With Narendra Modi making governance the central election issue in the 2014 General Elections, the debate, after long time, focused on development. While the BJP leader and current prime minister highlighted key economic parameters such as investment, industrial growth, power generation, per capita income etc, his critics pointed out to relatively poor performance in social parameters, measured globally by United Nation Development Program (UNDP)’s human development index (HDI). With two of the world’s most well-known economists, Jagdish Bhagwati and Amrtya Sen joining the debate on what constitutes good governance, the global community took notice.
As it is, truth is rarely black and white. While Modi made some tall claims about economic parameters, most notably by highlighting absolute parameters (which have always been higher for Gujarat, even before Modi) and not the delta during his period, his critics, while pointing to HDI figures did just the reverse. They chose to ignore the fact that Gujarat still was among the upper half of the Median when it came to HDI; it was only when one compares it with its ranking in terms of economic parameters that it looks pale.
The chart here shows absolute HDI 2007-08 (latest available) on the x-axis and growth between 1999-2000 and 2007-08 on the y-axis.
Without considering India’s overall performance in HDI, which remains low, the pure comparison among states, shows some definite trends. In the chart, the lines show the median values and not the average values.
- The overall news is good, with most low HDI states such as Odisha, Bihar, UP, Chhatisgarh and Madhya Pradesh registering good growths. Expectedly, Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Harya and Gujarat show a lower growth.
- Only one area that clearly falls in Quardrant I: North East. It is, by definition, the only star, though Karnataka and Tamil Nadu too have good performance.
- Kerala, with an HDI that is ahead of Russia, Malaysia, Kuwait and Saudi Arbaia, has a growth slightly lower but it is still a good performance, considering how poorly the other two high HDI states have fared in terms of their growth. Delhi is actually the only entity to show a negative growth while Goa too shows a sluggish growth.
- Uttarakhand and Jharkhand, two younger states, clearly outshine everyone else in terms of growth. Uttarakhand is fast moving to Quardrant I.
- Rajasthan is the only state that is clearly falling behind. West Bengal too is not catching up with the rest of the Eastern brigade such as Bihar, Odisha, NE, Assam and Jharkhand which are clearly on the growth track now.
- Modi’s Gujarat, is clearly below the median growth and falls on the median line of absolute HDI. With a position of 11 among 23 states/UTs (NE is treated as one), it is clearly not a good showing. But it is not absolutely pathetic as many claim.