Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Feb 20, 2002
Government - States
Columns - Academic Angle
Economics and UP elections
P. R. Brahmananda
THE elections to four State Assemblies are almost over. Reports and discussions in the media, including on the small screen, give the impression that no major issues of public concern have been covered by the political parties. It seems the anti-insurgency issues are prominent, but these are not the sort of issues that economists might consider important.
Caste factors were also highlighted in the discussions, and it was noted that every party sought to widen its base by fielding candidates from several castes. Minorities appear to be getting places in the lists of candidates of different parties. All this is okay, but should not political parties highlight what is happening to the economies of these States? Should they not lift the discussions to a higher level by projecting connected programmes and plans in these States for the next five years?
Consider some data on crucial economic respects concerning Uttar Pradesh. Dr Sethi and Dr Kaur of Guru Nanak University, Amritsar, presented a paper on `Employment Generation for Poverty Allevation: Post-Liberalisation Regime Experience in India' in Vellore at the recent All-India Economic Conference.
They ranked different States with respect to poverty alleviation, as measured by the success in reducing the population below the poverty line.
These rankings were presented for six years, from 1973-74 to 1999-2000, on the basis of the National Sample Survey data.
In 1973-74, of the 16 States included in the survey, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana were the three top achievers, and UP was ranked 11th. Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and UP, in that order, were the among the poor achievers.
In 1977-78, Punjab climbed to the top rank in poverty alleviation achievement, followed by Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. UP improved moved up to eighth place. Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Tamil Nadu in that order were ranked low. In 1983-84, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat continued to be ranked high in alleviating alleviation. Uttar Pradesh once again moved down to No 11. Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh got lower rankings in that order.
In 1993-94, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat ranked top in alleviating poverty. Uttar Pradesh continued at No 11. Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh got lower rankings, in that order. In 1993-94, UP slipped a notch to No 12. Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, UP, Maharashtra and West Bengal were at lower rankings of achievement, in that order. Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat were at the top rankings. Himachal Pradesh lost its high-ranking status, and Tamil Nadu improved its ranking.
Let us now look at the rankings in 1999-2000. Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana were at the top. Gujarat had slipped down, and Uttar Pradesh continued to be in the lowest of rankings, at No. 12. Orissa, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Assam ranked lower, in that order.
What do the rankings convey? Clearly, Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, UP and, now, Assam are problem States from the point of view of high poverty levels. Uttar Pradesh's ranking has been moving down, if we take 1977-78 as the reference point. Between 1993-94 and 1999-2000, Uttar Pradesh had a low ranking.
Should not this point, which is so important for economic well-being, have been highlighted by the media and political parties?
After all, poverty alleviation is a responsibility of the State governments, given the pressures they can exercise on the Union Government. After all, there is no reason to believe that the Centre is biased in the matter of measures, direct and indirect, to reduce the pressure of poverty in the different States.
What is most distressing is that none of the political parties seem concerned about the deteriorating performance in UP with respect to poverty alleviation. What is power meant for? Should not the level of discussion among different parties be lifted to a higher level to encompass issues such as the State governments improving the lot of those below of the poverty line? What are the National Sample Survey results meant for?
In my judgement, the political parties should have paid attention to the factors responsible for keeping down the economic performance, especially with regard to such a large State as UP. The head of the Planning Commission is from UP, and so also is the Prime Minister.
The Finance Minister hails from a State that, unfortunately, has performed poorly in its goal to alleviate poverty. So, once again, what is power meant for in a democracy?
Let me look at the position with respect to employment. The proportion of the employed in UP was placed at 36.7 per cent in 1987-88. This slid to 33.6 per cent in 1999-2000. In 1987-88, the proportion of employment in the rural areas of UP was 38.3 per cent and in 1999-2000 this figure slipped to 34.5 per cent.
Between 1962-65 and 1970-73, the rate of growth of agricultural output in UP was 2.54 per cent per annum. Between 1970-73 and 1980-83, the growth rate was 2.77 per cent per annum. Between 1980-83 and 1990-93, the rate of growth of agricultural output was 3.06 per cent per annum.
Between 1990-93 and 1996-99, the rate of growth of agricultural output came down to 2.47 per cent per annum.
This means that on a comparative basis, the rate of growth of agricultural output in UP is falling. Meanwhile, consider the growth rate of NDP at constant prices. We have information at 1993-94 prices from 1993-94 to 1999-2000. The regression-derived annual growth rate works out to 5.3 per cent per annum.
But, from 1996-97 to 1999-2000, growth has only been 13.7 per cent. The growth rate appears to have slipped from 1996-97 onwards.
There is some consistency between the relative worsening of UP's ranking in alleviating poverty and the sliding agricultural output and growth rate.
Also, UP's efforts in containing the rate of growth of population has not been satisfactory. It continues to have one of the highest population growth rates in India.
Clearly, per-capita-wise, UP's economy is not improving. The media, including the small screen, has a great responsibility in educating those in political power and forcing political leaders to focus on what really matters to the common man.
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