The wide disparities in human development

Today’s Hindu newspaper (21st march 2023) has an article on disparities in human development. with the help of this article, we will analyse the various aspect of human development in India.

What is Human Development?

The United Nations Development Programme defines human development as “the process of enlarging people’s choices“, said choices allowing them to “lead a long and healthy life, to be educated, to enjoy a decent standard of living”, as well as “political freedom, other guaranteed human rights and various ingredients of self-respect”.

How to measure human development?

United Nations Development Programme created Human Development Index to evaluate and compare the level of human development in different regions around the world. It was introduced in 1990 as an alternative to conventional economic measures such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which do not consider the broader aspects of human development. 

The HDI assesses a country’s average accomplishment in three aspects: 

  • long and healthy life (life expectancy at birth)
  • knowledge (Mean year of schooling, expected years of schooling)
  • a decent standard of living (Gross national income per capita)

Disparities in Human development in India

The five States with the highest HDI scores are Delhi, Goa, Kerala, Sikkim, and Chandigarh. Delhi and Goa have HDI scores above 0.799, which makes them equivalent to countries in Eastern Europe with a very high level of human development.

The bottom five States are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Assam, with medium levels of human development. This category also includes States such as Odisha, Rajasthan, and West Bengal, which have HDI scores below the national average. The scores of these low-performing States resemble those of African countries such as Congo, Kenya, Ghana, and Namibia.

Does high GDP necessarily translate into high HDI?

No, it is not true because despite having the highest SGDP per capita among larger States, Gujarat and Haryana have failed to translate this advantage into human development and rank 21 and 10, respectively.

Conversely, Kerala stands out with consistently high HDI values over the years, which can be attributed to its high literacy rates, robust healthcare infrastructure, and relatively high-income levels.

Bihar, however, has consistently held the lowest HDI value among the States, with high poverty levels, low literacy rates, and poor healthcare infrastructure being the contributing factors.

What are the reasons behind regional disparities in India?

Unevenly distributed economic growth: The top 10% of the Indian population holds over 77% of the wealth. This has resulted in significant disparities in access to basic amenities, healthcare and education.

Poor quality of services: While India has made significant progress in reducing poverty and increasing access to healthcare and education, the quality of such services remains a concern. For example, while the country has achieved near-universal enrolment in primary education, the quality of education remains low. 

How to reduce these disparities in human development?

This requires a multi­faceted approach which includes

  • Address income inequality and gender inequality; 
  • Improve access to quality social services; 
  • Address environmental challenges; 
  • Greater investment in social infrastructure such as healthcare, education, and basic household amenities including access to clean water, improved sanitation facilities, clean fuel, electricity and Internet in underdeveloped States.
  • Investment in human development and job creation, particularly for its youth

UPSC Mains PYQ 2019

Q. Despite the Consistent experience of High growth, India still goes with the lowest indicators of human development. Examine the issues that make balanced and inclusive development elusive.?

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