Poll-bound Gujarat ranks among the lowest in socio-environmental measures, regressed in last 15 years

The performance of poll-bound Gujarat on many social indicators has worsened in the past 15 years compared to other States

Updated - November 16, 2022 04:57 pm IST

Published - November 15, 2022 11:05 am IST

BJP election symbol flag on a hut wall in Devrajiya Village in Saurashtra region, Gujarat

BJP election symbol flag on a hut wall in Devrajiya Village in Saurashtra region, Gujarat | Photo Credit: Vijay Soneji

With the Gujarat Assembly elections scheduled to take place in two phases on December 1 and 5, an analysis of economic, social and environmental indicators brings forth contrasting results. While Gujarat is economically one of the most advanced States in India, it fares poorly on social indicators, even featuring at the bottom of the list on some of them. The State tops the list on manufacturing-related indicators. But this has come at a cost as Gujarat features at the bottom of the list on several environmental measures.

Table 1 shows Gujarat’s rank on social indicators and its actual score in a parameter in 2019-20, 2015-16 and 2005-06. The table also lists the change in Gujarat’s rank in 2019-20 compared to 2015-16. The top three States in a parameter are also given for comparison. For instance, Gujarat had 39% of stunted children (low height-for-age) in 2019-20 and ranked 26 out of 30 States. The three best States that year were Kerala (23.4% of stunted children), Punjab (24.5%) and Tamil Nadu (25%). On this indicator, Gujarat’s ranking fell two spots in 2019-20 from 2015-16, the year when the State was placed 24th out of the 30 States.

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Notably, across most social indicators, there was no considerable improvement in the last few years. For instance, the population of females who attended school was 72% in 2015-16 and increased to 72.9% in 2019-20. Only females aged six and above were considered.

The share of wasted children (low weight-for-height) improved marginally from 26.4% to 25.1%, while the share of underweight (low weight-for-age) children recorded a small rise from 39.3% to 39.7%. On both these indicators the State ranked 29 of 30 States analysed in 2019-20.

What is striking is that the State’s relative performance worsened in 2019-20 compared to 2005-06 on most social indicators. In the share of the female population who ever attended school, the State ranked 15 of 28 States in 2005-06; in 2019-20, it ranked 19 of 30. In the share of wasted children, the State’s rank worsened from 16 out of 28 States to 29 out of 30 States. In fact, on all the social indicators analysed, the State’s ranking worsened in the 15-year period.

However, Gujarat’s economic performance was among the best in the country. In both 1993-94 and 2020-21, the State ranked 6 of 27 States in Per Capita Net State Domestic Product (current prices) as shown in Table 3.

Also, its economic might is majorly supported by the manufacturing sector, which employs 20.8% of the State’s workforce. This is the second highest share among the 30 States considered (Table 4).

While the State leads the country in terms of economic performance, it lags behind on environment-related indicators (Table 5). The State generated the highest amounts of hazardous waste and fourth-highest plastic waste in the country. The fossil fuels consumed per capita are also the third highest. Only 80% of industries comply with wastewater treatment norms.

Among educational indicators, Gujarat is among the worst-performing States (Table 6). In 2018-19, it ranked above 20 of the 30 States on indicators such as enrolment in elementary, higher secondary and college-level education. It also had a higher dropout rate at the secondary level.

Given the superior economic performance and inferior social and environmental rankings, Gujarat’s position on the Human Development Index was middling in 2019 and 1990 (16 and 17 out of 30 States, respectively). This is seen in Table 2.

Source: NFHS, MOSPI, Global Data Lab, NITI Aayog

Also read | High stakes: On the 2022 Gujarat Assembly Elections and the BJP

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