[op-ed snap] Superpower dreams: On how India must response to a low HDI rank


  1. India’s rank of 131 among 188 countries on the UNDP’s Human Development Index for 2015
  2. Its ‘medium’ performance pose the uncomfortable question: would not the score have been significantly better if the higher economic growth trajectory of two and a half decades of liberalisation had been accompanied by a parallel investment in people?

Investment in people:

  1. Rise in incomes that came with a more open economy has not translated into a higher quality of life for many Indians
  2. There is rise in overall life expectancy at birth by more than 10 years from the 1990 level, to reach 68.3 years
  3. Progress has also been made in raising awareness about issues affecting women’s empowerment, such as public safety, acid attacks, discrimination in inheritance rights and lack of equal employment opportunity
  4. Policy reforms have been instituted in some of these areas as a result

The loopholes:

  1. The HDI data show, significant inequalities persist, particularly between States and regions, which act as major barriers to improvement
  2. The percentage of women in the workforce is the lowest in India among the BRICS countries, and the national record on the population that lives in severe multidimensional poverty is also the worst in the bloc
  3. These are clear pointers to the lost decades for India, when universalisation of education and health care could have pulled deprived sections out of the poverty trap

The road ahead:

  1. A central focus on social indicators is necessary for India to break free from its position as an underachiever
  2. The fiscal space now available has been strengthened by steady economic growth, and more should be done to eliminate subsidies for the richest quintile — estimated by the UNDP to be $16 billion in 2014 in six consumption areas including gold and aviation fuel
  3. The rise in revenues from all sources should go towards making public education of high standards accessible to all and delivering on the promised higher budgetary outlay for health care
  4. Bolstered by a conscious effort to help traditionally backward regions, such policies will help eliminate the losses produced by inequalities that lower national human development indices
  5. One crucial metric that gets insufficient attention in the measurement of development is the state of democracy, reflected among other things in access to justice
  6. It is relevant to point out that India has not ratified UN conventions on torture, rights of migrant workers and their families, and protection against enforced disappearance
  7. This is a serious lacuna for a country that otherwise has a commitment to democracy and the rule of law


With the growing realisation that development is a multidimensional achievement, the gains of economic reforms must help build capabilities and improve the health of all sections. Sustaining and improving the quality of life will depend on policies crafted to handle major emerging challenges such as urbanisation, the housing deficit, access to power, water, education and health care. The op-ed is important for Mains.

India slips in human development index

  1. Source: 2016 Human Development Report (HDR) released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
  2. India: Slipped down one place from 130 to 131 among the 188 countries
  3. HDI value: 0.624
  4. Category: medium human development (alongside countries such as Congo, Namibia and Pakistan)
  5. Ranked third among the SAARC countries, behind Sri Lanka (73) and the Maldives (105), both of which figure in the “high human development” category
  6. Top 3: Norway (0.949), Australia (0.939) and Switzerland (0.939)
  7. Health: India’s public health expenditure is even lower the South Asian average, at 1.4% of the GDP
  8. However, it did make some gains between 1990 and 2015, improving life expectancy by 10.4 years
  9. Child malnutrition also declined by 10 percentage points from 2015, and there was a modest gain in infant and under-five mortality rates
  10. Reservation: The report praised India’s reservation policy, observing that even though it has not remedied caste-based exclusions, it has had substantial positive effects
  11. In 1965, for example, Dalits held fewer than 2% of senior civil service positions, but the share had grown to 11% by 2001
  12. MGNREGA: The HDR also hailed the national rural employment guarantee programme as a “prime example” of combining social protection with appropriate employment strategies
  13. Laws: The report noted with approval India’s progressive laws, especially the Right to Information, National Food Security, and Right to Education Acts
  14. It commended the Indian grassroots group Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan for popularising social audits of government schemes
  15. While India’s HDI value increased from 0.428 in 1990 to 0.624 in 2015, it still had the lowest rank among BRIC nations
  16. However, its average annual growth in HDI (1990-2015) was higher than that of other medium HD countries
  17. Poverty: The report says 1.5 million people worldwide still live in multidimensional poverty, 54% of them concentrated in South Asia
  18. While poverty fell significantly from 1990 to 2015, inequalities sharpened in the region
  19. Health: South Asia also had the highest levels of malnutrition in the world, at 38%, and the lowest public health expenditure as a percentage of the GDP (1.6%, 2014)
  20. Gender disparity: Women, on an average, have lower HDI than men across the world
  21. The largest gender disparity in development was in South Asia, where the female HDI value is 20% lower than the male value
  22. In South Asia, gender gaps in entrepreneurship and labour force participation caused an estimated income loss of 19%
  23. Under5 mortality: Between their first and fifth birthdays, girls in India and Pakistan have a 30% to 50% greater chance of dying than boys


