By K R Sudhaman
There is always a debate in India whether South is doing better than North. In the early years after independence North was doing better and South which always had better administration, was lagging behind economically. One of the reasons for South todo better in subsequent years was the politicians in south worked much more for the common good of the society than north Indian politicians. Politicians everywhere do give more emphasis on self-promotion and making money for themselves and parties but the difference in south is that they do contribute much more to improving the society.
Two things that stand out in Southern states are emphasis on education and health right from independence, which helped in skilling people better and preparing them to be aspirational, which meant eager to strive for self-improvement. The opening up of the economy gave them more opportunities. Because of better educational system, South was able to cash-in better than North in leap-frogging. West Bengal is a very good example of how it has worked hard through politics to not only lose the advantage it had but become worse in economic development year after year. The state which was among the top in economic development and industrialisaion besides having good educational infrastructure, has now slipped in social and economic indices.
The health and social parameters clearly speak for itself to highlight the widening gap between north and south. The national family health survey 2019-21 clearly points out that south has done much better as compared to rest of India.
Statistics show that India’s crude birth rate has been falling continuously. The national average had dropped to 17.1 per 1000 in 2019-21 from 23.1 in 2005-06. The reason being that southern states have contributed a lot in this respect. The birth rate was less than 15 in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and 15.3 in Telangana. In northern states particularly Bihar, Meghalaya and Utter Pradesh it ranged between 20.5 to 25.9.
In child mortality, the national average was 41.9 per cent. Uttar Pradesh had 59.8 per cent followed by Bihar, 56.4 per cent and Chhattisgarh, 50.4 per cent. But in case of south it was much less. Kerala, it is as low as 5,2 per cent and below 30 per cent in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Telangana. Doctor’s assistance at the time of delivery by women, is also highest in south. The average is 84 per cent. It was less than 50 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Nagaland.
East Asian economies did well with the advent of globalisation mainly because of the fact that the state had prepared its population better by concentrating more on education and health in post war period. This enabled them to take-off as the World economy opened up because the population was better skilled through better education. Also, poverty was drastically reduced through better health and social infrastructure.
Likewise, when the Indian economy was opened up in 1991, the south benefitted more in economic development as it had better education and health indices. South may not have produced an Ambani or Adani, but 1991 reforms enabled south to produce a lot of new generation entrepreneurs like Narayanamurthy, GMR, GVK, TVS and so on. There were several start-ups and many excelled in new wave industries like IT. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana dominate in IT. This had also ensured there is no crony capitalism. One of the reasons for poor economic status of Pakistan is because the entire wealth is concentrated in the hands of top one per cent of the population. Also, the education and health status of the majority of the population is pathetic. There is a lesson here.
There is certainly a lesson to the north India to learn from South. Investment in education and health may not yield immediate economic benefit but over a couple of decades, this will help in leapfrogging in economic development. When universal mid day meal scheme was introduced in the early 1980s in Tamil Nadu by then Chief Minister M G Ramachandran, there was a widespread criticism all over the country saying it will ruin the state’s economy. But he was determined to promote it on a sustained basis and this paid off.
A couple of decades later virtually all children go to school in Tamil Nadu and drop out is drastically reduced and children have become healthy and well-nourished. This is a major contributing factor today to push economic development in the state. Today the entire country has adopted the noon-meal scheme, though its implementation is still tardy in some of the northern states. Even World bodies have acknowledged the benefit of noon meal scheme of Tamil Nadu, which experimented on a pilot basis first in the 1950s when Kamaraj was the Chief Minister.
The Delhi model of government school education and Mohalla clinic is worth emulating by other states in the north. Such models and experiments needed to become nation-wide to gear the economy to become developed. Raising issues like language in education is a futile exercise and a diversionary tactics. China found itself to be in a disadvantageous position in the IT sector because of not knowing English by Chinese population. In the 1990s the Chinese authorities decided to make English a compulsory language right from class one in schools. Today all children passing out from schools know English in China. In case of India, the union government wants to lose an advantage the country has. English comes naturally to Indian population and hence Indian engineers, doctors and IT professionals are sought after world over.
But the union government wants go in reverse gear by taking such regressive steps, which do no good to the youth of the country but only some cheap political mileage at the cost of the economic well-being of the people. India, particularly north Indian politicians, should look ahead than going backwards. (IPA Service)