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Riches: West Bengal's decline worst

Sunil Jain | July 16, 2004

No state in the country, not even Uttar Pradesh or any other of the backward states, have seen the kind of decline that West Bengal has in the last decade.

According to the latest household income survey by the NCAER, which was conducted by a team headed by R K  Shukla, the state's all-India ranking has fallen by three to five notches in most categories of rich.

While it has fallen from seven in 1995-96 to eight in 2001-02 in the case of  crorepatis or those households with an annual income of over Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million), it has fallen from six to nine in the case of those households in the Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore (Rs 5-10 million) bracket, from five to 10 in the Rs 20 lakh to Rs 50 lakh (Rs 2-5 million) bracket, and from four to 10 in the Rs 10- 20 lakh (Rs 1-2 million) income bracket.

Indeed, in the case of the deprived classes, or those whose annual household income is under Rs 90,000, the state has actually seen an increase, and so its all-India rank has gone up a notch, from five in 1995-96 to four in 2001-02.

The report is based on an all-India sample of 300,000 households and is being conducted annually since 1985-86.

Interestingly, while West Bengal still figures quite high in the list of rich states, this is largely due to its dense population. When you look at the density of the rich (the number of rich people in Bengal per million population), the state's performance is quite poor.

For crorepatis, the state's density is just 39. To put this in perspective, Delhi has 1,904 crorepati households per million population, Maharashtra has 391 and Punjab 293.

In the case of the Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore income bracket, where West Bengal is number nine on the all-India list, it falls to 14th position the moment you look at densities. The state has 94 households per million in this income range, which is lower than even Himachal Pradesh which has 100.

And while it is true that a very large share of any state's wealth is to be found in the capital (like Mumbai in the case of Maharashtra), the situation is far worse for West Bengal. Take away Kolkata from the state, and its position in the rich rankings falls dramatically. On an average, the number of rich households in the state falls 80 per cent.

In the case of the crorepatis, the state's rankings fall five notches, by four in the case of the Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore bracket and the Rs 20-50 lakh bracket, and by three in the case of the Rs 10-20 lakh bracket.

While being home to so many rich, Kolkata, ironically, is also the country's fastest growing city as far as those earning under Rs 90,000 a year are concerned, making it a bundle of contradictions.

  • Part 4: 53,000 crorepatis by next year

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