Amid slugfest over Yogi Adityanath’s ‘Kerala’ remark, data offers reality check

Updated on Feb 11, 2022 05:19 AM IST

Has the work done by the Yogi Adityanath government catapulted UP into a better state than Kerala, West Bengal, and the UT of J&K? Is Kerala the best state in human development outcomes? HT analyses 21 indicators from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2019-21.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s claim in a video message prompted a sharp response from Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan (AP)
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s claim in a video message prompted a sharp response from Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan (AP)
ByAbhishek Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

In a six-minute long video message posted on Twitter in the early hours of February 10, the day of the first phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh, chief minister Yogi Adityanath listed the work done by his government, with a focus on welfare schemes, law and order, and the safety and self-respect of women. He ended the message by saying, “If you falter, then the hard work of five years will be undone. This time, it won’t take long for Uttar Pradesh to turn into Kashmir, Bengal, and Kerala.”

This prompted a tweet in both English and Hindi by Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. “If UP turns into Kerala as @myogiadityanath fears, it will enjoy the best education, health services, social welfare, living standards and have a harmonious society in which people won’t be murdered in the name of religion and caste. That’s what the people of UP would want,” Vijayan tweeted.

Has the work done by the Yogi Adityanath government catapulted Uttar Pradesh into a better state than Kerala, West Bengal, and the UT of Jammu and Kashmir? Is Kerala the best state in human development outcomes as the state’s chief minister suggests? As is often the case, the truth likely lies somewhere in between, an HT analysis of 21 indicators from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2019-21 suggests.

The previous round of the NFHS was conducted in 2015-16, not long before Yogi Adityanath’s term began in 2017. The 21 indicators analysed by HT (see table) show that Uttar Pradesh has improved on all of them since then. To be sure, so have Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh. In fact, nine states have improved on at least 20 of these indicators and 29 have improved on at least 15.

However, Uttar Pradesh is better than all the three states and UTs listed by Yogi Adityanath on only two counts: the share of women of age 18-29 years who reported having experienced sexual violence by age 18 and the population living in households with an improved drinking-water source. These are also the only indicators on which Uttar Pradesh ranks better than Kerala. To be sure, Uttar Pradesh does rank better than West Bengal on 11 of these 21 indicators.

Although Uttar Pradesh has improved on the indicator regarding sexual violence during the current government’s term, the share of women affected by such violence in the state was low even earlier. The state remains at roughly the same rank -- 8th in 2019-21 compared to 7th in 2015-16 – suggesting other states have also improved by a similar degree. Moreover, the state’s good performance on this indicator is at odds with its poor rank in spousal violence, where it ranks 31st among 36 states and UTs.

Calling it “unprecedented” work, the Uttar Pradesh chief minister specifically pointed to his and the central government’s schemes on electricity, sanitation, cooking fuel, and health insurance. Unfortunately, NFHS data does not support the claim of widespread coverage of these facilities in Uttar Pradesh. The state’s rank on these indicators is among the worst.

The Kerala chief minister’s claim of Kerala being the best performer on development outcomes is also not entirely true. The state is the best ranked on only the share of women who have had 10 or more years of schooling, share of mothers who consumed iron folic acid 180 days or more when pregnant, and in share of births that were institutional. However, Kerala is indeed among the better ranked states on most indicators.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Abhishek Jha is a data journalist. He analyses public data for finding news, with a focus on the environment, Indian politics and economy, and Covid-19.

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