Sunday, October 22, 2006
India’s poorest districts
Regional disparities in development in India (see Disparities in national development) can be better identified by looking at smaller areas: districts or development blocks rather than broad geographical regions.
Attempts to identify the poorest or most backward districts in the country have been made since 1960. So far, nine committees have been set up on this issue at the national level.
One of the most elaborate exercises for the identification of backward districts was conducted in 1997 by a committee of the Government of India's Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment. Headed by EAS Sarma, who was then Principal Advisor to the Planning Commission, the committee used a composite method with differing weights for parameters such as:
- incidence of poverty
- water supply
- transport and communications, and
- degree of industrialisation.
The Sarma Committee's list of 100 most backward districts included:
- 38 districts from undivided Bihar
- 19 from undivided Madhya Pradesh
- 17 from undivided Uttar Pradesh
- 10 from Maharashtra, and
- a smaller number of districts from other states.
(Note: The PACS Programme's coverage area is based on this list. To see the state-wise list of all 100 districts click here.)
There were no districts from Gujarat, Goa, Kerala, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. The north-eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir were not considered by the committee as it felt "they had problems which were specific and peculiar to them".
Recently, the Planning Commission has drawn up another list of 100 backward districts. This list is specific to the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana (RSVY) programme drawn up under the Tenth Plan. It covers one or more backward districts in all states of the country except Delhi, Goa, Bihar and Orissa. The first two have been excluded because they have no backward districts. The other two have been excluded because the RSVY programme has special components for Bihar and the Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) region of Orissa. See full list of RSVY districts.
Non-government experts and organisations have also attempted to draw up lists of 'most backward' districts. One comprehensive estimation of district-level deprivation was recently made by Bibek Debroy of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, New Delhi, and Laveesh Bhandari of Indicus Analytics.
In their report, District-level Deprivation in the New Millennium (Konark Publishers, New Delhi; 2003), they used six indicators derived from the UN Millennium Development Goals:
- infant mortality
- immunisation, and
- literacy and elementary school enrolment.
They considered districts which figured in the bottom quarter under four of these six criteria as the 'most backward' districts in the country.
The list has 69 districts. Most of them are located in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Jharkhand. Other than these states, the 'most backward' districts are found only in Arunachal Pradesh (3 districts), Karnataka (1) and Madhya Pradesh (5). See full list.The two lists mentioned above do not overlap as they are based on different criteria. However, there is one common thread: most of India's backward districts are in the central and eastern part of the country -- the area covered by the PACS Programme.