By Apoorva Mandhani
The UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report 2016, released on March 21, ranked India 131 of 188 countries, when it comes to the Human Development Index (HDI). The index is based on three dimensions: life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling, and gross national income per capita. With India’s human development index (HDI) value of 0.624 putting it in the “medium human development” category, alongside countries such as Congo, Namibia and Pakistan, the report necessitates a relook at the current priorities being glorified by the Government, and demands adequate investment in the people.
“Human Development for everyone”
The 2016 Report emphasizes on the need to ensure human development for everyone – now and in the future. It thereby draws from, and builds on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that the 193 member states of the United Nations had endorsed in 2015, and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the world has committed to achieve. While it acknowledged that more people have had access to education, health and sanitation, the report seeks to shift the attention to the section of people being left out, and the reason for the same.
The findings place India at the bottom of five categories of countries when it comes to gender parity, and classifies India as having “low equality in HDI achievements between men and women”. Women in India complete half as many years of schooling on an average as men, and have less than half the share of men in the Gross National Income. India also ranks 125th of 159 countries on the Gender Inequality Index on account of the prevalence of teenage mothers, the low share of women in Parliament, and the low female labour force participation rate as compared to men.
The report does, however, praise measures like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme undertaken in India to generate employment. Further, on the Multi Dimensional Poverty Index (a new measure to understand poverty as a range of deprivations), over half of the total Indians are classified as poor. However, the data used for India dates back to 2005-06, and hence, it has been claimed that newer data is likely to show a far lower proportion of people being defined as MDPI poor.
The way forward
While much is being done by the NDA-led Centre to steady the country’s economic growth, and promote foreign investment, the report calls for equivalent attention to be paid to social indicators. The National Institution for Transforming India – NITI Aayog, which is the national body for implementation of the SDGs in India, has already had apprehensions about its ability to track and gather data for comprehensively evaluating the accomplishment of SDG targets. A complete decentralization of the data collection process has been viewed as a strategy to address this concern.
Further, it has been opined that a crucial parameter that often gets ignored as a measure of development, is the state of democracy, reflected, among other things, in access to justice. While 74% of the Indian population admitted to having confidence in the judicial system, a significant development in this regard would be the ratification of UN conventions on torture, rights of migrant workers and their families, and protection against enforced disappearance. Efforts also need to go into allocation of adequate funding for sectors like health, education, sanitation, and nutrition, as well as revitalization of strategic partnership between key stakeholders, as suggested by the incumbent Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon.
At this moment, an assessment of the available opportunities functions as a clear indicator of the fact that India certainly has some of the most enabling economic, political and demographic conditions, despite the diversity which makes the achievement of social development a herculean task. The question that remains for consideration now is whether we have the will for the same.
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