Smaller State = Better State?

The division of erstwhile Punjab region in 1966 into Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh worked out quite well for all three states. Punjab and Haryana are rich; Himachal Pradesh is truly a well governed state that stands up with two of India’s best performing states, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, on almost all indicators. This experience possibly drives much of the economic and governance justification that many commentators have made in the recent past for smaller states being the way forward for a better governed India. But Haryana and Punjab are rich and fertile regions that enormously benefited from green revolution. Does the ‘small is better’ argument hold up for the three new states — Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand — that were created at the turn of this century?

Let’s look at some basic information of these three States and how they compare to their original undivided State and with respect to India as a whole[1].

State Population (Million) Average Rural Household Expenditure/ Month (Rs) Average Urban Household Expenditure/ Month (Rs) Growth Rate per capita (%,2001-2011) Poverty Estimate as % of Population (2010) Population % in India’s lowest wealth quintile
Madhya Pradesh 72.6 903 1666 4.5 36.7 36.9
Chhattisgarh 25.5 784 1647 6.3 48.7 39.6
Bihar 103.8 780 1238 5 53.5 28.2
Jharkhand 33 825 1584 4.6 39.1 49.6
Uttar Pradesh 199.6 899 1574 3.9 37.7 25.3
Uttarakand 10.1 1747 1745 10 18 6
India 1210.2 1054 1984 6 29.8 20

It’s obvious that all three original states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are worse than India as a whole in every single metric. While Uttarakhand appears to have been a slightly wealthy region of UP, both Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand seem quite similar to the larger state they were a part of.

The number that jumps at us from the table is that despite recent events, Uttarakhand seems to be doing quite well from a growth perspective — growing at 10% annually for 10 years — compared to UP that grew at 3.9%. However, it must be noted that UP has 200 Million people while Uttarakhand has only 10 Million. Still, 10 years is a long enough time period to not ignore such a wide divergence. Jharkhand meanwhile was surprisingly worse off than Bihar in terms of growth in the same 10 year period while Chhattisgarh did much better than Madhya Pradesh and was closer to the national average. Two out of three small states that were carved out of larger states seem to be growing better than their parent sates. Does that mean anything?

Uttarakhand is clearly not as poor as UP and that may partly explain its growth divergence. But what’s interesting is: Chattisgargh has a poorer population compared to MP but seems to be doing better on per capita growth. Jharkhand’s population is less wretched from a poverty standpoint compared to Bihar but it does worse than Bihar. That either means something is horribly wrong with Jharkhand or possibly, even more worryingly, the large state of Madhya Pradesh is a true failure. Before we judge Jharkhand too harshly, it is worth noting that half of its population lives in the country’s lowest wealth quintile. Maybe this simply points to a large tribal population.

To understand how the society functions, a better method maybe to imagine someone being born there now and happens to be the mean, median and mode of that society. What are the chances of such a new born person? To pursue that thought experiment further, consider the following data,

State IMR (2011) MMR (2011) Fertility Rate Percentage of Births with Skilled Personnel Assisst Ante-natal Care of any kind (%)
Madhya Pradesh 59 269 3.1 32.7 79.5
Chhattisgarh 48 NA 2.7 41.6 88.5
Bihar 44 261 3.6 29.3 34.1
Jharkhand 39 NA 2.9 27.8 58.9
Uttar Pradesh 57 359 3.4 27.2 66
Uttarakand 36 NA 2.6 38.5 69.4
India 44 212 2.4 46.6 76.4

First data point that’s obvious is: in all the three newly formed states, the fertility rate is lower than their respective original states. Even Jharkand which does poorly when on other metrics seems to be doing better than Bihar in terms of reducing the number of children born to each woman. So if you were going to be born in these three places, your likelihood of being born at all is probably lesser in the newer states. More importantly, in each case, it appears your likelihood of survival after being born is better in the newer states. Even more significantly, in Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand, your birth is more likely to have been overseen by someone skilled than in MP and UP respectively. Though in all these cases, that expectation is worse than India as a whole. Further, in every single instance of a new state, your mother is more likely to have received some ante natal care than in the respective old state.

The simple acts of delivering governance — such as providing ante natal care and assisting births with skilled personnel — seem to have an immediate effect on IMR. It’s heart warming that these new states are at least doing the easy things differently from their parent states and exasperating that Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are doing so atrociously poorly in metrics that measure basic human decency. Their IMR and levels of skilled assists in births will shock the conscience of Sub Saharan Africa. So to the thought experiment of being born in a badly run large state versus a newly carved out smaller one, being born in the latter seems a safer idea.

