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India By State - West Bengal - State Overview

State Overview

Economic Snapshot

Capital Kolkata
Area (sq km) 89,000
Population (Census 2001, million) 80.2
Literacy Rate (%) 68.6
Human Development Index 0.472 (All India Rank 8th)
Official language Bengali
GSDP (US$ billion, 2007-08) 75.5
Annual Growth Rate 12.7
Per Capita Income (US$) 871.8
National Highways Length (km) 2578
Rail Length (km) 4500
Domestic airport Bagdogra
International Airport Dum Dum
Key Industries Petroleum and petrochemicals
Iron and steel
Food Processing
Industries with growth potential IT and ITES

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Covering an area of 88,752 sq km, West Bengal is situated in eastern India. The state shares international borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. West Bengal has 19 administrative districts. Kolkata is the state capital city. Siliguri, Asansol, Durgapur, Raniganj, Haldia, Kharaghpur, Darjeeling, Malda, Midnapore, Cooch Behar and Howrah are the other key cities in the state.

The Ganges (and its main distributary, Hoogly) is the main river flowing through the state. The other important rivers in the state include Damodar, Ajay, Kangsabati, Teesta, Torsa, Jaldhaka and Mahananda.

West Bengal's climate varies from tropical savannah in the southern portions to humid subtropical in the north.

Bengali is the official language of the state, though English and Hindi are also widely used. Nepali is spoken primarily in the Darjeeling district.



West Bengal occupies only 2.7% of the India's land area, though it supports over 7.8% of the Indian population, and is the most densely populated state in India.

Since the late 1990s, the state has seen resurgence in its economy after decades of stagnation. The vast majority of the 80,221,171 people of West Bengal are Bengalis. The Bihari minority is scattered throughout the state and communities of Sherpas and ethnic Tibetans can be found in regions bordering Sikkim. Darjeeling district has a large number of Gurkha people of Nepalese origin. West Bengal is home to indigenous tribal Adivasis such as Santals, Kol, Koch-Rajbongshi and Toto tribe.

The official language is Bengali. Hindi and English are also used commonly. Nepali is spoken primarily in the Darjeeling district. Languages such as Rajbongshi, Santali and Ho are used in some parts of the state.

Hinduism is the principal religion at 72% of the total population, while Muslims comprise 23%; Sikhism, Christianity and other religions make up the remainder. West Bengal has a population density of 904 inhabitants per square kilometer (2,341.3/sq mi) making it the most densely populated state in India. The state contributes 7.81% of India's population. The state's 1991-2001 growth rates of 17.84% is lower than the national rate of 21.34%. The gender ratio is 934 females per 1000 males.

The literacy rate is 69.22%. About 72% of people live in rural areas. The proportion of people living below the poverty line in 1999-2000 was 31.85%. Scheduled Castes and Tribes form 28.6% and 5.8% of the population respectively in rural areas, and 19.9% and 1.5% respectively in urban areas. The crime rate in the state in 2004 was 82.6 per 100,000, which was half of the national average. This is the fourth-lowest crime rate among the 32 states and union territories of India. However, the state reported the highest rate of Special and Local Laws (SLL) crimes. West Bengal was the first Indian state to constitute a Human Rights Commission of its own.

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At current prices, the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) of West Bengal was about US$ 75.5 billion in 2007-08. The average annual GSDP growth rate from 1999-2000 to 2007-08, was about 12.7 per cent.

At current prices, the Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) of West Bengal was about US$ 68.4 billion in 2007-08. The average annual NSDP growth rate from 1999-2000 to 2007-08, was about 12.4 per cent. In 2007-08, the tertiary sector contributed 61.2 per cent to the state's GSDP at current prices, followed by primary sector (26.8 per cent).

The share of the secondary sector in GSDP was 12.0 per cent in 2007-08 vis--vis 10.7 per cent in 1999-2000, its growth being driven by registered and un-registered manufacturing. Manufacturing registered the highest growth of 11.5 per cent between 1999-2000 and 2007-08. It was followed by the mining and quarrying at 11.3 per cent.

