New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently compared Kerala to Somalia in terms of infant mortality, triggering a political controversy – but data in this year’s economic survey, collated in 2013, says it happens to be the nation’s best at keeping its children alive.
In contrast, states like Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and even Gujarat actually lags far behind some of the African nations.
Kerala has an infant mortality rate of 12 – meaning 12 out of 1000 newborns do not survive till the age of one year. Somalia has a high rate of infant mortality — 85 in 1000.
At the other end of the spectrum are states whose children have it worse than their counterparts in Sudan. Assam and Madhya Pradesh have India’s highest infant mortality rate — 54. In Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, at least 50 newborns in 1000 die. The corresponding figure in Sudan is 48.
Rajasthan has an infant mortaliy rate of 47. Standing at 41, Haryana’s figures are the same as of Ethiopia. Bihar stands at 42 – the same as Senegal.
As many children die in West Bengal and Karnataka as in Rwanda – the figure is 31 in 1000.
But that’s still better than the industrialised state of Gujarat, which has an IMR of 36 — the same as Kenya and Uganda.
“This perception that Africa is worse in everything and we don’t deserve to be compared is wrong,” said Right to Food Activist Biraj Patnaik.
Gujarat’s Infant Mortality Rate is equivalent to that of Kenya and countries like Congo and Namibia have a better IMR than Gujarat.
“We fare worse than many African countries. So let’s reach where they have on malnutrition and IMR before trying to pretend we are a developed country,” he added.
The Prime Minister’s comparison has given political parties another reason to fight in poll-bound Kerala, where Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said PM Modi has hurt the sentiments of the people.
Addressing the media, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh said, “In any social indicator, Kerala is number one. Far, far ahead of Gujarat. If Kerala is Somalia, Gujarat is probably worse than Afghanistan. Even by PM’s own outrageous standards, this is the limit.”
The BJP has defended the Prime Minister, saying his words were taken out of context.
“Right at the beginning of his speech, the PM said that Kerala is the most literate state in the country, and among the most developed.
But on some parameters, there were some issues and he was pointing those out,” said BJP leader Sudhanshu Trivedi.