From a BIMARU state to the land of unlimited ootential (‘ummeedon ka pradesh’) – Uttar Pradesh has come a long way.
Amid accusations and counter accusations over Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s slogan of ‘Kaam bolta hai’ (work speaks) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s counter offensive of ‘karname bolte hain’, the changing skyline of metropolitan towns and low growth rate present a contrasting picture.
In the backdrop of changing skyline of metropolitan towns with metro projects and Agra-Lucknow Expressway, low per capita income, farm output, literacy and growth rate portray a picture of contrast.
Despite shrugging off ‘BIMARU’ tag, UP has failed to develop at the desired pace over the years. UP has to go a long way on the path of development as it still tops the list of states in terms of population. It occupies a much lower place in terms of development indicators – per capita income, literacy rate, health and infrastructure.
When those entrusted with the task of development shifted their focus on caste politics, the state took a detour from politics of development to that of emotions – bringing ‘mandal’ (caste-based reservation) and ‘kamandal’ (Ram Temple) to the fore.
A close scrutiny of state’s journey from 1989 – when the era of caste and coalition politics was dominant in the state – indicates that UP became a victim of misplaced priorities of the powers that be.
Besides remaining backward on the socio-economic front, the state failed to develop infrastructure, bring about a perceptible improvement in the law and order situation and shied away from attracting investors.
“Uttar Pradesh is a land-locked state and has been deprived of development. It has remained backward on socio-economic front too,” says former head of economics department, Lucknow University, Yashvir Tyagi.
“Although the state has the distinction of giving maximum number of Prime Ministers, the leaders did not bring major central projects to UP. The state did not develop much during the first few five year plan periods,” he says.
“Some progress was witnessed during the sixth and seventh five year plan periods but the state failed to attract investment in post-liberalisation era beginning in 1991. UP missed the opportunity of development in the early nineties when most of the other states were trying to attract investors following liberalisation,” says Tyagi.
“This was the time when political parties were pursuing caste and communal agenda in UP,” he points out.
Tyagi’s observations are not unfounded. UP remains on 14th place on the list of states in per capita income. The state was on 13th spot in per capita electricity consumption in 2012-2013. Some improvement has been made but more needs to be done on this front.
UP’s literacy rate was 69.72 % against the national average of 74.04%. “The state remains on 14th to 18th spots in terms of most development indicators,” says Tyagi.
An analysis of the erstwhile Planning Commission of India indicates Uttar Pradesh attained some respectable growth in gross state domestic product (GSDP) from 1986-87 to 1990-91. An economically stronger state could have been an engine of growth to take not only the state but the country forward.
However, successive governments in the post-1991 period found it easy to win election on issues other than development.
“Caste and communal issues dominated their poll agenda. The state failed to bring about any development of socio-economic infrastructure, improvement in law and order situation or make efforts to attract private investors,” says Hilal Naqvi of the Congress.
Growing regional disparities have been a major factor behind the state’s backwardness. After Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh on November 8, 2000, the demand for further division of the state has been made time and again.
A resolution for further division of the state was passed by the assembly and sent to the Centre during the BSP regime. Attempts to develop the state’s backward regions have often been caught in the quagmire of politics. This became evident when the UPA government announced a package for the backward Bundelkhand region which the BSP government refused to implement.
In February 2013, when the then union finance minister P Chidambaram announced the allocation of Rs 11,500 crore to the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) for development of backward regions including Bundelkhand, the state government alleged the move was political.
After experimenting with alliances – Janata Dal, SP-BSP, BSP-Congress and BSP-BJP – the people gave a clear mandate to the BSP in 2007. The BSP government, however, failed to formulate an industry or an infrastructure development policy of its own during its five-year tenure. When the Samajwadi Party-led government came to power with a clear majority in 2012, the Uttar Pradesh Infrastructure and Industrial Development Policy was formulated to usher the state into an era of industrial development.
Ambitious targets of achieving a high growth rate were fixed but the state failed to achieve the targets yet again. The new government is set to face the challenges of increased borrowings and rising fiscal deficit.