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Bengal as bad as Jharkhand, Bihar after Left rule: Economic study

This article was posted on Mar 2, 2009 and is filed under Press Releases

There is fresh proof to back the long-held view among those familiar with affairs of West Bengal that it’s a basket case. A study by two eminent economists has confirmed that things are going from bad to worse in the CPM-controlled state.

Painting a dismal picture of business environment, law and order, physical infrastructure, social infrastructure and finances in West Bengal, the study has blamed the governance of the Left Front over the past three decades.

At a time when the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government is rolling up its sleeves to face the elections with industrialisation as a key theme, the study said that even Patna, Ranchi, Jaipur, Bhubaneswar and Lucknow ranked better than Kolkata on ease of doing business in India.

The study carried out by Prof Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari found low growth, low employment and poorer quality of employment, for industry as well as services.

“In the early 1960s, West Bengal was one of the more successful states in India. What happened since the 1960s. One answer is the Left Front government and its policies. Even in instances of central schemes like NREGA and RTI, the delivery mechanism is not there at all,” Mr Debroy said releasing the report. The Left has been claiming NREGA was an outcome of its pressure on the UPA. West Bengal’s per capita GDP was Rs 29,457 which made it 18th in the country, he said.

Giving statistics that is sure to make the Left go red, the report said that indicators showed underperformance in infrastructure facilities, health and education. It said West Bengal lagged behind several states, including even Jharkhand in some instances, as far as roads, electricity and drinking water was concerned.

In 2005-06, only 27.9% of West Bengal’s households had access to safe drinking water. In Maharashtra, this figure was 78.4% and in Tamil Nadu 84.2%. “In a state often called the intellectual capital of India, the school dropout rate was 78.03%… Only Bihar, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Sikkim fare worse,” it said.

The same Left, which has been attacking the Manmohan Singh government for ignoring the “aam aadmi,” has “not been able to improve the lot of the people in the worst-off and backward districts.” The report said the average resident was poor in West Bengal.

While for India, 10.1% of households were rich, 54% middle class and 35.9% poor, for West Bengal 5.6% were rich, 41% middle class and 53.4% poor. This time, the finger will have to point inwards. The report quoted NSS data to say that in 2004-05, 47.3% of Bengal’s poor had no subsidy card while 43.3% of non-poor had BPL or Antyodya Anna Yojana cards. “This doesn’t say much about a government that is supposed to work in the name of the poor,” the report said.

The report said the capital expenditure by the state government at 0.8% was pitiable. The all-India state average of capital expenditure to GSDP is 7.1%. “This is not a democracy. It is a kleistocracy, an aristocracy for the nomenclature of the party.”

In its conclusion, the report said “what we have just described as the five key diseases are perhaps not the diseases at all. They are symptoms. The key disease is somewhere else. It is the Left Front itself. The Left Front government is like gangrene. It cannot be cured. It has to be excised out.”

Asked why they had chosen this time to release the report, Prof Debroy said: “We did it because elections are approaching. This is the time when people vote for change.” He said they had come out with reports on various states earlier.

Mr Bhandari, founder-director of Indicus Analytics and co-author of the report said West Bengal was a case of missed opportunities and it will take five years of a “progressive, responsive” government to bring the state back on track.

source: economic times.

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