KOLKATA(INN): Congress leader Mr. Rahul Gandhi has criticised the Left Front government for lack of development in West Bengal during his election campaign in the State. He has said that the situation in Puruliya is even worse than Kalahandi. The prince of Congress himself is an M.P. from Amethi in Sultanpur district in Uttar Pradesh. The Amethi and the Raebareli constituencies by virtue of traditionally being the constituencies of Gandhi family have got an undue favour from the central Government. Yet, the data says that these constituencies are closer to Kalahandi vis-a-vis underdevelopment instead of Puruliya, as Rahul Gandhi would have us believe. In certain aspects, they are even worse than Kalahandi.
If we look at the index of economic and social development, Puruliya is way ahead of Raebareli and Amethi. These indices are constructed by national sample survey, ‘Bharat Nirman’ project, department of rural development etc. Indices regarding health, education, infrastructure are taken from household and facility survey-3 of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Even from the constituency level data given in the website of Indicus Analytics, it is clear that Mr. Rahul Gandhi, or his team of political advisors, has not done minimum ‘homework’ before speaking in public.
If we consider the proportion of population below poverty line, during 2008 in Puruliya constituency it was 20% population whereas that was 44% in Amethi,58% in Raebareli and 59% in Kalahandi. In puruliya, the proportion of the BPL population is reduced by 4% during last 4 years, whereas it has gone up in Kalahandi and Raebareli. The annual average household income has been Rs. 83 thousand in Puruliya as compared to Rs.51 thousand in Amethi, 47 thousand in Raebareli and 49 thousand in Kalahandi. Average annual Per capita consumption expenditure has been Rs. 13 thousand in Puruliya as compared to Rs. 6.2 thousand and Rs. 7.8 thousand in Amethi and Raebareli respectively which are lower than even Kalahandi (Rs. 10.7 thousand).
A district-wise study by Choudhary and Gupta (EPW, 2009) which is based on NSSO consumption survey of 2004-5 tells us that average per month per capita consumption expenditure in rural areas has been Rs. 304 in Kalahandi and Rs. 461 in Puruliya district, but for Raebareli district this was only Rs. 385. In urban areas per month per head expenditures have been Rs. 846, Rs.741 and Rs. 699 in Puruliya, Kalahandi and Raebareli respectively. According to this study the percentage of poor population in rural areas has been 70.5% in Kalahandi, 54.4% in Raebareli and 31.2% in Puruliya. The percentage of poor population in urban areas has been 60.3% in Kalahandi, 40.5% in Raebareli and 36.9% in Puruliya district. Therefore, it is clear that the poverty situation is much worse in Raebareli district than Puruliya and the former is comperatively closer to Kalahandi and not the later. However, indicators in Sultanpur district are much better, where part of the Amethi constituency is located.
According to the constituency-wise indicus data, the proportion of urban population is highest in Puruliya among Kalahandi, Amethi, Raebareli and Puruliya. The proportion of households having electricity is also heighest in Puruliya among these four constituencies during 2008. In Amethi, the work participation rate is only 34% and that in Raebareli only 36% as compared to 47% in Kalahandi and 45% in Puruliya. Work participation rate among women in Amethi is only 24% and that in Raebareli is only 26% as compared to 40% and 37% in Kalahandi and Puruliya respectively. Primary sector employment (i.e. agriculture and allied) is lowest in Puruliya during 2008 among these four constituencies. The infant mortality rate is 46 per thousand live births in Puruliya, whereas that is 83 in Amethi, 79 in Raebareli and 94 in Kalahandi. Under 5 years mortality rate is 89 per thousand in Puruliya as compared to 160 in Amethi, 156 in Raebareli and 178 in Kalahandi. Vis-a-vis immunization, Raebareli-Amethi are in medieval age - 84% children in Puruliya are fully immunized whereas only 16% children in Amethi and Raebareli are fully immunized. This percentage have come down during 2008 than 2004 for Amethi and Raebareli and it is even much lower than the Kalahandi (41%) constituency.
The district-wise DLHS-3 data for 2007-08 shows that 27.5% households have electricity connection in Puruliya as compared to 18.3% in Kalahandi and 23.1% in Raebareli. 17.1% people live in pucca hoses in Puruliya as compared to only 1.9% in Kalahandi and 16.7% in Raebareli district. 11.3% people have access to safe piped drinking water in Puruliya district as compared to only 3% people in Kalahandi, 2.7% in Sultanpur and 9.1% in Raebareli district. 40% of total deliveries takes place as institutional delivery in Puruliya district, whereas only 27.3% in Kalahandi, only 24.3% in Raebareli and 36.6% are institutional deliveries in Kalahandi, Raebareli and Sultanpur districts respectively. In Puruliya district 84.3% children are fully immunized, whereas only 43.2% in Kalahandi, 33.1% in Raebareli and 45% children in Sultanpur district are fully immunized. Despite the presence of many remote places and substantial proportion of tribal population in Puruliya, Puruliya is far ahead of Amethi-Raebareli in respect of health service delivery.