Public Affairs Centre, an NGO dedicated to improving the quality of governce in India, recently carried out an assessment of the States of India. In doing so, it ranked the States of the Union in two lists—one for the larger States and another for the smaller ones. The classification has been done on the basis of population, with two crore as the dividing line. In each list, an aggregation of 10 themes has been has been used as the determints for the assessment. They are: essential infrastructure, support to human development, social protection, the treatment of women and children, crime and law and order, delivery of justice, environment, transparency and accountability, fiscal magement and economic freedom. These 10 parameters served to reveal a picture of the comparative levels and quality of governce in the States of India. These 10 broad themes encompassed 25 focus subjects and 68 specific indicators. All the data are secondary data and available to the public.
What is indeed gratifying is that among the small States, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Sikkim are at the top. It is hardly surprising that in essential infrastructure Delhi should be at the top. With the amount of money invested in developing the basic infrastructure of the tiol capital, it would be at the top not only of the smaller States, but of all the States of the Union. What is significant, however, is that in the category of social protection, it is Mizoram that is at the top. This is a category that involves attitudes more than just investment of funds. Delhi, even with its huge investment on essential infrastructure development, has a poor showing in respect of social protection. It is a city with a high record of crimes like rape and rape followed by murder. The instance of rape on a moving bus after which the rape victim was killed is still fresh in the minds of the people. There have been quite a few other rapes in moving vehicles, in addition to the many more acts of rape in the tiol capital. There have also been many cases of robbery followed murder of senior citizens in their homes. It is thus clear that social protection is not achieved through generous dollops of investment on infrastructure, but rather by the ability to change mental attitudes relating to the safety and protection of others. It is unlikely that a violence-prone city like Delhi, where self-centred attitudes are being increasingly promoted as desirable attributes of pragmatism, will ever match up to the culture of States like Mizoram where there is greater respect for the rights and aspirations of others as well as for the other cherished values of a civilized society. Assam, which is ranked 14th among the 17 bigger States of the country, too has a lot to learn from a State that was once part of greater Assam. It is perhaps pertinent to ask how a State, ranked 14th among just 17 States, was hailed by two periodicals recently for being a State with the highest pace of development and (wonder of wonders!) for the highest pace of development in power generation. It is time we moved out of the realm of myths to the real world out there that is not so remarkable in terms of achievements, but can be if we can shun the propaganda that we are asked to accept as real.