The state's per capita GSDP in 2007-08 was US$ 871.8. The per capita GSDP increased at a CAGR of 11.4 per cent between 1999-2000 and 2007-08. West Bengal has registered an increase in the per capita income owing to investments in sectors such as steel, real estate, power, retail and IT. The natural resources, policy incentives and infrastructure in the state support investments in major sectors such as iron and steel, biotechnology, coal, leather, jute products, tea, IT, and gems and jewellery.

Climatic conditions suitable for cultivation of tea and jute have made West Bengal a major centre for these products and related industries. West Bengal occupies a predominant position in the development of micro-and small-scale enterprises. As of 2007, there were 900,419 small scale enterprises, accounting for 7 per cent of total such units in the country.

The index of industrial production (IIP) in the state stood at 206.9 in May 2009, registering a growth of 1.7 per cent over May 2008.

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Physical Infrastructure


West Bengal has a total road length of over 92,023 km, with a road density of 1.04 km per sq km. There are 14 national highways running through the state and covering 2,578 km.

The golden quadrilateral (GQ) project undertaken by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) passes through major districts in North Bengal. As of December 2009, four-laningof Dhankuni-Kolaghat(54.4 km) Kolaghat-Kharagpur(60.5 km) and Kharagpur-Laxmanath(65.8 km) sections had been completed. Almost 40 per cent of the GQ's Kolkata-Chennai link and 96 per cent of the Delhi-Kolkata link had also been completed.

A number of road development projects have been taken-up under public-private partnerships (PPP). The berth 4A (Haldia) project, Kolkata-Durgapur expressway, Palsit-Dankuniroad project and Panagarh-Palsitroad project are some of the PPP projects taken-up in the state.

Two new underpasses are being planned -one near the Bidhannagarrail station to connect Ghaznavibridge with KaziNazrulAvenue in north-east Kolkata and another to the south of New Canal.


West Bengal is well connected through the railway network. The railway route length in the state is around 4,500 km. Howrah, Asansol, Sealdah, Bandel, Bardhaman, Kharagpur and New Jalpaiguri are the main junctions in West Bengal.

The Indian Railways has an electric locomotive production unit -Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (LCW) located on the West Bengal-Jharkhand border, with a production capacity of 230 engines. Indian Railways has also proposed to set up an electric locomotive assembly and ancillary unit at Dankuni, West Bengal


West Bengal has a domestic and an international airport. The Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport is located in Dum Dum, 18 km from Kolkata, the domestic airport is at Bagdogra (Siliguri).

In 2008-09, the total commercial traffic at Kolkata airport included about 7 million passengers and 88,040 tonnes of freight. The Government of India has sanctioned US$ 680,000 to set up a perishable cargo complex at the Bagdogra airport.

The Kolkata airport is being modernised at a cost of US$ 435 million, the project is expected to be complete by August 2011. It will include a new terminal, modern taxiways and extension of a runway. The upgrade will raise the airport's handling capacity to around 20 million passengers, annually, from the 5 million as of 2009.

Bengal Aerotropolis Projects Limited (BAPL) is developing India's first set of airport cities -'Aerotropolis' near the Durgapur-Asansol region at the cost of US$ 2.2 billion.

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West Bengal has two modern ports located at Kolkata and Haldia, Kolkata is a major port. In 2007-08, the combined volume of goods handled by both the ports was over 53.3 million tonnes. The West Bengal government plans to construct a US$ 265 million container port at Kulpi and a small port at the mouth of the Hooghly river.

Government of India has declared the entire stretch of the Ganges between Haldia and Allahabad as National Waterway-1 (NW-1). The 560 km Haldia-Farakkastretch of NW-1 has been developed as a part of the multi-modal system for cargo tariff from Nepal, Bhutan, North Bengal and the north-eastern states. The State Government has initiated plans to reclaim the 43 km the north-canal system that stretches from the river Hoogly to river Raimangal on the Bangladesh border.


As of March 2009, West Bengal had a total installed power generation capacity of 6,890.1 MW, which comprised 5,808.7 MW under state utilities and 1,081.4 MW under the private sector.

