India experienced near 10% growth in the decade 2000-10 and near fastest growth amongst the world’s largest economies in the decade after that. Yet still, our performance on education and health parameters has been laggard. As per census 2011, 74% is our literacy rate with a gender gap of approx. 17%. As per NFHS-5, the stunting rate among children is 35.5% and the wasting rate 19.3%.
Reasons for human development parameters lagging behind economic development are as follows:
- We initially focussed on GDP growth post-independence with the presumption of the trickle-down theory. This however, largely proved to be a mistake according to Amartya Sen. We complemented the macro approach with the HDI based micro approach only since the 10th five-year plan.
- Until recently, we have continued to focus exclusively on a BPL line approach to identify beneficiaries for many welfare schemes. This threshold has been kept quite low excluding many deserving beneficiaries. Suresh Tendulkar committee identified 21.9% of the population as poor in 2011 compared to the Socio-economic caste census 2011 identifying 60% of rural and 35% of urban households as poor.
- If the poor earn even marginally above the poverty line they are excluded from beneficiary lists under many government schemes. This means out of pocket expenditure often increases much more than the income, reducing the total consumption capacity on nutrition. Thereby, while between 2004-05 to 2019-20 41.5 crore people came out of poverty in India, malnutrition levels increased in the same time period.
- Census 2021 has not been conducted, potentially excluding many deserving beneficiaries from an updated list on welfare schemes.
Amartya Sen advocates 6% of GDP allocation each to education and health as the way forward. The National Education Policy 2020 commits to this. Programs such as Samgara Shiksha Abhiyan and Poshan 2.0 guide the way forward.