Development disparity in Karnataka

The mean monthly per-capita consumer expenditure (MPCE)  in the southern districts of Karnataka is significantly higher than its northern counterpart, signifying substantial geographic imbalance in the distribution of poverty.

Karnataka is one of the progressive states in the country; in 2016-17, the state’s share in India GDP was 7.5%. During 2012-13 to 2016-17, the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) surged at an average annual growth of 7.64%, which is above the national average of 6.84%. In 2017-18, the GSDP jumped by 8.5%. The state’s economic performance is consistently above the national average.

However, the distributional effects of this ‘remarkable growth’ is highly restricted and concentrated, resulting in intra-regional inequality. It was pointed out 15 years ago by a high-powered committee chaired by the late Prof D M Nanjundappa. The concern of the committee was the relative backwardness of the districts of North Karnataka in general and Hyderabad-Karnataka in particular. The state has made efforts and a significant amount of spending has been devoted to the region following the recommendations of the high-powered committee.

In a paper titled “Spatial distribution of Poverty in Karnataka: Evidence from NSSO data (to be published later this month), the distribution of poverty is estimated by using the 61st (2004-05) and 68th rounds (2011-12) of NSSO data and compared across rounds and regions to gauge the progress made and the levels of deprivation in the state. The poverty levels in the state declined from 33.9% in 2004-05 to 21.18% in 2011-12. The average family size also declined from 5.7 to 5.4 members. The poverty estimates at the regional level is pertinent for identification of poverty-concentrated regions that demand policy attention.

In 2004-05, out of 12 districts in North Karnataka, except Dharwad, all the districts possessed poverty levels higher than the state average. Meanwhile, in 2011-12, though the absolute poverty declined in all the districts, relatively only two districts (Dharwad and Uttara Kannada) are below the state average. In relation to this, in 2004-05, out of 15 districts in South Karnataka, only two districts (Chitradurga and Shivamogga) are above the state average, and it remained almost the same in 2011-12 as well.

The mean monthly per-capita consumer expenditure (MPCE) increased manifold in all the districts. However, the MPCE in the southern districts is significantly higher than its northern counterpart, signifying substantial geographic imbalance in the distribution of poverty.

However, Kalaburagi division, which constitutes Hyderabad-Karnataka region, has the highest incidence and concentration of poverty in the state. In 2004-05, 56.93% of rural and 58.64% of urban population were poor. These declined to 37.09% and 41.5% in 2011-12. Relatively, though, there is a considerable decline in the levels of poverty but in absolute terms, Kalaburagi division possessed the highest number of poor in 2011-12, followed by Belagavi (rural 29.52%, urban 28.12%), Bengaluru (rural 18.63%, urban 5.48%) and Mysore (rural 12.61%, urban 8.90%) divisions.

Concerning social groups in the state, in 2004-05, 53.84% of the SC population, 51.17% of the ST population, 34.71% of OBCs and 20.12% of other households were poor. In 2011-12, poverty levels declined to 33.19%, 31.49%, 18.81% and 15.63%, respectively. In 2011-12, there was considerable decline in the incidence of poverty across all the social groups. Relatively, the decline in poverty is high among SC and ST households, but still these marginalised sections possess high levels of poverty in the state; over 65% of poverty is concentrated in these two communities, compared to one-third in other households.

The poverty levels for two major religions indicate that Muslims have a high percentage of poor in rural Kalaburagi and Belagavi divisions and except Bengaluru division, the poverty levels among Muslims is concentrated in the urban sector. However, poverty levels among Hindus is concentrated in both rural and urban sector in Kalaburagi and Belagavi Divisions, but it is concentrated in the rural sector in Mysuru and Bengaluru divisions.

The poverty levels in the state exist in wide variation, depending on the rural-urban, region, caste and religion factors. Region-wise the problem of poverty is more rampant, deeper and severe in Kalaburagi division, which constitutes Hyderabad-Karnataka region. The general concern of the high-powered committee on development disparity still exists and the state should act explicitly to address the intra-regional inequality, which will otherwise augment the development divide within the state.

The spending on public assets such as connectivity, communication and irrigation, coupled with creating capabilities at the micro-level through higher per-capita spending on education, health and constructive income generation programmes, will restrict the advance and concentration of poverty. Region-specific policies through enhanced fiscal spending on creation of a capabilities infrastructure will assist in the long run in structural reduction of poverty and thereby boost balanced development in the state.

(The writers are Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Vijayanagara Sri Krishnadevaraya University, Ballari, and Research Fellow, Institute for Economics and Peace, Australia, respectively)

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Development disparity in Karnataka

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