was the first to introduce the concept of mapping the performance of India’s states in 2003 in the form of the State of the States (SoS) survey. In the 19 years since, it has remained the most accurate annual report card of how the different states of India are doing. It was devised as a comprehensive and credible measure for assessing a state’s socioeconomic development to begin with, but, over the years, it has also evolved both in scope and methodology.
To avoid giving undue advantage or vice versa to states with a legacy of performance or under-achievement, the evaluation is carried out under two broad categories—best performing and most improved. The best performing category examines the absolute numbers of a state’s performance for the latest year for which data is available. The most improved category records states’ progress over the preceding five years.
The significance of this distinction is best reflected in the results of this year’s SoS survey. Based on its progress in the past five years, Bihar has emerged as the most improved big state overall. It’s a big leap for the eastern state, which has for too long led the infamous BIMARU acronym, from ninth rank last year to the top rung now. This miracle has been made possible by a superlative improvement in education, agriculture, economy and infrastructure. The state’s commitment to break the shackles of economic backwardness is evident— per capita development expenditure in Bihar grew at the rate of 17.9 per cent between 2014-15 and 2019-20, against the national average of 11.2 per cent in the same period. A higher participation of girls—at 1.05, the gender parity index (enrolment ratio of girls to boys) is the second-highest in the country— has contributed to this big jump in education.
TAMIL NADU retains the top spot among the best performing big states of India for the 4th year in a row
BIHAR has made a spectacular leap to the No. 1 position among the most improved big states this year from 9th rank last year
That said, Bihar still has miles to go in terms of absolute achievement. The state may have progressed at a much faster rate in the past five years given its low base, but it remains at the bottom among the best performing big states. It appears in 20th place in three lists of big states—economy, education and entrepreneurship. In five other categories—agriculture, health, governance, inclusive development and environment—it is among the bottom five of the best-performing states.
The same is true of Manipur, which has emerged as the most improved small state for the second successive time. From 2018, it has clocked an improved performance in seven out of 12 categories—economy, infrastructure, agriculture, health, governance, entrepreneurship and cleanliness. Yet, the state figures in ninth place among the 10 best performing small states. It finds itself in the same position as in 2018 across five categories—economy, infrastructure, agriculture, environment and cleanliness. Despite rapid progress in the past five years, Manipur remains bogged down by a legacy of poor performance and environment of violence.
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