Deplorable record

Deplorable record

The Human Development Index (HDI), prepared and released every year by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is an occasion in India to remind ourselves of the failure of the system to provide a minimum quality of life to the people. This year also, the report, released last week, does not contain much for the country to be proud of.

It ranks India at the 135th position among 186 countries in human development. The index was conceived over three decades ago, taking into consideration the per capita income, education and health of the people. Income alone is no indicator of the standard of life of an individual or family and that is why health and education are also used to get a measure of the quality of life.

Economically advanced countries, with better distribution and utilisation of income, dominate the top part of the global scale. India is in the middle range, just above the low category, and its place has remained much the same in the last seven years.

India has a position above its neighbours like Pakistan and Nepal but is behind smaller countries like Sri Lanka and Maldives and way behind China. India also lags behind all other BRICS countries. Though the country had many years of high economic growth since the 1980s, it did not adequately translate into general welfare of people partly because the growth was iniquitous and also because it did not greatly improve the health and educational standards.

There are also great variations among states, between men and women and between higher and lower income and social status groups. Though social sector development has been an important part of the country’s growth strategy for many years, it has not sufficiently helped the lowest sections of society to the extent it should have. Bangladesh has improved its index much faster than India.

The report also says that about 40 per cent of the world’s population, which experiences absolute deprivation, are in India.

Policies and programmes may be in place but major failure is at the level of implementation because delivery mechanisms are corrupt or inadequate. The report says that by spending less than 4 per cent of the GDP, India can provide basic health and education facilities and minimum social and economic security to its people. This is not high expenditure, but the challenge is to have the will to spend it and spend it efficiently and effectively. 

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