The best myth

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Wednesday 15 September 2004

-- India's Best and Worst States India Today Group

Is Punjab India's best state? Yes, claims a survey report published by the India Today Group. India's Best and Worst States, which covered 30 states and five union territories, used eight parameters. States were categorised big and small depending on their area and total population. Big states were larger than 35,000 square kilometres and had a population of more than five million. The report declared Punjab the best big state followed by Kerala and Himachal Pradesh. Pondicherry was the best small state, Chandigarh the best union territory.

"We rely solely on data available from Central sources, so that non-comparability of data is not an issue," said Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari, who conducted the survey.

But is Punjab the best because of its present, or its past? As the report says: "Being best is not the same as being perfect... Historical legacies impact a state's performance... some states are being propelled to the top by their past." In Punjab, that past is the Green Revolution.

punjab the worst? The survey says it is "the definitive guide to the quality of life in an Indian state, one which marries its economic development report with its human development record". Before buying that, note: Census 2001 says Punjab has the poorest child sex ratio in the country -- 793 girls per 1,000 boys. This is a fall of 82 points from the 1991 census. Then, Punjab is a massive pesticide user: consuming about 6,900 tonnes of pesticides annually, second only to Uttar Pradesh at 7,400 tonnes. The state faces severe water scarcity, as it uses 76 per cent of its groundwater for agriculture. The Central Ground Water Board says groundwater extraction here has risen by 98.34 per cent in two decades. At least 85 per cent of the administrative blocks are "dark" or "grey", meaning there is little groundwater left.

Figures published by the directorate of health and family welfare in the Health Information of Punjab, show cancer is the fourth major killer in the state and accounts for 3.8 per cent of the deaths caused by disease.

The survey itself acknowledges, "Punjab is now hamstrung by the debilitating fiscal crisis, stagnating agriculture and virtual absence of reforms. On an average every resident carries a debt of Rs 8,500..."

What a state!

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