In the popular and media imagination, fed by economists and columnists, Gujarat and Bihar
have both recorded an extraordinary economic performance in the past decade.
But a careful analysis shows that Gujarat, always one of the richest states, has done no better than
before. In neither industry nor agriculture has its position radically changed.
The only dramatic difference has been the emergence of import-dependent
and export-oriented petroleum refi ning, which has few linkages with the state economy. As in the
past decades, Gujarat’s social development continues to lag behind its economic development.
Likewise, Bihar’s position at the bottom of the league has not changed dramatically. Change
seems to take place
R Nagaraj, Shruti Pandey examined the economic performance of Gujarat and Bihar (relative to the national average) for the
period 1993-94 to 2011-12. tHey found that there has been no change in their national ranking. Gujarat has remained roughly the ninth richest state. Its manufacturing sector is the second largest
(after Maharashtra), though its share in national manufacturing value added has steadily gone up in the last two decades.
However, the incremental output has come mainly from export-oriented petroleum reﬁ ning, accounting now for
about a quarter of gross value added in registered manufacturing. This implies that the contribution of the other industries to Gujarat’s industrial output has declined. Its position in social development is only marginally better than the
national average, ranking seventh in PQLI among the major states in 2001 and 2011. Contrary to popular and political
perceptions, in none of the indicators has there been a measurable improvement in Gujarat in the last decade relative to the national average.
Bihar, at the other end of the spectrum, remains the poorest state in terms of per capita income. Faster growth
during the last decade has made little difference to its ranking. Its rank in
social development, marginally lower than the national average, is somewhere in the bottom.
Contrary to popular and political discourse then, there is not much to
write home about the economic performance of the two states during the last
decade. The one difference is perhaps the rising contribution of the importdependent and export-oriented petroleum
reﬁ neries on Gujarat’s coast to that state’s manufacturing.
What then could account for the seeming “changelessness” of the relative
position of these states? For perceptive observers of India’s development in a
regional or spatial context, these ﬁ ndings may be neither new nor surprising. They
perhaps reinforce the view of the relative stability of the regional economies –
pointing to deeper social and political factors at work, impervious to electoral
competition and personal charisma of the leaders at the helm.
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