Human Development Index: INDIA’S DISMAL PERFORMANCE…

By Sarkaritel August 6, 2014 10:59

Human Development Index: INDIA’S DISMAL PERFORMANCE…

Human Development Index


By Dr S Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

06undpThe Human Development Report 2014 issued by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) makes a shocking revelation that India continues to remain in 135th position among 187 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI). It means that our country has not made any improvement on      its record of the previous year and places us in the medium human development category along with some of the Asian and African countries.

HDI was introduced by the Human Development Report (HDR) published by the UNDP since 1990. It grouped countries in three grades of development—those showing HDI of less than and equal to 0.500 as low, those showing HDI of more than 0.500 and less than and equal to 0.800 as medium, and those showing HDI greater than 0.800 as high in human development.

The index ranks countries by the level of development based on the factor of “human well-being”. This factor is considered to be much wider and more realistic than the “wealth” factor that it replaced.

HDI shows progress of a country on three dimensions – long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and decent standard of living. It is a composite statistics of life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries in four tiers of human development.

In the 1990s, a matrix of 128 countries was prepared on HDI and income classification in three categories. India then fell in the “low” category among the lowest 35% of the 128 countries. In 1996, it was placed in 135th position among 178 countries – behind many Asian countries.

By the year 2000, it advanced to 128th rank, but still stayed behind Sri Lanka and Maldives. Surely, the country presented a contrasting picture of some globally acclaimed technological progress including nuclear tests side by side with staggering size of illiterate population, high rate of child and maternal mortality, poor healthcare facilities, and large population below poverty line that were indicators of low human development. Since then, India seems to be losing its rank further. Ridiculous, indeed, to swallow this along with the fact that the country has many achievements.

HDI, as originally conceived, indicated only the average well-being of the people of a country. It didn’t indicate disparities within or the range separating the highest and the lowest on human development among a country’s population.

The level of human development even in the most affluent countries is not equal among all citizens. Various  kinds of  inequalities cause different levels of development necessitating grading by regions, States, districts, and by sex, and so on of the population in a country.

Taking account of this factor, what is known as Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI) was devised in 2010 and has been used in the last four years. It takes into account not only the average achievements of a country on the three dimensions of development covered in the exercise, but also how the achievements are distributed within the country.

It is done by discounting the average value on each dimension according to the level of inequality. The index shows the actual level of human development (accounting for inequalities) and can be viewed as the “potential’ human development in the absence of inequalities.

In 2010, a Multi-dimensional Poverty Index was also introduced. Under this, various forms of deprivations affecting education, health, and living standards within a household were measured. Gender inequality is deemed very important and determined in three areas – reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity.

Two other substantive changes were made in 2010 to make the index reflect the reality better. Gross enrolment and adult literacy as indicators for education were replaced by expected years of schooling and mean years of schooling. For measuring income, Gross Domestic Product was replaced by Gross National Income per capita.

In 2010, India moved to the 119th position from the 128th position held in 2009 and was recognized as a medium human development country. It was also one of the “top 10 movers’ by its GDP growth and its HDI was above average for South Asian nations.

But, the image was tarnished by the growth of inequalities.  The index of 2010 showed the country’s HDI value had lost about 30% under inequality-adjustment. This put India in a bad light in comparison with other middle human development countries.

It is certainly no consolation to learn that the IHDI of even many advanced developed countries shows a substantial fall when compared to their HDI. In ranking under IHDI, the US dropped by nine places from its HDI rank because of prevailing inequalities in 2013. Many Latin American countries also lost their rank while some countries from the Soviet block like Ukraine, Uzbekistan gained.

However, inequality in health, education, and income, which are the dimensions of inequality measured since 2010, is less in countries with “very high development”.

The report of 2010 pointed to failures on the social sector in India. It shed light on apparently inconsistent factors like rising literacy along with short period of schooling, and increasing income without better education and healthcare. Human development is not confined to economic betterment, but should encompass all aspects of life.

India’s Gender Development Index (GDI) released in 2014 is based on sex disaggregated HDI. It shows the ratio of female HDI to male HDI as 0.828. Female HDI (0.519) is much below that of male HDI (0.627), which indicates prevalence of sex-based inequalities assessed on the three basic dimensions of human development.  The country has earned the distinction of recording the lowest female HDI in the region. On gender inequality index, India ranks 127 out of 152 countries.

The HDI of 2014 is significant as the time prescribed for reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), 2015 is drawing closer. The goals aim at all-round human development. India is not in a position to touch the goals.

Nevertheless, India has produced the highest number of Human Development Reports in the world. A total of 21 States have produced State HDRs and about 80 districts are also preparing district level reports. All these are expected to help improve our performance by corrective methods and better implementation of policies and programmes.

A serious but remediable flaw in the index is the use of some outdated data for want of recent data. National surveys suffer from some serious problems in filling up schedules and bringing out reports on time. As these survey reports provide the data for development index, we have to give more importance to national surveys.

Some may also point out that the measurement is made on chosen factors considered as index of “human development” in a material world.  It doesn’t fully reflect comparative development of various countries which are immeasurable. No HDI can measure intellectual, moral, and ethical progress of countries on a comparable scale. Courage, wisdom, devotion, compassion, skill, for instance, cannot be measured by any index.

HDI also does not take into account negative factors like crime, alcoholism and drug addiction, violence, etc, which may upset the current ranking drastically. In any case, such shortcomings cannot be an excuse for India’s dismal performance on globally accepted concept and criteria of human development.

Human development indicators like the HDI only reflect our situation in the world of reality. Our task does not and should not end with attempts to improve our points and our rank. —INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

By Sarkaritel August 6, 2014 10:59