The aspirational districts
THE WEEK|December 06, 2020
The year was 1998. Airports and flights weren’t what they are now. Waiting at Delhi airport for an interminably delayed flight, I ran into a friend who used to work for a chamber of commerce (CC).
BIBEK DEBROY

Discussing research we might do for the CC, I suggested the idea of ranking India’s states and he leapt at it. Ranking states is routine now. Choose a bunch of variables, get data, attach weights, aggregate and construct an index. Back then, data on states was hard to get, especially on social sectors. That’s how Laveesh Bhandari and I started ranking states. (There were no surveys, no subjective responses to questionnaires. Numbers used were hard objective data, vetted by the Union government.) We did that for a couple of years. All CCs have favourite chief ministers and states. In the third year, a favoured state didn’t do well and CC sat on the report. Overnight, Laveesh and I took our work to a magazine.

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