[op-ed snap] Plotting social progress

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Mains Paper 3: Economy | Inclusive growth & issues arising from it.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National University of Educational Planning and Administration, Educational Development Index, health, education and water index, Social Progress Index

Mains level: Establishing link between economic growth and social progress


  1. The accomplishments of modern India are recognized around the world
  2. A country that was a symbol of hunger and poverty at the time of Independence and admonished for its Hindu rate of growth during the initial decades has now transformed itself into one of the fastest growing major economies
  3. These economic achievements are extensive, especially when considering the challenges that arose from following democratic governance after decades of oppressive colonial rule and being a multi-religious secular entity

Societal reach of economic growth still remains unquantified

  1. There have been efforts to track individual social outcomes such as health, education and safety
  2. The National University of Educational Planning and Administration and the Government of India (Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of School Education and Literacy) compute an Educational Development Index for primary and upper primary levels of education that compare States on different aspects on education universalization
  3. NITI Aayog has rolled out the health, education and water index
  4. A common measure to quantify the social progress of Indian States that can pinpoint the achievements and the challenges is still missing

Need: Social Progress Index

  1. A Social Progress Index could bridge this gap
  2. It would rank States using social and environmental indicators on the basis of their capability to provide for basic needs such as shelter, water, and sanitation, a foundation for well-being
  3. Along with education, health, and communication facilities
  4. It would  analyze the prejudices that prevail in a region prohibiting people from making their personal decisions
  5. Also evaluate whether citizens have personal rights and freedom or whether they are susceptible to child labour, human trafficking, corruption, etc

Results of a study conducted on above parameters

  1. A study was conducted during 2005-2016 to help analyze whether States, especially using social and environmental indicators, are heading in the right direction
  2. The overall social progress score for the country now stands at 57.03 (on a 0-100 scale), approximately eight points higher than in 2005
  3. The country performs better in the provision of basic human needs rather than opportunities for its citizens

Major Findings

  1. All the States have climbed the social progress ladder, with the group of States that had the worst performance in 2005
  2. Tripura, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, and Bihar are now showing improvement
  3. This suggests that States with a relatively low level of social progress can improve rapidly
  4. Also the fact that the States that have achieved a threshold level of social progress, driving improvements becomes more difficult
  5. Average improvement was the lowest among the group of States that were categorized as “Very High Social Progress” in 2005
  6. The greatest improvements have been in areas where social progress most often accompanies economic prosperity
  7. Areas, where performance has declined or stagnated, is where the correlation with economic development is weak
  8. “Access to Information & Communication and Inclusion” depicts a strong relationship with per capita GDP and are the ones that have improved the most over the years
  9. “Health and Wellness & Environmental Quality”, that are least correlated with economic development, have eroded

Way Forward

  1. The overall findings show that while the economy is on the right track, there is an urgent need to identify and focus on social parameters
  2. The reliance on the idea that economic development will automatically transform social conditions will hamper further improvements in social progress
  3. Social progress needs to be stimulated by focussing on policies directly targeting social issues
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