Bangladesh performs better than many Indian states: The Hindu

NEW DELHI, Sept 7, 2012 (BSS)

Considering, remarkable development specially on social dimensions compared to some of “richer” states of India, Bangladesh is very much in the news these days in India, reports Indian well circulated newspaper The Hindu today.

Bangladesh is very much in the news these days in our country, but for the wrong reasons. In the unfortunate
Bangladesh-bashing that seems to have become somewhat of a pastime, we seem to have failed to notice the striking developmental success that it has had in the last few decades, compared with some high-profile Indian States, it said.

According to the report, Bangladesh is considerably “poorer” than India going by GDP alone – its GDP per capita (adjusted for purchasing power parity) in 2010 was only $1,585, roughly half of India’s ($3,419) and less than a third of Gujarat’s ($5,098) and Haryana’s ($5,434). But how is Bangladesh doing on social
dimensions compared to some of our “richer” States?

Let us start with the status of children. In almost every standard indicator of child development, Bangladesh is doing better than some of the richer Indian States, the report said.

The infant mortality rate and the under-five mortality rate in Bangladesh is better than 13 large Indian States, including much richer Indian States like Gujarat, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

The proportion of children that are underweight is also lower in Bangladesh compared to six Indian States, including richer Gujarat where the Chief Minister has now come up with a truly bizarre explanation for the prevalence of malnutrition there.

Interestingly, Bangladesh’s Total Fertility Rate, which measures the children born per woman, is 2.2 (which is nearly the “replacement rate”) and lower than 10 large Indian States, including Gujarat (2.5) and Haryana (2.3). Even when it comes to access to improved sanitation, Bangladesh again does better than every large Indian State other than Kerala, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal.

Clearly, Bangladesh demonstrated that it is possible to have superior social outcomes at lower per capita incomes and lower rates of economic growth. There is more to social development than just GDP.

The public health expenditure as a proportion of the GDP in Bangladesh has been much higher than in India until a few years ago, the report mentioned.

One of the major reasons for the success of Bangladesh has been social mobilisation at the local level, such as through women’s self-help groups (SHG), which has led to increased public awareness and greater accountability in service delivery.

A lot of this has been facilitated by robust and effective development NGOs that have achieved scale – in fact, Bangladesh is perhaps the best case study of NGO success anywhere in the world.

Nevertheless, there are lessons for India – effective grassroot institutions matter for service delivery. In the Indian
context, financially and administratively empowering the Panchayati Raj institutions, with their 2,50,000 gram panchayats, and 30 lakh elected representatives (of which 12 lakh are women) is critical.

Currently, 80 per cent of all credit to SHGs goes to the four southern States of India — Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala — and this needs to be broad-based nationally. In addition, we need to enhance rural connectivity — the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY), a major success in connecting habitations above 500 population with pucca roads, needs to be scaled up to connect smaller habitations.

But what Bangladesh’s experience shows is that we don’t have to wait for that high economic growth to trigger social transformations. Robust grassroot institutions can achieve much that money can’t buy.