Saturday, November 13, 2004

Backwardness is a backwards’ story

Srinjoy Chowdhury

NEW DELHI, Nov. 12. — Fifty-seven years of Independence and ten five year plans later, a study of the most backward districts in India shows that three-fourths of the worst twenty have Dalit and tribal populations of over 50 per cent.

Despite reservations for jobs and other opportunities, the benefits have clearly not reached the poorest of the poor, Planning Commission report says. In the worst 16 districts, scheduled castes and tribes constitute between 56 and 94 per cent of the population. Of the 447 districts evaluated, the worst states are expectedly, the usual suspects: Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar.

Parts of rich states like Maharashtra and Gujarat also have desperately poor districts. Some of them are in the worst 50 and 100, where no district from a southern state finds a place. In fact, the most backward southern district is Gulbarga, in Karnataka, ranked No 204.

Of the 50 most backward districts, evaluated on the basis of agricultural wages, output per farm worker, output per hectare and poverty ratio, the worst-placed is almost inevitably Gumla in Jharkhand with a 76 per cent SC-ST population, average daily agricultural wages (1996-97 figures) at Rs 22 and a poverty ratio of 62.44 per cent. The output per hectare is Rs 3,907 based on 1990-93 figures. Simdega, also in Jharkhand, is second and has similar statistics. Four each of the 10 worst districts are from Jharkhand and Orissa and two from Madhya Pradesh.

Sixteen districts from Jharkhand and 11 from Orissa are in the worst 50. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh follow with eight each. Rajasthan, Gujarat (Dangs), Maharashtra, West Bengal (Jalpaiguri) and UP have one or two each.

Source: The Statesman, November 13, 2004

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