After having spent five years as a student in Kolkata (West Bengal), I revisited the city after a year earlier this month. The difference in perspective as a student and now as an employed professional prompted me to look at the state, and its governance anew. Given below are some facts and figures I found interesting:
1. In response to a question in Parliament, it was reported that West bengal is somewhere near the bottom of the pile in rankings on developed on four broad parameters of access,infrastructure, teacher related indicators and elementary education outcomes.
2. Though West Bengal introduced radical land reforms in the late 1970s, recent data indicates that the proportion of landless rural households increased from 39.6% in 1987-88 to 49.8% in 1993-94. In other words, by the end of the decade, nearly half of all rural households in the state were landless.
3. The best features of governance in West Bengal seem to be in the field of decentralization and financial autonomy. The UNDP report quoted above reports that West Bengal is unique in India in collecting information on areas such as Domestic Product (GDP) on a district-wise basis.
4. Though the overall incidence of poverty has come down in the 1990s, the rate seems to be increasing for agricultural workers. Nearly half of them remain absolutely poor.
5. About employment: “Employment is one of the most significant issues in terms of the living conditions of the people of West Bengal today. Quite simply, there are not enough jobs for the people who are willing, or are forced to work.” The rate of employment generation in terms of total work has been lower than the rate at which population has expanded. This is remarkable given the fact that West Bengal has one of the slowest population growth rates in the country!!