Source: Times of India


Recently, in this newspaper, a report prepared by four very competent Indian economists and commentators on perceptions about economic freedom across states has been reviewed (TOI, November 11) and our state has not done well, except in one category.


Thus, pessimism about Bengal, which has been the focal point of a section of the media, got a real boost. The perception that education in the state is only characterized by skirmishes in colleges, public policy in health reflects only good doctors being victimized, law and order is in complete doldrums and everyone, especially industrialists, are leaving Bengal has been doing the rounds.


The morning's newspapers and anchored programs in the evening on some channels often conclude that the state government has failed and the perception seems to be that if there is an election now, it will be kicked out of power.


Though perception survey is not based on actual statistics and figures, but on the responses of chosen samples - and the sample can be terribly biased if the statistical population is large - many like me who voluntarily work for the government and that too at the top level of policy making are made to feel ashamed. Whom are we really serving? Tales of faults and failures seem to be the order of the day. Yet we, state workers beyond politics, remain positive and hopeful. Why?


Interestingly, a few days ago two of those four economists - Laveesh Bhandari and Bibek Debroy - published a detailed report on performance of states in 2012 relative to 2011 based on central government statistics and as a follow up of their regular annual work ( (India Today-ORG joint report, India Today , Nov 12, 2012). The report was kept in the dark. Not even a few lines were devoted in newspapers.


It looked at 20 major states and other small states and evaluated performance on macro-economy, law and order, health, education, consumer market, agriculture, infrastructure and investment. It is unnecessary at this stage to go into the details of the report which anyway is not available. But general trends are easy to discern.


The overall ranking puts Bengal in sixth position with an improvement from 17th as reported in 2011. No other state, except MP, demonstrates such upward mobility. Agriculture (from 20th to seventh place), governance (from 10th to second) and education (from 17th to third) have done wonders.


The performance on health, infrastructure and investment looks healthy. In investment, it has jumped from 15th to ninth position. Bhadari and Debroy justifiably have not used any state-level figures to remove comparability bias.


Prima facie, their conclusions are consistent with the facts that Bengal has emerged as one of the top or possibly top procurers of foodgrains last year. According to a central government ministerial website it is in the top three states, which have received maximum number of investment proposals in 2011 and currently its bitter rival, the central government has openly praised its policy of tackling Maoists, so much so that the model of development and controlled aggression is hailed as the model for Indian states.


 Yet, such a report was sidelined not only by others but by Bhandari and Debroy themselves. In their observations adjacent to the report on ranking, Bengal has not been mentioned even once.


 They wrote on Uttarakhand as the "most improved state" in education when it rose from the rank of 15th to first, but failed to notice Bengal, which has come up from 17th place to third. Numerically, the degree of improvement is the same.