Data Point | Comparing 75 years of growth and development 

The Data Point is a bi-weekly newsletter in which The Hindu’s Data team decodes the numbers behind today’s biggest stories.  

Updated - August 11, 2022 10:04 am IST

Published - August 08, 2022 05:17 pm IST

India has made remarkable progress over the past 75 years. But where does it stand when compared to other countries who had become independent in the same time period under similar circumstances, and when compared to developed nations? 

India has made remarkable progress over the past 75 years. But where does it stand when compared to other countries who had become independent in the same time period under similar circumstances, and when compared to developed nations?  | Photo Credit: PERIASAMY M

(This article forms a part of the Data Point newsletter curated by The Hindu’s Data team. To get the newsletter in your inbox, subscribe here.) 

As India celebrates its 75th year of independence, we look at the nation’s growth compared to other countries, across several development indicators

India celebrates 75 years of independence this August 15. While independence marked a dramatic departure from the past and ushered in a new era of growth, opportunity, democratic rule and freedom, India was not the only region or country undergoing extreme change then. Several other Southeast Asian and African nations were also fighting for freedom from colonial rule or had become newly independent. Meanwhile, the West was recovering from the aftermath of World War II, which had left colonisers in a state of disarray. 

India has made remarkable progress over the past 75 years. But where does it stand when compared to other countries who had become independent in the same time period under similar circumstances, and when compared to developed nations? The Data Point analysed India’s performance on several indicators with the following countries, based on data from The World Bank and Our World in Data: BRICS (Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa), G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States), emerging economies (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates) and the Indian subcontinent (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka). 

Newly independent India had an extremely poor life expectancy rate and a high infant mortality rate. Metalled roads were few and far between, and access to electricity was a luxury for most. Although India continues to be the world’s second-most populated country, it has made major strides in healthcare, infrastructure and technology since then. All three are now accessible to a significant proportion of the population. India’s infant mortality rate (death of an infant before his or her first birthday per 1,000 live births) declined from 161.8 in 1960 to 27 in 2020. While only 50% of households had access to electricity in the 1990s, the gap has practically closed now. And in 2020, over 40% of Indians were online.

However, some former colonies have managed to outrun India.  Click on the links at the end of each indicator to see the actual data plotted on a chart. 

HDI: Human Development Index 

HDI measures three key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth; knowledge, as measured by mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling; and a decent standard of living, as measured by Gross National Income per capita in PPP terms in US$. It is measured on a scale of 0-1, with 1 showing the highest HDI possible. India’s HDI increased by 0.11 points in 1950 to 0.65 in 2019. Of the 31 countries we analysed for this indicator, India was ranked 26 in 1950, but climbed down two positions to 28 by 2019. Of the five countries which lagged behind India in 1950, two—Saudi Arabia and Indonesia—moved ahead by 2019, with scores of 0.85 and 0.72 respectively. 

See the data viz for 1950, and 2019.

Infant mortality

Infant mortality rate is the number of infants who die before reaching one year of age, per 1,000 live births, in a year. While India’s infant mortality rate has reduced significantly, it remains poor when compared to the 32 countries considered. Between 1960 and 1975, India had the seventh worst infant mortality rate. But in 2020, India, with an IMR of 27, only fared better than Pakistan. Five countries —Turkey, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Egypt and Nepal — which were behind India in the 1960-75 period surged past with better IMRs in 2020. 

See the data viz for 1960-75, and 2020.

Women in government

 India has seen several women in government and political leadership positions in contrast to countries such as the United States. But when we look at the percentage of women in Parliament, the number just about doubled, from 7% in 1997-98 to 14% in 2021. This was just the fifth lowest comparative ranking in 2021, among the 31 countries analysed. India was positioned only slightly ahead of Hungary. Notably, India had a much better rank (20) in the 1997-98 period. So, while the share of women in Parliament has doubled, the relative pace of growth has been slow with many countries surpassing India in the considered period. 

See the data viz for 1997-98, and 2021.

GDP per capita 

India’s GDP ranking of 24 out of 26 nations considered remained unchanged between the 1960s and 2020. While Indonesia and Nepal were lagging behind India in the 1960s, Pakistan and Nepal were lagging behind in 2020. 

See the data viz for 1960, and 2020.

Electricity and Internet access 

Between 1993 and 2000, just above 50% of India’s population had access to electricity. While this was a notable achievement considering India’s population, India was only ranked above three countries (Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan) among the 32 considered for analysis. By 2020, India managed to provide electricity access to 99% of its population. However, most of the 32 countries considered here have provided electricity to over 99% of their population. Pakistan, South Africa and Nepal fall below the 90% mark even now.

In the past 20-odd years that the Internet has been accessible to the public, India has managed to provide access to 43% of its population. Bhutan is the only country in the Indian subcontinent that ranks higher at 53.5%. All other countries in the region that had available data ranked below India. 

See the data viz for electricity access in 1993-2000, and 2020.

See the data viz for internet access in 1990, and 2020.

While India has improved leaps and bounds from the levels seen in the 1950s to the 1990s on real terms, its growth has been slow compared to similar economies across many indicators. While India has performed well on indicators such as Internet and electricity access, it has been outpaced by other countries on indicators such as HDI, GDP per capita, IMR and representation of women. 

Here are some other charts comparing other parameters among select countries: 

Net Migration (in lakh): 1962 vs 2017

CO2 emission (metric tonnes per capita): 1990 vs 2019 

Production of electricity from renewable resources other than hydroelectricity (% of total): 1971 vs 2015

(with inputs from Vignesh Radhakrishnan)

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