Cause for concern


India does not have many reasons to be pleased with the latest UN Human Development Report, released on Monday, as its standing is low on most of the indicators which find place in it. The report is for the year 2007. Its ranking is 134 among 182 countries on the human development index (HDI), the same as in the previous year. The lack of forward movement indicates the failure of the country to improve the quality of living of the people, judged on the basis of factors like social, educational and health standards. The HDI makes people the measure of progress, not the per capita income, and so gives a better perspective on quality of life.

Pakistan and Bangladesh have gained in ranking, though both are behind India, and China has moved up seven ranks to 92. The stagnation in ranking is an indication of the lopsidedness of India’s economic growth and of the inability of most people to access minimum human needs.
Some indicators like literacy rates, life expectancy and income have been moving up but the progress is very slow. The large population and low base year performance make fast progress difficult, especially when social indicators are involved. But China is more populous than India and Pakistan, with all its social and political strife, could improve its position. The UPA government’s avowed commitment to inclusive growth should impact the lives of people more widely, if human welfare has to improve. There are areas of good performance, like the southern states, particularly Kerala, but the overall improvement will depend on how fast progress can be achieved in the north and east of the country. In the Human Poverty Index also, India’s standing is low. It is 88th among 135 countries. The message of the report is that India’s GDP growth rate and aspirations to become a superpower will be meaningless unless greater attention is paid to improving the welfare and quality of life of the people.

The theme of this year’s human development report is migration. The report maintains that migrations of population within and outside countries will increase the freedom and the quality of people’s lives. The idea is unlikely to be accepted by many governments and sections of people, but its truth and relevance will become clearer in the years to come.

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