Important for prelims and mains both. Know the basics about HDR (click here) and the recent rank, score, comparison to other countries.

[pib] Human Development Index


  1. According to the report ‘Human Development in Andhra Pradesh’ prepared for Government of Andhra Pradesh by Center for Economic and Social Studies in 2016, the rank of Andhra Pradesh in Human Development Index(HDI) among 21 major States of India was 12 in 2004-05 and 9 in 2011-12

The initiatives taken by the Government to further increase the HDI in the country include:

  1. Health: Promoting institutional deliveries, strengthening of health infrastructure, training of service providers in management of emergency obstetric care and skilled birth attendance
  2. Providing ante-natal and post-natal care
  3. Organising village health and nutrition days
  4. Engagement of an accredited social health activist (ASHA) in the community
  5. Training of ASHAs in Home based new born care, training of health care providers in essential new-born care and resuscitation, providing new-born care at all levels, promoting exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding
  6. Establishment of nutritional rehabilitation centres, strengthening routine immunization programme, focussing on reduction in morbidity and mortality due to acute respiratory infections (ARI) and diarrhoeal diseases
  7. Introduction of name based web enabled tracking of pregnant women & children (Mother and Child Tracking System) to ensure antenatal, intra-natal and postnatal care to pregnant women and care to new-borns, infants and children
  8. Education: Enactment and operationalisation of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Mid-Day-Meal Scheme, National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary level, setting up of Kasturba Gandhi BalikaVidyalaya, MahilaSamakhya programme, scheme for providing quality education in Madarasas
  9. Employment: Improving the purchasing power of the people through various income generating schemes including Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
  10. Food: The National Food Security Act, 2013 aims to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity



Sri Lanka tops South Asia in human development

As for the growth rate during 1990-2014, South Asia’s figure was 1.38, the highest among all regions.

  1. The report, which studied a total of 188 countries and territories, has determined the HDI values.
  2. By assessing long-term progress in 3 basic dimensions of human development — a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.
  3. India and Bhutan fall under the category of medium human development countries.
  4. India is placed at 130th rank and Pakistan, 147th.
  5. Within the region of South Asia, Afghanistan tops the list with the value of 1.89 for 1990-2014 followed by Bangladesh (1.64), Nepal (1.49) and India (1.48).

Inequality pulls back India

India is ranked 130 of 188 countries on the HDI in 2014, up marginally from 135 in 2013.

  1. The annual HDI report looks at the role of work in improving human development.
  2. India loses over one-fourth of its HDI value, when inequality is factored in, .
  3. Workforce participation rates for women have dropped globally, driven largely by declines in the last decade in India and China.
  4. The HDR report calls for a new social contract among govts, society, and the private sector to ensure everyone has a say in policy formulation.
  5. Over half of India’s population is multi-dimensionally poor, while a further 18% are close to this line.

Lets know about Human Development Index

  1. The HDI is a composite index meant to compare the well-being of people across countries and it was first introduced by the UNDP in 1990.
  2. It is calculated as the geometric mean of three indicators: life expectancy at birth, education and national income.
  3. The education dimension is measured by mean of years of schooling for adults aged 25 years and more and expected years of schooling for children of school entering age.
  4. The measure of gross national income per capita at Purchasing Power Parity rates reflects the standard of living.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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