Our Per Capita Income
For centuries, the per capita income of a tion was regarded as a reliable indicator of its level of development. It was generally believed that the per capita income, indicating the average individual income of citizens gave us a reasobly reliable picture of the overall development of a society. It is only since the early 1980s that per capita income as an indicator of progress or development has been abandoned in favour of several parameters that are included in what is known today as human development indicators. The human development indicators take into account literacy rate, per capita consumption of fertilizer and electricity, infant mortality and materl mortality rates, the number of people who buy newspapers, the status of women, crime rates, etc., in addition to per capita incomes. That this is a far more reliable means of assessing the development and progress of any country, should be borne out by the fact that in the mid-1970s the United Arab Emirates had a per capita income that exceeded the per capita income of the United States of America, but at the same time, the UAE also had an exceptiolly high infant mortality rate of 290 per thousand. Quite obviously, this oil-rich country had more money than it knew what to do with by way of achieving development. Today this country has advanced considerably to be able to reduce its infant mortality rate to acceptable levels.
While we accept that per capita incomes do not necessarily reflect the development of a country or State, there are certain indications that are clearly reflected in the per capita income of any society. In a situation where comparisons are possible and reliable, the per capita income is a fair indicator of people’s attitude to work. As such, it is hardly surprising that in terms of per capita income, Assam ranks no better than 28th among the 32 States and union territories of India. This data was part of the economic survey of 2014-15, presented by the Union Fince Minister as part of his Budget statements. According to the economic survey, Assam’s per capita income in 2013-14 was only Rs 46,354. The States having lower per capita incomes are Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Bihar. While the tiol average is Rs 74,380, Delhi tops the list with a per capita income of Rs 219,979. The States that rank after Delhi are Goa, Sikkim, Chandigarh, Puduccheri, Harya, Maharashtra, Tamildu and Uttarakhand. Gujarat ranks 11th in the list.
Whatever else Assam’s per capita income may fail to reveal, it certainly gives clear indication of the fact that people in the State are disinclined to work and to add to their earnings. This is also revealed by the fact that during the last 10 years, the State failed to utilize Rs 86,000 crore of Central grants. A presentation made by Shantanu Basu, Principal Accountant General of Assam, has outlined the dismal fincial scerio of the State, and pointed out that every year substantial amounts of funds received from the Centre (including Plan allocations) remained unspent. During these 10 years, the Tarun Gogoi government has not been able to spend even 80 per cent of what had been stipulated in the annual budgets. At the same time, there is also evidence of 61 government departments having withdrawn Rs 62,164.54 crore from the exchequer only in the months of March in these 10 years. There are also records of crores of rupees having been withdrawn from treasuries on fake bills and challans. These are clear indications of a society that is keen on appropriating and siphoning of development funds received from the Centre without any inclition to put in the work that is needed to utilize all the funds received properly and purposefully. To that extent at least, the per capita income still remains a clear indicator of the work ethics of a society and its ability to create wealth through work. We have demonstrated very well how strong the disinclition to work is in Assam and how proficient we are at substituting honest work with a great deal of talk as evinced by our fondness for semirs and conferences that have taken us nowhere in all these years.