[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he BJP Government, ruling MP for the past 15 years, is justifiably proud of its many achievements. The state’s GDP had nosedived by the time it came to power in 2003. Since then GDP has grown at an astounding rate of 10.2 %. Agriculture growth rate has gone up from 3 % to 18 %, with foodgrain production increasing by whooping 179%. So has irrigation. Per capita income has grown from Rs 14,011 to Rs 55,442. Madhya Pradesh has become a revenue surplus state from a revenue deficit state. It has also become a power surplus state.
But has MP really come out of the Bimaru status and joined ranks of the developed states, as BJP’s spin doctors want us to believe? Sadly, facts do not support this claim. The bitter truth was earlier drawn home by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant when he included MP among those states that were keeping India backward due to their far from satisfactory performance, especially on social indicators.
The latest ranking of best-governed states by Public Affairs Centre, a think tank, has come as a rude shock to MP government. It ranks, along with Bihar and Jharkhand, the lowest on the Public Affairs Index (PAI), indicating poor infrastructure, bad fiscal management, lack of investment climate, disturbing human development indicators, unemployment, food insecurity and social injustice. The think tank’s report is based entirely on government data. The team that produced this year’s report was headed by CK Mathew, a former chief secretary of Rajasthan. The 1977 batch IAS, unlike an ivory tower economist, ought to know what good administration is all about.
So, where exactly is MP? Take per capita income, the traditional indicator of fruits of development. MP was at the bottom of the heap, in 1990, ahead only of Bihar and Orissa. It continued lingering at the bottom, preceding only Bihar, by the time Digvijay Singh relinquished office in 2003, after 10 years of his disastrous experiments with “social engineering”. And today, after 15 years of BJP’s promised “good governance”, the state continues to rot at the bottom! We were a Bimaru state then. We continue to be a Bimaru state now.
Bimaru is an acronym coined by economist Ashish Bose in 1980s to refer to economic sickness of Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and UP the states that were dragging down India’s growth rate. MP is at bottom of the public affairs index among 18 large states in employment, food security and social justice. It occupies the 17th slot in education and health, 14th in infrastructure, 16th in women, child welfare and malnutrition, this regime’s Achilles’ heels, and 15th slot in law and order.
No awards for guessing which are the top states in PAI score Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Karnataka, followed by Gujarat. States like Kerala have indeed made tremendous progress. It occupied 16th rank in per capita income in 1990. By 2004 it moved to 10th rank and ten years later to 6th rank!
More horrifying is the fact that the situation is worsening in MP. In 2016, the state occupied the 13th slot in PAI. Today, it has slipped to 16th. In fact, its performance has worsened in areas like education, health, jobs, food security, crime, transparency, accountability, fiscal management and investment climate over the last three years. The situation is likely to worsen further as the state government throws fiscal prudence to the wind in election year. Obviously, political stability is no guarantee of sustained development. The only area where MP occupies the top slot in the country is delivery of justice. Its performance in environment sector is also good, where it has secured 8th rank.
More shameful for the political leadership is the fact that Chhattisgarh, carved out of MP less than two decades ago, has overtaken us on the path to development. In the PAI of 18 large states (with over 2 crore population) Chhattisgarh occupies the 10th slot as against the 16th rank secured by MP. A close scrutiny of data reveals the reasons behind its success: fiscal management and transparency in administration areas where it is among the top three states in the country. That is a political call.
“The thrust clearly must be on modernising the governance system in the states, and enhancing the capacity to govern, as a reform priority,” says G Gurucharan, the director of Public Affairs Centre. The BJP must understand that there is a difference between good governance and populist governance. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan seems to have opted for populist measures, wreaking havoc on good governance that he and his party had promised.
(The writer is a senior journalist)