States In Motion

On November 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a select gathering of Cabinet ministers, foreign diplomats, industry leaders and senior bureaucrats in Delhi, said the Union government was working towards doubling the size of the Indian economy to $5 trillion as soon as possible and placing India among the top 50 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. To achieve this goal, the prime minister said, his government was strengthening the cooperative competitive federalism framework for which it was continuously in discussion with states to streamline regulatory approvals and expedite clearances.

Driven by this push from the top, Indian states are fast emerging as growth-driven units intent on outperforming each other in the race to reach the top in terms of economic development and social welfare. Chief ministers, cutting across party lines, are positioning themselves as CEOs of their states. They have the micro details of their state on their fingertips, they lead from the front and are ready to adopt innovative, even unconventional means to find solutions to problems.

From ease of indulging in corrup­tion once, the emphasis today has shifted towards ease of doing business. According to the Confederation of Ind­ian Industry (CII), the performance of states in the World Bank and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) ease of doing business rankings reflects the remarkable progress made in improving the investment climate in the past four years. The innovative partnership between the central and state governments and the spirit of cooperative and competitive federalism in facilitating investments across the country is yielding notable results, CII president Rakesh Bharti Mittal said recently.

In this context, the india today State of the States study has become more relevant than ever. In its 17th year, it has emerged as a comprehensive and robust barometer of the performance of Indian states. This year, we expanded the attributes across categories (see methodology) and, after consulting experts, assigned different weightage to each category. The states were evaluated for a total score of 2,000 across categories. Even for attributes, we assigned different weightage. The logic was simplegeographical and social factors often give unfair advantage to certain states if the same weightage is attributed to all the categories. For instance, Delhi or an industrial state such as Maharashtra may score low against Himachal Pradesh, Kerala or Assam on environment. So, to neutralise any advantage, categories that reflected a state’s own effort more were given higher weightage.

This is not to say environment is less important than other categories. In fact, states’ performance on environment has become even more critical as India, according to The Yale University’s Environment Performance Index 2018, stands at the bottom of the Global Environment Performance Index (EPI) rankings today. In 2016, the country was ranked 141 out of 180 countries. In 2018, it has slipped to the 177th position. With national capital Delhi gasping for fresh air, Kolkata emerging as one of the most polluted states and Assam named as home to the country’s second most polluted rivers, environmental degradation is not restricted to specific cities, zones or regions anymore. If the political leadership and social awareness don’t work in tandem, development will be meaningless.