The India Human Development Report 2011 has patted Kerala for achieving the highest literacy rate, providing quality health services and on the subject of consumption expenditure of people.

Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Goa have secured second, third and fourth positions respectively in these subjects, according to the report prepared by the Institute of Applied Manpower Research, a body of the Planning Commission.

The Human Development Index (HDI) in the country rose by 21 per cent, the report, which was released here on Friday, said while cautioning that health, nutrition and sanitation remained key challenges for India.

At present, two-thirds of the households in the country reside in pucca (cemented) houses and three-fourth of families had access to electricity for domestic use. India's HDI registered impressive gains in the last decade as the index increased by 21 per cent to 0.467 in 2007-08, from 0.387 in 1999-2000.

But, the report said, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Assam continued to lag behind in HDI and remain below the national average of 0.467.

On the health aspect, it said over a half of Indian women suffer from anaemia, particularly those belonging to the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Muslims, and a higher number of Muslim infants compared to the national average (in 2005-06) lived beyond their first birthday.

“The Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Muslims are converging with the infant mortality rate (IMR) national average. The fall in infant mortality rate has been sharper in the case of the Scheduled Tribes as compared to the Scheduled Caste”.

On life expectancy, the report said it had increased consistently but at a very slow pace. “Life expectancy at birth in poorer States like Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh in 2004 was lower than the country's average in 1992-96”.

Kerala, on the other hand, had life expectancy at birth at 74 years, which was comparable to developed countries of the world. Despite the National Rural Health Mission in place, India faced a dismal position in terms of health infrastructure — both physical and manpower.

Compared to China, India had nine hospital beds per 10,000 population whereas it was 30 in China.

On Gujarat, the report commented that the State, despite having impressive growth, had not been able to reduce malnourishment levels, while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, among the most backward in the country, had done better in improving the lot of their marginalised Dalits and tribals.

High rates of child malnutrition were a major concern for the country. Gujarat was among the worst performers, with 69.7 per cent kids up to 5 being anaemic and 44.6 per cent suffering from malnutrition.

On Bihar, the report said, “there is a vast difference between the Bihar of today and the Bihar of 15-20 years ago.” Not only has the State witnessed unprecedented economic growth in the 10th Plan, the per capita social sector expenditure too had increased significantly in the last five years. The share of expenditure on the welfare of Bihar's Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to total expenditure had almost doubled during 2005-08 from 0.4 per cent to 0.8 per cent.

But despite the improvements, the condition of the lower castes in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar was still not comparable with those in other States. That would require greater growth and social mobilisation, the report said.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh released the report in the presence of Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

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