Let’s extend the thought experiment and ask what if one were to grow up a bit and seek an education. Consider this,

State Female Literacy Rate Male Literacy Rate Female Illiteracy in age group 15-19 Male Illiteracy in age group 15-19
Madhya Pradesh 60 80.5 22.9 4.7
Chhattisgarh 60.6 81.5 16.7 6.7
Bihar 53.3 73.4 37.3 15
Jharkhand 56.2 78.5 29.6 12.7
Uttar Pradesh 59.3 79.2 25.1 10.5
Uttarakand 70.7 83.3 4.9 2.3
India 65.5 82.1 15.8 7.4

One can use the actual literacy rate as something of a historical legacy and look at the illiteracy of children/teenagers between 15-19 years of age as what the recent governments have actually done. Consistently, the smaller states have done more to educate their young despite having similar starting points in the case of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Or conversely, just what are the governments in these large states of MP, UP and Bihar doing? That close of 40% of teen-aged girls in Bihar are illiterate can only drive one to despair. To understand this better, let’s consider what the government has actually provided,

State Percentage of 15-19 Year Old Completed 5 years of School (Female) Percentage of 15-19 Year Old Completed 5 years of School (Male) Percentage of 6-14 YO never enrolled in school (Female) Percentage of 6-14 YO never enrolled in school (Male)
Madhya Pradesh 78.9 83.9 15 11
Chhattisgarh 72.3 80.3 10 8
Bihar 69.7 75.5 31 19
Jharkhand 76 78.7 22 19
Uttar Pradesh 77.7 82.9 13 9
Uttarakand 90.6 93.9 6 7
India 83.7 86.2 12 8

Again, the older and larger states have not just failed older teens but they continue to fail younger children with the same level of moral bankruptcy, The newly formed states are at least failing their children a little less. Jharkhand particularly seems to be making an effort from a really poor start.

Creating the new state of Telangana from a reasonably governed state like Andhra Pradesh may not show such divergence. But from what the data suggests, Ms Mayawati may be correct in demanding four states out of what is now UP. After all it can’t do much worse any way. Might as well try that given the absolute lack of downside.

[1] — All data was typed into an excel sheet from publicly available information. If I have made an error in typing, please let me know.

3 thoughts on “Smaller State = Better State?

  1. dagalti

    // how they compare to their original undivided State//

    Did you mean what’s left of the original state or did you combine fragments back to numbers relevant to the undivided state? I assumed the former as it synched with the rest of the post.

    // Uttarakhand seems to be doing quite well from a growth perspective — growing at 10% annually for 10 years — compared to UP that grew at 3.9%//

    Now, the piece of information missing is what the growth rate of the Uttarakand region was within UP.
    Of course, some data like SDP would simply not be available to do all the comparisons you have done here. When we look at the divergent growth rates between Ut. and UP, we should temper the tendency to attribute it to the split itself. While that may surely be a reason – it does not necessarily follow from this analysis. Right?

    As you rightly mention about Jharkand – there is much stickiness in low-growth areas. So, just like we can’t judge it too harshly, we can’t say whether there has been an acceleration in the improvement of other indicators.

    As becomes a lazy reader on the internet unappreciative of the effort required to get this level of data analyses – let me go ahead and say: if districtwise data is available (should be in NSSO) it would be good to simply eyeball how metrics changed in district in Jh., Ut., Ch. – pre and post splits. That would provide a stronger basis to comment on the question here.

  2. Yuvamani

    I know you kept governance or stability of governance deliberately outside this debate..

    But instability of Jharkhands politics is what caused its lack of improvement. Under a good government or even a bad government with a stable majority, more, Actually much more could have been delivered.

    However Jharkhand has been hit with the virus of Presidential rule thanks to hung parliaments etc. which are very deleterious to delivering governanace.

    The other two states have moved to a stable Congress / BJP formation which has delivered good governanace or better than it was before.

  3. nilakar Post author

    Yes, a district-wise longitudinal study is not merely desirable but essential. Except I don’t know where to get the data from — surely the Ministry of Health & Family welfare in Ranchi, Dehradun and Raipur will have them.

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