BIMARU States: the shoe fits even now

In a speech in Gaya on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that while Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were no longer “BIMARU” states, Bihar continued to suffer this fate. So which are India’s real BIMARU states?

The term BIMARU – an abbreviation for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh – was coined in 1980 by the demographer Ashish Bose in a paper he wrote in the early 1980s. Mr. Bose examined a range of demographic indicators to conclude that these states, home to 40 per cent of the country’s population, lagged significantly behind the southern states, and were contributing the most to India’s population explosion. He also looked at five additional indicators including per capita income.

In May this year, economist Vinita Sharma recalculated Mr. Bose’s indicators, updated for 2011, after adding in the newly carved out states of Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttarakhand, in a paper published in the Economic and Political Weekly. She found that while the states had made individual progress, on the whole, BIMARU states had not converged with the national average; in fact on half of the 13 indicators, they had diverged. While none of the states had been able to move out of the grouping, among them, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh showed a greater degree of improvement than Bihar, Ms. Sharma found.

On several other indicators of backwardness, The Hindu found, these states continue to rank well below the national average. On the key demographic indicator – the Total Fertility Rate – there are now two distinct Indias, one on the road to achieving replacement levels, and one still a long distance off. In 2013, for instance, the states with a TFR higher than the national average were (in descending order): Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

Similarly on per capita income, while the poorer states led by Bihar have grown faster year on year than richer states, the gulf between them remains wider than ever. In 1980–81, the average per capita income of the four states was 74% of the all-India figure, but in 2010–11 it declined to 59% of it, Ms. Sharma found. As of 2014-15, The Hindu found, the richest among the BIMARU states was Rajasthan, with a per capita income of Rs 65,974, but this was still less than half that of richer states like Haryana.

In 2013, a committee constituted under the chairmanship of Raghuram Rajan, then Chief Economic Adviser in the Ministry of Finance, developed an index of backwardness to compare states with ten sub-components including per capita expenditure, the poverty rate and urbanisation rate. On that ranking, Odisha ranked the lowest followed by Bihar and Madhya Pradesh at joint second from last. Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh were also tied at the same rank.

Economist Bibek Debroy says that questions over convergence and divergence have been “done to death”, adding that these are his personal views and not that of the Niti Aayog, of which he is a member. “Of course there is a difference between base levels and increments, but as increments go, there is no question that some historically backward states – in particular Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – are growing fast,” he said. Additionally, from a public policy perpective, large variations within states meant that looking at the 70 or so most backward districts of the country was a better idea, Mr. Debroy said.

Data compiled by The Hindu

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 7:58:20 AM |

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