Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas isn’t just an attractive poll slogan. It is also a viable model for sustainable development. By aligning the algebra of economics with the arithmetic of politics, regimes can reap economic and political dividends. Despite the overwhelming logic, the idea has not translated in outcomes across most states.
There is, though, one state that has delivered on the idea. Consider the circumstance. It is 55,783 sqkm. It has a population of 68.5 lakh with 123 persons per sqkm. It is located in difficult terrain and faces extreme weather. Yet, it has achieved remarkable success in tackling issues which India has struggled with. Indeed, a recent World Bank report (Maitreyi Bordia Das and others) lauds the state for its success in social inclusion and sustainable development.
The data on outcomes is an eloquent testimony (source: WB/census 2011).
• Between 1993-94 and 2011, it has brought down poverty from 36.8 per cent to 8.1 per cent.
• Eight of 10 rural households in the state possess some land, including those from disadvantaged groups.
• In 2011-12, 63 per cent of rural women reported as being employed.
• Every second male and one in five women in urban areas claimed to have a salaried job in 2011.
• 90 per cent of its men and 76 per cent of women are literate—way above national average.
• • Its low fertility rate—which means lower population growth—is comparable to France and United States.
• Life expectancy is higher than national average—men can expect to live up to 72 and women up to 75 years.
• It has the lowest infant, child and under-five mortality rates among Hindi-speaking states.
• Three of four children in the state are fully vaccinated versus one in two children nationally.
• Despite the terrain, 96.8 per cent of homes are lit by electricity vis-à-vis 67 per cent across India.
• Notwithstanding topography, 89.5 per cent homes access tap water, twice the national average.
• 68.1 per cent of its households have improved sanitation vis-à-vis 46.9 per cent nationally.
Despite low level of urbanisation, predominantly agricultural economy, with 25 per cent scheduled caste population, inaccessible terrain and extreme weather, the state has delivered on per capita income (at `92,300/2013-14, it is ahead of seven Hindi-speaking states) and human development indicators.
The trail blazer is Himachal Pradesh. The state is not without problems, but success outweighs disappointments.
How has Himachal Pradesh done better? Is it because it is a special status state? So are 10 other states which flail in outcomes. Is it homogeneity of language and religion—95 per cent of populace is Hindu. Fact is, Hindus are majority in most states, and in at least five states, the percentage exceeds 85 per cent. Could it be the size? At least 10 states are smaller than Himachal—some richer in resources and some like Goa or Delhi blessed with historic advantages. And they trail in outcomes. Mind you, it isn’t as if the state has had one-party rule for consistency.
There are no formulaic answers to explain the how and why! The pieces of the jigsaw do present some pointers. Early focus on land reforms delivered access to assets. Programmes like dairy farming, floriculture and horticulture supported by HPMC spurred entrepreneurship. Focus on infrastructure—social and physical—boosted growth. This propelled poverty alleviation and per capita earnings. Focus on education was enabled by accountability of district-level officers, parent-teacher associations and initiatives. This helped outcomes in health—of fertility, life expectancy and infant mortality.
Success is also backed by two critical factors—community participation and empowered women. Communities participate through Local Area Development Councils and other channels on decisions regarding raising resources, utilisation and environment. Women have traditionally been part of social movements and have a say in Himachal Pradesh—56 per cent of rural and 65 per cent of urban women weigh in on household decisions. And higher literacy and participation in the work force has had a multiplier effect. Without the engagement of women, programmes of immunisation, sanitation, population control and environment protection could not have translated into tangible outcomes.
The questions persist. Perhaps the Niti Aayog could host the next NDC meeting in Shimla to appreciate the Himachal model and look at ways of adaption and adoption. The answers must be sought—if Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas must migrate from an idea to an outcome.
Shankkar Aiyar is the author of Accidental India: A History of the Nation’s Passage through Crisis and Change