A clutch of laggard states have, even in recent years, continued to frustrate the nation’s bid to seriously improve its social indicators, despite ostensible policy support to let them catch up. Bihar and Jharkhand have not only reported population growth higher than the national average in the decade to 2011, even the rate of deceleration of the growth continued to be lower than the pan-India figure, according to the Handbook of Statistics on States 2016-17 released by the RBI on Friday.
Among the various parameters, only on literacy improvement have states like Bihar, UP, Rajasthan and MP showed somewhat credible performance in recent decades, while they hardly lived up to the policymakers’ expectations on the sex ratio, lowering of infant mortality, increasing life expectancy, etc. As per the data put out by the RBI, Bihar’s literacy rate improved from 38% in 1991 to 47% in 2001 and then to about 62% in 2011, while the national average in 2011 was 73%; in case of Rajasthan, the improvement was more in the decade to 2001 (39% to 60%) than in the subsequent one (66% in 2011).
As for the sex ratio, Bihar only turned a tad worse from 2001 (919) to 2011 (918). While UP showed some improvement on this front with a ratio of 912 in 2011 against 898 in 2001, even this was still considerably lower than the national average (943 in 2011).
In comparison, the sex ratio was 1,084 in Kerala and 996 in Tamil Nadu in 2011. As far as population growth is concerned, the national average was 17.7% in 2001-2011 against 21.5% in the previous decade. The rate for Bihar came down from 28.62% in 1991-2001 to 25% in 2001-2011, which meant the rate reduced by only 12.5% for the state as against 18% for the country as a whole during the two decades. Rajasthan, however, kept pace with the nation in curbing population growth in the last decade. Among the better performers, Kerala reduced its already low population rate growth further: from 14.32% in 1981-1991, the growth reduced to 9.4% in 1991-2001 and further to a creditable 4.9% in 2001-2011. Curiously, despite being conventionally a good performer, Tamil Nadu was the only state to show an increase in population growth: the rate 15.6% in 2001-2011 as against 11.72% in the previous decade.
The infant mortality rate (death of infants per thousand births) has been improving in the country in a rather steady manner, although it continues to be poor by world standards. This rate was 37 for the country in 2015, versus 50 in Madhya Pradesh, where it was the worst; 46 in Odisha and Bihar and 42 in Uttar Pradesh.