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Peace positive in quality of life survey

Calcutta, May 19: The first Human Development Report of Bengal backed chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s oft-repeated claim that the state is an “oasis of peace”.

The report, drawn up by the development and planning department in collaboration with the UNDP, the Planning Commission and several NGOs, said recorded crime in Bengal is one-fourth that of Delhi — the most crime-prone state — and a little above Lakshadweep, which witnesses the fewest crimes.

A heartening fact highlighted by the report is that the crime situation in Bengal has always been better compared to most other states and seems to be improving. “In terms of recorded violence against women, Bengal is a more secure place for women than many other parts of the country,” it said.

Releasing the report today in the city, the chief minister said the government intended its first report on human development to be an independent and impartial assessment of human development conditions in the state.

“The report has covered a wide range of issues, including the state’s material conditions, employment trends, health, nutrition, education, environmental condition and security situation. The report has mentioned both the strengths and weaknesses of the condition of the common people in Bengal, noted the state’s progress in various sectors and identified areas requiring special attention,” he said.

The human development index for the state is 0.61, a rise from 0.472 in the 2001 report released by the Union government.

Supporting its claim that Bengal is a safer place for women, the report said in 2000, there were 4.3 per cent crimes against women in Calcutta against 17 per cent in 23 cities in the country.

“During the period 1997-2001, the number of recorded crime in Bengal has decreased. In 2004, the rate of brutal crimes in every one-lakh population is 13.4 against the national average of 23.8. In Rajasthan, this rate of brutal crime per one-lakh population is 48.7,” the report said.

The state has also performed very well with respect to low rates of violence against scheduled castes and tribes and security of various religious communities. The report says when there were communal flare-ups in Gujarat and Maharashtra, there was no impact in Bengal.

Moving away from crime, the report noted sharp urban-rural difference and income disparity between Calcutta and the districts. “The per capita income in Calcutta is more than the other districts and the difference is increasing. Maximum number of affluent people live in Calcutta and Darjeeling district. In Jalpaiguri, Nadia and Malda there have been an improvement in per capita income. But, Bankura and the two Midnapores are lagging behind in this respect,” it said.

It reminded the government there are still important differences in access to literacy and education determined by gender, rural/urban residence, social category and income group.

“Never-enrolled children tend to be more concentrated among the lower income groups, the scheduled tribe and minority population. Lack of basic infrastructural facilities continues to be a serious concern for the proper growth of primary education in Bengal. There are also serious and continuing concern about the quality of primary education, in both urban and rural areas,” the report added.

It suggested that the formal elementary school system could be made more responsive to local needs and to the specific requirements of children from disadvantaged groups by increasing community participation in the supervision of such education.

The average level of nutrition in the state, especially among women, is low. “However, malnutrition among children is lower than the national average and severe malnutrition is also low suggesting distribution is better than most states,” it said.

The two major problems among women and children are anaemia and iron deficiency, both of which are more widespread than the country. It said there is a higher incidence of acute respiratory infections, asthma and jaundice.

The report identified arsenic poisoning as a major new problem.

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