Delhi Elections: A Disconnect Between Economic And Social Indicators

27/01/2015 8:21 AM IST | Updated 27/06/2016 9:54 PM IST
Entrance to the Red Fort, Delhi, India

As Delhi goes to the polls for the second time in a little over a year, a great deal of attention is quite naturally focused on statements and promises made by the main political parties in the fray.

However, the period before elections is also a good time to look at where the state stands in terms of development--something that all parties promise to deliver if voted to power. Swaniti Initiative carried out such an analysis based on numbers collated from government sources on its original data platform, Jigyasa. In Delhi's case, it is hardly surprising that Delhi has by far the best economic indicators among all states/UTs in the country. As the table below shows, Delhi's per capita income is more than three times the national average, while its urban monthly per-capita expenditure (Rs 3160) is also 28% greater than India's urban average (Rs 2477).


Source: Jigyasa, NCRB, Census 2011, RBI Statistical Handbook, Planning Commission

However, as the above table shows, Delhi's real problem lies in the social sectors, which are in stark contrast with the general economic prosperity in the state. In indicators such as adult and child sex ratio, Delhi is far below national average. The literacy rate in urban areas of Delhi is a mere 6.4 percentage points greater than the national urban average, and much lower than many other Indian states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Mizoram.

Even in the most basic health indicator like Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Delhi is the worst among the four metros. According to a recent report, Delhi's IMR of 30 between 2010 and 2012 was much higher that of Chennai (15), Kolkata (20) and Mumbai (20). Though the latest figures show a drop in IMR to 25, it still remains higher than the metros. The rapid and largely unplanned migration into Delhi in the past few years may account for Delhi's uninspiring social sector statistics. Between 2001 and 2011, Delhi saw a 21% increase in its population, but with almost no increase in housing or other urban services for a large majority of migrant population. According to some estimates, more than half of Delhi's population lives in slums, with poor access to urban amenities and other social services like health and education.

The other depressing set of social statistics in Delhi pertain to crimes. As the table above shows, the rate of crime and rape in Delhi is more than twice the national average. While there has been considerable media attention on the issue of women's security in Delhi, the statistics seem to suggest that things may only be getting worse for the city-state. In 2013, the year following the Nirbhaya rape incident, there was a 55% increase in cognizable crimes in the city. While some of this may have been because of greater reporting, there is nothing to suggest that the city is any safer than it was earlier.

The new government in Delhi will therefore have its task cut out. In the case of law and order, there's little that the state government can do as long as Delhi is not granted full statehood. But on other issues such as health, education and livelihood, the state will need to improve existing services to provide access to a much wider population. For this purpose, the state government might need to expand schemes pertaining to education and health, both in terms of outlays and outcomes, particularly since buoyant economic growth has meant that the fiscal situation of the state government remains robust.

However, addressing the issue of housing will remain the key. Not only would it provide far better living conditions for many, it would also make it easier for them to avail of various other services such as health, education and public distribution of foodgrains. Housing units could also double up as collateral against which loans could be advanced for gainful self-employment opportunities in urban areas.

Delhi is indeed India's richest state in statistical terms, but as social indicators show, there is still some way to go before Delhiites achieve all-round prosperity.

The author is a research lead at Swaniti Initiative , a non-profit that delivers development solutions to elected officials across India. They work on providing knowledge insight and/or implementation support. Follow them on twitter @swaniti.

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