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From BIMARU to JHOPRI, The Intriguing Tale of Sick States in India

Economist Ashish Bose coined the term BIMARU in 1980’s, taking in the initials of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. All these states were poor performers and laggards on development and the name became famous as it sounds similar to word ‘Bimari’ which means ‘being sick!’ Is it still relevant? Have these states really out of ‘being sick’ or success have been only partial? Our analysis turns out very surprising and unexpected results.

Our whole analysis is only limited to 20 states which contributes maximum to our population and have 1 crore or more population as per 2011 census. The BIMARU states, together contribute 36.8% to total Indian population as per 2011 census.

Health/ Social Development Parameter (Infant Mortality)

  • All the BIMARU states have an infant mortality rate higher than the national average (34). MP (47 per thousand), has the highest rate among the top 20 populous state (have at least a crore of people as per 2011 census). Bihar, at 38, is the best performer but that’s way above the best of the states, Kerala, which has a very low rate at 10%.
  • The decadal improvement rate (span of 10 years) for the BIMARU states are lower than the average improvement rate seen by the country (38.2%) over the decade. UP at 37.7% has the closest. This is all the more bad considering that these states were at higher absolute figures 10 years back and hence they had more potential to clock higher improvement %age.


Let’s start with food grain yield. Yield estimates is one of the most important component of production statistics in agriculture.

  • Here the picture is much better. Bihar (2208 KG/ Ha) and UP (2198) are above national average of 2042 but still pales compared to the best performers e.g. Punjab (4269), Haryana (3648)
  • MP and Rajasthan have yield rates lower than national average but between the two Rajasthan is worst at 1390 but the topographical challenge for Rajasthan has to be kept in mind
  • The more important aspect is the phenomenal decadal growth in yield clocked by Bihar (68%) and MP (72%), though UP has been abysmally bad with only 7% growth during same period

A very important factor for good performance in agriculture is irrigation coverage (gross irrigated area/ gross sown area) and how that is placed against the cropping intensity. A high irrigation coverage is very important and especially for those states which have higher cropping intensity (number of crops raised from the same field during one agriculture year and is generally expressed as gross sown area/net sown area %)

  • Here UP does well considering that it sports both a high irrigation coverage (80%) and high cropping intensity (158%). Bihar is a little behind with irrigation coverage of 69% and cropping intensity of 145
  • Rajasthan and MP are definitely worrying as their irrigation coverage (43%, 42%) is less than 50% while they have a good cropping intensity of (155%, 138%). This correlates well with our earlier finding on yield where both MP & Rajasthan performed bad

The last point we want to check is the improvement in irrigation coverage in last decade or so.

  • MP (11%) and Bihar (8%) have performed much better compared to national average of 4%. UP and Rajasthan with 5% have scope to improve as their irrigation coverage density is low.

Now we will come to indicators of economic wellbeing of these states.

Net State GDP
Comparison for 17 states for which data was available as per 2011-12 base

  • Unsurprisingly, the BIMARU states makes their presence felt at the bottom of pyramid, with Bihar & UP taking the 1st & 2nd rank respectively. MP takes the 4th rank with Rajasthan doing slightly better at 7th position from bottom (or 11th from top).
  • The growth figures (FY1617 vs. FY1112) isn’t that great except MP providing the only silver line at 90%


Gross capital formation and Invested Capital
Obviously the more industrialized states perform better in both these indicators. Bihar is the worst among the BIMARU states and is placed at the near bottom. The rest are much better placed but still significant catch up to do when compared to the top 3 (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu).

Financial Management
Rajasthan & UP are the worst in terms of gross fiscal deficit though UP does better in revenue collection, being one of the very few with better financial management. Surplus revenue means that UP net income generated (revenue less expenditure for the state) was higher than the projected budgetary net income.
Fiscal deficit signifies that the state’s expenditure exceeds the revenue it generates.
Bihar & MP seems to be slightly better off with lower fiscal deficit and low/ nil revenue deficit. Such measures of financial performance may not give a good picture when seen in silo. The reason is that the higher deficit may either result from lower revenue generation or higher expenditure. A higher expenditure need not be so bad for a growing state which is investing heavily (e.g. in infrastructure)

Energy/ Infrastructure
For this, we considered only the power availability as electrification is a major booster for individual prosperity as well as a state’s agricultural & industrial. Except Rajasthan, all the other 3 lags below the national average on per capita power availability. Bihar does well on the growth but with very low base, it is not that surprising.

Social Expenditure

Observe that here UP, MP & Bihar are at rock bottom with Rajasthan doing much better. That signifies that UP, MP & Bihar are spending less on social development. That correlates directly to health, literacy and holistic improvement of common people lives.

Now some contrasting and concerning trivia that gets revealed

  1. Maharashtra pretty much on the top in Net State GDP, low on infant mortality but lowest in Food grain yield with significant drop in yield over last decade. It stands near the bottom on irrigation coverage (18%) and registered a 1% drop in irrigation coverage over the last decade. How would Maharashtra look without Mumbai? Does this ring a bell on news of farmer suicide?
  2. Uttarakhand stands highest in terms of per person social expenditure in 2015-16 (INR 15,566) but stands high on infant mortality rate (38 per thousand), above national average of 34 and best in class performance of Kerala at 10.


The million dollar questions is whether the original BIMARU states really continues to be in that state or have they progressed enough to come out of it! We did a small review to arrive at a report card based on the above parameters and the data. We did include a few additional states to see whether there are a few who can claim a stake in BIMARU by virtue of their bad performance.

We did a RAG review where R=Red color represents bad performance (aka lower than national average e.g.), A= Amber color represents medium performance (aka around the national average e.g.), G= Green represents high performers (aka top of the curve e.g.). Don’t get surprised by seeing Maharashtra in the list, we wanted to benchmark the RAG status of others as well.

The good news is that Madhya Pradesh seems to have performed enough to extricate itself of the BIMARU tag while the bad news is that Odisha and Jharkhand manages to get their names enlisted in BIMARU category

NA: Not Available

So the new set of sick states has Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand. Do you have a good acronym for it? We could only think of ‘JHOPRI’ states, Jharkhand, Odisha, UP, Rajasthan , Bihar


RBI Handbook of Statistics on Indian States: 2018

GoI data: data.gov.in

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