Intro: India occupies the lowest place in the Human Development Index (HDI) among the entire (BRICS) nations namely, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa having a life expectancy rate only higher than that of South Africa.
The slowdown in human development in the country to 0.4 per cent per annum, due to policy paralysis in the UPA regime, from an annual average hovering at, as high as 1.4 per cent for almost 3 decades since 1980, needs to be revived urgently. The slowdown in human development across the regions, worldwide as reported in the Human Development Report (HDR) – 2014, released by the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) on July 24 is also quite worrisome. Yet, it is quite strange that India’s rank in the HDR, 2014 continues to lag far behind at 135 out of 187 countries in 2014 as well, and even the smaller SAARC countries like Sri Lanka at 73 and Maldives at 103 too have piped India in the ranking. India has the lowest place in the HDI among the entire BRICS nation as well, with its life expectancy only higher than South Africa alone, which is grappling with second generation HIV-AIDS patients. Otherwise, all other BRICS nations viz. the Russia, Brazil and China are in the high HDI category with rankings at 57, 79 and 91 respectively.
In the global perspective as well, it is quite worrisome that a slowdown in Human Growth and Development has been reported across all regions, worldwide as shown by the HDI. Central African Republic (CAR), Libya and Syria recorded the steepest decline in HDI values in the year 2012.
India is still hovering among the 'medium development' countries like Egypt, South Africa, Mongolia, Philippines and Indonesia. Among the India's neighbours, Bhutan and Bangladesh too figure in this category. Pakistan (ranked 146) and Nepal (145) are in the 'low development' category, while Sri Lanka ranked at 73 is in the 'high development' category.
The “Gender Inequality Index”, introduced for the first time this year, also exposes India’s weaknesses. Inequalities have also been widening and India has fared worse on redressing all the inequalities — i.e. the social and economic disparities. On discounting for inequality, India’s HDI indeed falls to 0.418 with a significant loss of 28.6 per cent. The average loss for inequality for medium HDI countries is only up to 25.6 per cent. For South Asia, the average loss is 28.7 per cent.
India has fallen in line with them. Among the BRICS countries Brazil comes second in terms of inequality losses with its HDI reduced by 26.3 per cent. Among 145 countries, India ranks 98 on inequality adjusted HDI, against 95 for Brazil and 45 for Russia.
Despite a significantly higher gross national income of the country as a whole than other countries in the region like Bangladesh (142) and Pakistan (146), India’s ranking remained low because of poor social indicators. Thought it has managed to remain marginally above the two countries, yet, India has the lowest life expectancy (66.4 years) and the lowest mean years of schooling (4.4 years) in the region which is most worrisome. India's HDI as a measure of health, education and standard of living, could inch up only by less than half a per cent between 2012 and 2013, which is quite disappointing. Though, this slow growth is similar to most other countries, yet, it is much below the India's growth in the past. In last 3 decades, i.e. between 1980 and 2013, India's HDI has increased by nearly 59 per cent with a yearly growth of about 1.4 per cent. But since 2010, India's growth in human development measures has slowed down considerably.
India being the second most populated country, the largest democracy of the world and having largest youth population needs to enhance its human development endeavours. This needs investment in human centric focus.
Dr Bhagwati Prakash Sharma(The writer is the Vice Chancellor, Pacific University, Udaipur)