As of March 2009, West Bengal had 5,768.4 MW of thermal power, 1,022.0 MW of hydro power and 99.7 MW of renewable energy sources. The State Government is encouraging setting up of renewable energy-based power plants.

West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) has come into effect from 01.04.2007 after restructuring of erstwhile West Bengal State Electricity Board. WBSEDCL is a major power utility of the state with consumer strength over 7.4 million, five zones, 17 circles, 52 distribution divisions and 478 electric supply offices.


According to estimates by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, there were 12.1 million wireless connections and 1.1 million wire-line subscribers in West Bengal as of September 2008.

Kolkata offers about 580 Mbps of international satellite connectivity through Tata-owned Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) and Software Technology Parks of India (STPI).

The state has two satellite earth stations at Kharagpur and Durgapur. The Department of Telecommunications has selected Digha in the East Midnapore district as the cable-landing station for the submarine-cable laying project connecting India and South-East Asia.

Urban Infrastructure

Under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), 43 projects costing US$ 849 million have been sanctioned for West Bengal. The projects have been sanctioned for completion between 2006-07 and 2009-10. Key areas of development are water supply, sewerage, solid-waste management, construction of flyovers and water treatment.

Under the JNNURM, the schemes for all urban areas of the state, except the Kolkata Metropolitan Area and Asansol Urban Area, have been included the schemes of Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small & Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) and Integrated Housing & Slum Development Programme (IHSDP). Under the UIDSSMT scheme, projects for 19 small and medium towns have been sanctioned at an estimated cost of US$ 57 million. Under the IHSDP scheme, projects for 56 towns have been sanctioned at the cost of US$ 112 million.

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Social Infrastructure


According to Census 2001, West Bengal's literacy rate was 68.6 per cent, the male literacy rate was 77.0 per cent and the female literacy rate was 59.6 per cent.

As of 2008-09, the state had 49,893 primary schools, 980 upper primary schools, 4,582 secondary schools and 9,659 high and higher secondary schools. West Bengal has 18 universities, 53 engineering colleges, 450 degree colleges, 43 polytechnics, 50 industrial training institutes, 29 management institutes and nine medical colleges.

The West Bengal government merit-cum-means scholarship scheme has been instituted for providing financial assistance to the poor and meritorious students of the state for pursuing higher education. The scholarship amount varies from US$ 10 to US$ 33 per month.


The health infrastructure of West Bengal comprised 2,081 hospitals, 1,269 health centres and 10,356 sub-centres, as of 2007-08. Bardhaman health city, the first health project in West Bengal is being set up near the Durgapur Expressway at a cost of US$ 217 million.

The health city, which is expected to be ready by 2012, will have facilities such as medical colleges, blood banks, ambulance pool, pharmacy and others. The state has launched the Antoyadaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme to ensure that families get food grains, 200,000 family cards for getting food grains have been given under the AAY scheme, which targets 320,000 people.

The mid-day-meal programme is being run in various urban local bodies, 4,582 primary schools including Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) centres are running the programme with 800,000 beneficiary students.

The Sishu Shiksha Prakalpa centres have been constituted to bring all children of 5-9 years in the municipal areas under primary education. These centres are funded by the State Government. As of 2009, there were1,032 Sishu Shiksha Prakalpa centres in the state.

The community-based primary healthcare service has been formulated with the objective of bringing an overall improvement in the urban health scenario in West Bengal, 62 urban local bodies have completed training of honorary health workers. The programme budget for three years (2006-07 to 2008-09) was US$ 12.7 million.


Industrial Infrastructure

West Bengal has 12 growth centres for medium and large scale industries, set up by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) there are exclusive growth centres for electronics, software technology, export processing and export processing.

The Naba Diganta Industrial Township was set up in January 2006, in the Kolkata's Salt Lake Township, to encourage IT and related industries. West Bengal's major industrial areas are Haldia, Kolkata, Asansol-Durgapur region, and Kharghpur.

WBIDC helps get clearances required for setting up industry. It also focuses on sector-specific infrastructure for industries such as food, apparel, biotechnology, IT and electronics.


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More Information on West Bengal

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