New Delhi: According to the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report 2016, released on Tuesday (March 21), India ranks 131 of 188 when it comes to the Human Development Index (HDI). This puts it in the ‘medium’ category. 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.
India’s HDI, at 0.624, makes it as the third SAARC country on the list, behind Sri Lanka and Maldives (both of which fall in the ‘high’ HDI category).
India’s HDI has been increasing over the years, the report says, with an increase of close to 46% between 1990 and 2015. It’s HDI rank has risen by four places since 2010.
This year’s report focuses on the increasing inequalities globally, which has led to a stunting of HDI growth. “This report uncovers a deeper story behind the statistics,” said Haoliang Xu, director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, in a press statement. “Even in a region that has made such remarkable progress, pockets of exclusion continue to prevent millions of people from fulfilling their true potential.”
In all regions, women have a lower HDI than men, despite having higher life expectancy at birth. Historically disadvantaged groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis in India, also have lower human development indexes. South Asia is a prime example of this, according to the report. When the region’s HDI is adjusted for inequality, its value falls from 0.621 to 0.449. For India specifically, this drop is from 0.624 to 0.454 – a fall of 27.2%. The average drop in HDI when adjusted for inequality in the South Asia region in 27.7%.
South Asia’s Gender Development Index (GDI) is also the lowest across regions. The GDI takes into account the disparity between the HDI’s of men and women – the higher the disparity, the lower the GDI. India’s GDI is 0.819, compared to the developing country average of 0.913.
The report has also talked about the Multidimensional Poverty Index for various developing countries, that takes into account factors including health facilities, educational opportunities, living standards, threat of violence and income. According to UNDP’s report, 55.3% of India’s population is living under multidimensional poverty, compared to 45.6% in Pakistan, 5.2% in China, 58.8% in Afghanistan and 40.7% in Bangladesh.
South Asia also has the lowest public expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP, at 1.6%. India’s expenditure is even lower, at 1.4% of GDP.
One of the ways in which India could tackle its inequality problem, the report says, is to stop subsidies that benefit the rich and use that money for social programmes. “In 2014 the richest 20 percent of India’s population enjoyed subsidies of $16 billion thanks to six commodities and services – cooking gas, railways, power, aviation fuel, gold and kerosene – and exempt-exempt-exempt tax treatment under the public provident fund,” the report says.
The report also says that “nationalism and identity politics” – a surge in which can be seen in various parts of the world – is detrimental to the human development of the most marginalised sections. “Intolerance of others in all its forms – legal, social or coercive – is antithetical to human development,” according to the report.
Despite the high level of inequality across the globe, the report says that encouraging developments can be seen in human development indicators across regions. A lot of this, they say, is because of progressive policies that focus on giving people their rights.
The report commends India’s National Food Security Act, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the Right to Education Act, saying they have been instrumental in supporting the notion that development must be for everyone. It also praises the country’s affirmative action reservation policy, which “has not remedied caste-based exclusions, but has had substantial positive effects”.
It also mentions India’s promise on clean energy investments, saying not only would this encourage a more sustainable development programme, it would also create jobs. “In India increasing clean energy investments by 1.5 percent of GDP a year for 20 years will generate a net increase of about 10 million jobs annually, after factoring in job losses from retrenchments in the fossil fuel industries,” the report says.