Amartya Sen: Right And Wrong On Kerala

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“…I was told that Kerala’s policies were unaffordable because it was one of the poorest states in India. It was not unaffordable, and Kerala has had the highest life expectancy in India for many decades now (in fact, higher than the average of China).

 

“And now that the latest data show that this erstwhile poor state, Kerala, has absolutely the highest per capita income in India, can there be a little vindication there?”

 

That was Nobel laureate Amartya Sen in The Indian Express discussing elitism in higher education in India.

 

Here’s a fact check on what Sen said:

 

Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare 2011

 

Kerala is the state with the longest average life expectancy in the country at 74 years followed by Punjab with 69.4 in 2011, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

 

Life expectancy across India was 67.5 in 2011, according to the ministry.

 

When we looked at the second claim, we found that Kerala did not have the ‘absolutely the highest per capita income in India’.

 

Source: Economic Survey and Kerala ecostat division

 

The chart above shows annual per capita income (at current prices) based on data available from Economic Survey, 2014-15.

 

Delhi has the highest per capita income (at current prices) in the country at Rs 219,979 for 2013-14.

 

Kerala has the fourth highest per capita income in the country.

 

The state has done well when it comes to health and education.

 

It is one of the states with a human development index score of 0.7 (0 being the least and 1 being best), equivalent to Brazil.

 

Kerala has 94% literacy and the lowest infant mortality rate; 12 children dying per 1,000 live births as against the national average of 40 deaths per 1,000 live births.

 

Image Credit: Flickr/UNDP