The contest between India’s GDP and the Human Development Index (HDI) as the most appropriate measure of the performance of a country has been longstanding. While GDP is a measure of income, HDI is one that indicates the wellbeing of citizens. The HDI is a composite statistic used to rank countries by degree of ‘human development,’ which is considered synonymous with ‘standard of living’ and/or ‘quality of life.’ The first Human Development Report introduced a new way of measuring development by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income into a composite human development index, the HDI. The breakthrough for the HDI was the creation of a single statistic which was to serve as a frame of reference for both social and economic development. The HDI sets a minimum and a maximum for each dimension, called goalposts, and then shows where each country stands in relation to these goalposts, expressed as a value between 0 and 11.
While it has shown considerable potential in its performance on economic indicators such as GDP, India has yet to improve its position on the HDI to realize the potential that GDP has to offer. The country remains at the bottom of the ladder in terms of HDI. According to UN India’s Human Development Report, India is in the medium human development category and is ranked 134 among 187 countries2. The following table indicates the country’s HDI comparing trends from 1980 - present.
|Human Development Index|
||Medium human development
Source: International Human Development Indicators – UNDP website, Countries Section
Factors behind India’s low FDI3
The liberalization and globalization policy has been biased towards economic growth rather than social development. Allocations for public healthcare spending have increased marginally from 1 percent to just about 1.4 percent of the GDP in a period of six months till Feb 2010. Consequently, a large proportion of health expenditure - about 4 per cent of the GDP - is left to be borne out of private income, which results in inequity.
India has, for long, been cautious in its approach towards spending on education. The Right to Education Bill was in danger of being shelved on the grounds that it was too expensive for the government. India's low scores on human development have much to do with the absence of safety nets for the urban poor.
The country still accounts for around 30 percent of the world’s illiterate population, and 70 percent of these people are women.
- Urban poverty
There is no urban equivalent of the National Rural Health Mission or the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
- Environmental performance
The country ranks 125 among 132 countries on Yale University's Environmental Performance Index, behind the likes of Pakistan, Moldova and Kyrgyzstan.
The education policy of successive governments should be more inclusive in nature, with equal emphasis on enrollment as well as improvement in the overall functioning and quality of schools.
Governments need to strengthen the outreach of their education reforms while increasing the availability of information to remote corners of the country.
The Indian Government needs to devise effective policies in the public health sector with cohesive involvement from all relevant stakeholders. These include hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, health educators, health professionals, and logistics companies engaged in health-related service delivery. At the same time, the government needs to lay sufficient emphasis on wider determinants of healthcare such as food and livelihood security, drinking water, women’s literacy, nutrition and sanitation.
The public health policy should not only focus on the prevention of diseases by providing clean water and sanitation. It should also stress on fighting disease by administering antibiotics, which can be facilitated through the appropriate training of public health specialists and the development of health facilities at all levels.
- Employment and skills
To address the issue of growing unemployment among the country’s youth, the government has to focus on bridging the gap in terms of labor and income, improve working conditions, and introduce policies that protect the rights of the labour class.
The substantive unorganised sector should be strengthened and sustained with investment for consistent growth.
- Social protection
Migrant workers, women and children, the elderly, physically challenged individuals and tribal communities are among the marginalised sections of society. They need the allegiance of government reforms, laws, rights and policies for increased human development. Thus, it is imperative that their socialprotection needs are identified, addressed and regularly monitored.
The effective participation of the people is a prerequisite to facilitating accountability in social transfers. Therefore, the need of the hour is to tackle issues of economic and social equity, gender bias, and illiteracy at the grassroots level.
In addition, the Indian Government should design a framework to monitor and evaluate the performance of reform programs and conduct impact assessments of these programs to facilitate the efficient utilization of tax payers’ money.
1. Human Development Index Definition, Human Development Reports,UNDP website
2. Why is an emerging economy like India doing so badly on human development index?
The Economic Times , India, Anahita Mukharjee (June 3,2012)
3. Emerging Issues and Policy Perspectives
Indian Institute for Human Development Website, World Bank Consultation Report, Feb,2010
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