This paper examines regional disparity in India from the perspective of the smallest geographical unit for which a consisent set of data is available: the district. By doing so, we are able to focus on pockets of deprivation rather than viewing deprivation as a phenomenon affecting a state or a region in its entirety: ‘forward’ states have deprived districts while ‘backward’ states have districts that are not deprived. Consistent with the United Nations’ Human Development Index, the paper examines deprivation from a broader perspective than that of simply income. More specifi cally, it looks at six indicators of district-level deprivation: the poverty rate; the food scarcity rate; the (gender-sensitive) literacy rate; the infant mortality rate; the immunisation rate; and the sex ratio for 0–6 year olds. The central conclusion that emerges from this study is that different districts were ‘most backward’ on different metrics. Districts in Orissa were the poorest; districts in Arunchal Pradesh had the highest rates of food scarcity; districts in Bihar and Jharkhand had the lowest rates of literacy; tribal districts in the North-East, along with districts in Bihar and Jharkhand, had the lowest rates of immunisation; districts in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh had the highest rates of infant mortality; and districts in Punjab and Haryana had the lowest (0–6 years) sex ratios.India; Districts; Backwardness
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