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Southern states surging ahead on better governance


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According to the World Bank, India has a gross national income per capita of 1,410 US Dollars (USD)

Quality of governance and better leadership has led to southern states surging ahead of their northern counterparts, widening the gap in terms of per capita income and poverty between the south and north, says a study.

Per capita incomes in the south (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala) have risen fast and poverty has declined in recent years and the reason is quality of governance, better leadership and political stability, according to study conducted by the Public Affairs Centre.

As of 2009-10, on an average, the weighted per capita income in the southern states (in constant 1993-94 prices) was Rs 19,531 whereas it was only Rs 8,951 in the northern states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh).

In 2009-10, the average (weighted) poverty rate (combined for rural and urban areas) in the southern states was 19 per cent against 38 per cent in the northern states.
The picture was very different fifty years ago. The rural poverty rates in the southern states in 1960 was 66 per cent compared to 55 per cent in the Hindi heartland states, the study said.

Young people from the south were migrating to the northern towns in search of employment. Currently, the migration of southerners to the north has declined while northerners are moving in large numbers to the south in search of work, it said.
Various factors have led to this turnaround over the last half century, the PAC study said.

From the time of Independence, the south has been ahead of the north in literacy, infant mortality, life expectancy, fertility rate and other factors that contribute to greater productivity.

Public Affairs Centre (PAC) is a not-for-profit organisation, established in 1994 with a mandate to improve the quality of governance in India.

According to the PAC study, quality of governance and leadership was somewhat better in south as is clear from the longer tenure of chief ministers (political stability) and better law and order (lesser number of police firings, proportion of civil police, ratio of pending cases in court).

The south was also ahead in terms of technical education, tele-density, power and urbanisation. More than half of all engineering colleges in the country are in the south. Better governance facilitated these factors and enabled the state to more efficiently utilise its scarce resources.

But what happened in the south was not just a "supply side miracle" says Samuel Paul of the PAC. Social movements in the south made people more aware of the need to demand better and more equitable governance from the authorities.

Strong movements in Kerala and Tamil Nadu (the former Madras Presidency) a century ago, began to mobilise vast segments of population especially the lower castes, to push for education and job reservation in government. Governments there responded and the result was the increased spread of education, awareness, networking and entrepreneurship in the southern states, the study said.

"This in turn laid the foundation for a more inclusive growth pattern. Such social movements were absent in the north where the demand for better governance and entitlements from lower castes was absent or merely used for identity politics. When the demand was missing, the pressure on the supply side was weak too," Paul said.

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