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Per capita income
In 30 road trips over 25 years, following elections in India with a band of fellow writers, I’ve seen endless surprises, none more encouraging than the story we found last month in Karnataka. Though we came for the political campaign, what we found is a new economic miracle.
On our last election trip to Karnataka five years ago, sad signs of underdevelopment – thatched roofs, rotting storefronts – were still present. Now those all too familiar scenes are overshadowed by markers of progress: red tile roofs, gaily painted concrete walls.
Compared to other Indian states (and UTs) Karnataka was never poor, but also never more than middle of the pack. Then last decade, the longstanding boom in the capital city of Bengaluru, driven by global tech giants, began spreading to farm country. Agriculture and related services joined tech in driving growth. Karnataka’s economy grew at about 8% a year, a full two points faster than the national average – but the essence of its miracle is the relative gains in per capita income.
Between 2010 and 2020, Karnataka rose from 16th to 5th richest state by per capita income. Since India’s postIndependence records begin in 1960, no major state has ever risen so far up the ranks, in a single decade. The only one to come close was Kerala in the 2000s, when it rose nine places in the rankings.