The Public Affairs Index (PAI 2021)


The Public Affairs Index (PAI) measures the quality of governance in the states and union territories of India using data produced by the central government. The PAI report is released annually by the Public Affairs Centre, a non-profit based in Bengaluru, which conducts public policy research informed by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the year 2030. First released in 2016, this sixth edition of PAI was published on October 29, 2021.

The 2021 PAI ranks states and UTs according to a composite index based on three pillars: ‘equity’ or inclusiveness in governance; ‘growth’ or accessibility and resource utilisation; and ‘sustainability’ or impact on environment, economy and people. For each of these pillars, the report presents its analysis under five themes: Voice and Accountability; Government Effectiveness; Rule of Law; Regulatory Quality; and Control of Corruption. The report’s findings are based on 43 indicators, which – it states – reflect 14 of UN’s 17 SDGs.

The 2021 PAI divides states into ‘large’ and ‘small’ categories based on their population. The publication also contains data on each state’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the effectiveness of schemes sponsored by the central government, and impacts on people’s livelihoods.

This 38-page report is divided into nine chapters: Background of PAI 2021 (chapter 1); Model and Methodology (chapter 2); The Equity Principle (chapter 3); Growth and its Discontents (chapter 4); The Pursuit of Sustainability (chapter 5); The Curious Case Of The Delta (chapter 6); In the Scheme of Things (chapter 7); COVID-19 Response Index (chapter 8) and The Epilogue - Cluster Analysis (chapter 9).


  1. With a score of 1.618, Kerala emerges at the top of the overall PAI ranking. It is followed by Tamil Nadu (0.897) and Telangana (0.891) among the larger states; Sikkim (0.907) and Goa (0.748) among smaller states; and Puducherry (1.345) and Jammu and Kashmir (0.396) among union territories (UTs). The state of Uttar Pradesh has the lowest score of -1.418 among all states and UTs.

  2. Gujarat ranks highest among the 18 large states in the ‘equity’ index – measured in terms of inclusion within mainstream policy frameworks – with a score of 1.409. It is followed by Kerala (1.36) and Rajasthan (1.199). The lowest scoring states in this index are Uttar Pradesh (-1.5), Odisha (-1.462) and Karnataka (-1.161).

  3. With a score of 1.167, Sikkim is the best performer in terms of equity among the 11 smaller states, followed by Meghalaya (1.144) and Mizoram (1.123). On the other hand, Arunachal Pradesh (-1.521), Delhi (-1.132) and Uttarakhand (-0.874) are the poorest performers.

  4. Among union territories, Puducherry (1.182), Jammu and Kashmir (0.705) and Chandigarh (0.628), are the best performers in the equity index. Dadra and Nagar Haveli (-1.473), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (-0.526) and Lakshadweep (-0.516) are the worst performers.

  5. The report contains rankings under the pillar of ‘growth’ which measures the accessibility, availability and utilisation of infrastructure and other resources. The highest scoring large states are Telangana (1.380), Kerala (1.348) and Jharkhand (0.930), while Bihar (-2.114), Uttar Pradesh (-1.521) and Madhya Pradesh (-1.321) have the lowest scores.

  6. In terms of growth, the highest scoring small states are Goa (1.533), Delhi (1.334) and Himachal Pradesh (0.745). On the other hand, Meghalaya (-1.222), Nagaland (-1.187) and Manipur (-0.963) have the lowest scores. Union territories with the highest and lowest scores are Puducherry (1.16) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (-1.528).

  7. Under the pillar of ‘sustainability’ – measuring the effectiveness of government efforts in terms of sustainability and impact on the environment, economy and people – the best performing large states are Kerala (2.146) and Tamil Nadu (1.241). The large states with the lowest scores are Uttar Pradesh (-1.234) and Bihar (-1.181).

  8. The smaller states with the highest sustainability scores are Mizoram (1.525), Arunachal Pradesh (1.371) and Goa (0.836). The lowest scoring ones are Delhi (-1.629), Uttarakhand (-1.059) and Manipur (-0.965).

  9. Union territories ranked highest in the sustainability index are Puducherry (1.693), Jammu and Kashmir (0.59) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (-0.032). On the other hand, Lakshadweep (-0.957), Chandigarh (-0.776), and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (-0.517) have the lowest scores.

  10. The report analyses the implementation and impact of central government policies – such as the National Health Mission,  Integrated Child Development Services and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme – in the states. For this analysis, states were classified into two categories based on the funding pattern for these schemes between the central and state government – 90:10 states (where 90 per cent of funding is by the Centre), and 60:40 states (where 60 per cent of funding is by the Centre).

  11. The Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan is a centrally sponsored, overarching scheme for schools to ensure quality education and better learning outcomes across classes. Among the 60:40 division states, the ones performing best in terms of the policy’s implementation and impact are West Bengal, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. The lowest scoring states are Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. Meanwhile, among the 90:10 division states, Mizoram, Assam and Tripura were the best performers, and Nagaland, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand, scored the lowest.

  12. The report notes that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act – which aims to provide 100 days of paid work in a year to rural households in India – is crucial for ensuring social protection and security in the country. Among the 60:40 division states, the ones performing best in terms of the policy’s implementation and impact are Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, while the bottom three performers are Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Goa. Within the 90:10 division category, the highest scoring states are Mizoram, Sikkim and Nagaland, and the lowest scorers are Manipur and Assam.

  13. In terms of the impact of the mid-day meal scheme (which provides nutritious cooked meals to children studying in Classes 1-8), the states ranked highest in the 60:40 category are Goa, West Bengal and Delhi. The lowest ranked states in this category are Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Bihar. Among the 90:10 states, Mizoram, Himachal Pradesh and Tripura are the top three performers; and Jammu Kashmir, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh rank lowest.

  14. This index also ranks states based on their performance during the Covid-19 pandemic. It bases its analysis on two thematic areas: ‘preparedness’ (translating pre-existing plans into action) and ‘containment’ (strategies adopted for the early detection of Covid-19 cases). The report notes that Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh performed well in both indicators, and are the top three states in the index.

    Focus and factoids by Gayatri Ailani.


Public Affair Centre, Bengaluru


Public Affair Centre, Bengaluru


29 Oct, 2021