By Dr R. Balashankar
India’s ranking in the latest Human Development Index (HDI) does not come as a surprise. While on the one hand, India is adding more to the list of the rich people in the world, the number of people going on empty stomach too has been growing faster. According to the 2011 HDI report released by the United Nations, India ranks 134 among 187 nations, hardly registering a shift from 2010, when it was placed at 119 out of 169 countries. Nearly in all the parameters India scores badly. More than half of India’s population, 53.7 per cent or 612 million people are poor.
It is a pathetic paradox that while the number of millionaires in India are increasing, with several boasting to have reached the billionaires’ club and finding place among the world’s richest, the average Indian is starving, suffering and struggling for two square meals. This is prima facie evidence of the loot that is going on in the country. Just about one per cent of the population is cornering all the wealth and growth of India. Instead of the seep-down of a growing economy, where even the last man in the queue gets something, the reverse is happening. The common man is being squeezed to feed the insatiable greed of the rich and the mighty. Witness the routine reason the UPA government gives for increasing the fuel prices: the oil companies are suffering losses. If the fuel prices have been decontrolled and are now tied to the crude prices in the global market, the government need not concern about protecting the oil companies’ profits.
One day, India gets recognised as a ‘world-class’ spot for its F 1 race tracks, where tickets are sold for rupees one lakh and the crowd is jostling for space, the next day, we are shown the other side of the mirror, where hunger and lack of basic amenities are passé.
With female foeticide and infanticide rampant, the country has been witnessing skewed male-female ratio for several decades now. This has been revealed in several studies in India, including the latest census, with several states suffering from gender gap. The difference in the male-female literacy rates continues to be in double digit. Though the central and state governments are supposed to have launched several schemes and spent thousands of crores, India has one of the highest gender inequalities. It ranks 129 in this count in the HDI report. This indicates gender discrimination at the birth, growth, educational and health facilities.
The central and the state governments have schemes addressing almost all these issues. These have been in place for decades, making little or no difference. Allocations are made year after year and the money gets spent without visible result. Under the UPA, the infrastructure building has come to a standstill, agriculture has plunged into crisis, less said about the manufacturing sector, the better.
So where does all the money go? In a market economy the top takes all. A Congressional Budget Office report in the US says, the incomes of the top one per cent of the population in America has grown by 275 per cent in the past three decades. During this period, the income of the bottom 20 per cent grew by 18 per cent. The story is nearly the same in India. There are ministers in the UPA cabinet who have reported a daily income of rupees five lakh. Almost all the politicians file affidavits, election after election in which their incomes and assets grow inexplicably. The government spending goes into the pockets of those in power, which includes the politicians, the bureaucrats and the middlemen.
India’s growth story is being stymied by nepotism and corruption. These are eating away at the very foundation like the termites. The Human Development Index may not be the most accurate method to measure India’s growth or the lack of it. But it is definitely an indicator of the state of the nation. The continued ranking of India among some of the most backward countries in Asia and Africa is a matter of shame. The policy planners and implementing agencies should take a thorough revision, an honest refocussing to reach the target citizen, and present a letter HDI.