However, the country’s value increased 61 per cent from 1980 to 2012

India has been ranked 136 among 187 countries evaluated for human development index (HDI) — a measure for assessing progress in life expectancy, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living or gross national income per capita.

The Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for 2013, released on Thursday, puts India’s HDI value for the last year at 0.554, placing it in the medium human development category, which it shares with Equatorial Guinea.

On the positive side, India’s HDI value went up from 0.345 to 0.554 between 1980 and 2012, an increase of 61 per cent or an average annual increase of 1.5 per cent.

Life expectancy at birth increased by 10.5 years, mean years of schooling by 2.5 years and expected years of schooling by 4.4 years.

Importantly, the gross national income (GNI) per capita went up 273 per cent, the report says.

Interestingly, the report notes that social movements and the specific issues media highlight do not always result in political transformations benefiting the broader society.

Citing the example of Anna Hazare’s “movement” against corruption, which pressured the government for change, the report says critics, however, point out that such a campaign can favour policies that may not be supported by a wider electorate. “Thus, it is important to institutionalise a participatory process that can adjust the political balance by providing a platform for excluded citizens to demand accountability and redress of inequities, ranging from systemic discrimination to unfair and unjust exclusion.”

Pat for India

There is a word of appreciation for India for its policies on internal conflicts. “India has shown that while policing may be more effective in curbing violence in the short term, redistribution and overall development are better strategies to prevent and contain civil unrest in the medium term,” the report says, referring to Operation Green Hunt launched against Maoists, which has come under sharp criticism from human rights activists within the country. The other initiatives that have been lauded are the right to education and the rural employment guarantee scheme that provides up to 100 days of unskilled manual labour to eligible poor at a statutory minimum wage. “This initiative [the job guarantee scheme] is promising because it provides access to income and some insurance for the poor against the vagaries of seasonal work and affords individual the self-respect and empowerment associated with work.”

Despite India’s progress, its HDI of 0.554 is below the average of 0.64 for countries in the medium human development group, and of 0.558 for countries in South Asia. From South Asia, countries which are close to India’s HDI rank and population size are Bangladesh and Pakistan with HDIs ranked 146 each. But the report points out that the ranking masks inequality in the distribution of human development across the population.

Even on the Gender Inequality Index — inequalities in reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity — India has been ranked 132nd among the 148 countries for which data is available. In India, only 10.9 per cent of the parliamentary seats are held by women, and 26.6 per cent of adult women have reached a secondary or higher level of education, compared with 50.4 per cent of their male counterparts. For every 100,000 live births, 200 women die of causes related to pregnancy, and female participation in the labour market is 29 per cent, compared with 80.7 per cent for men.

As for the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which identifies multiple deprivations in the same household in education, health and living standard, India’s value averages out at 0.283, a little above Bangladesh’s and Pakistan’s. The figures for evaluating MPI have been drawn from the 2005-06 survey, according to which 53.7 per cent of the population lived in multidimensional poverty, while an additional 16.4 per cent were vulnerable to multiple deprivations.

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