Growth is not leading to development in India
India is an emerging superpower and the economy is growing at 8-9 percent. India also has a politically stable government. Yet the country ranks badly on HDI (Human Development Index). Its rank is 128 out of 175 (countries). The list of countries by rankings you can get here. Here is the world-wide comparison at a glance (map from the wiki):
HDI measures life expectancy, literacy, education, standard of living,and GDP per capita…and as is evident from the map, many countries which are poorer than us are doing better than us.
Some poorer nations fare better than India
An analysis by P. Sainath in an article in the Hindu compares India’s HDI to that of some other countries. Here it is briefly:
El Salvador is ranked 103, despite going through a decade long civil war from the eighties.
Bolivia is ranked 117 although it is called South America’s poorest nation. It is 11 ranks above India.
Guatemala, is ranked 118. This Central American country had a long civil war – almost forty years long!
Botswana, in Africa, is ranked 124, ahead of India, despite it being a much poorer country. And it was in a worse position than India last year – at 131. Its improved on its HDI, but India hasn’t.
The Occupied Palestinian Territories are ranked 106. This area is politically disturbed, but it still beats India in HDI!
Vietnam is ranked 105, and this Asian country has had a history of long conflicts. But it is constantly improving on its HDI.
Sri Lanka is ranked 99!
Kazakhstan and Mongolia, countries that one associates with low levels of development are increasing their HDI…while Kazakhstan rose five ranks to 73, Mongolia rose two ranks to 114, and both countries are ahead of India.
What this tells us is that if it wasn’t for our higher GDP we would be worse off. What a shame. And we aren’t improving either. At least not in our HDI, despite GDP growth. 😦
Why are we ranked badly?
Well, that’s a question that every Indian should ask! That’s a question I have been asking myself for sometime now. I guess I know the answers (I think) but I keep telling myself that we have achieved so much. First (very briefly) about our achievements.
Some major achievements
We are expected to reach our target economic growth of 9 percent this year, and 8.5 percent next year, according to our Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram. 12 Indian companies are Asian giants and we have the most billionaires in Asia. True, our infrastructure has a long way to go, particularly where utilities like power and water are concerned, but some aspects are improving rapidly.
1. The Golden Quadrilateral linking Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai with four-lane highways almost done.
2. Indian Railways has achieved a financial and operational turn-around.
3. India saw around $7 billion of transport public-private partnerships (PPPs) reaching financial closure in just one year – 2006.
4. World-class airports are being constructed in Delhi and Mumbai.
5. The telecommunications sector has changed the life of Indians, even in rural India.
The Indian government seems focussed on improving our infrastructure…but is the government focussed on improving people’s health, increasing their literacy levels and improving their standard of living? Well, it doesn’t look like it, although a lot of platitudes are being mouthed. Otherwise it would have shown in an improvement in the HDI. If countries like Botswana, Kazakhstan and Mongolia are improving, why can’t we??
What ails India?
When it comes to Health and Education the answer does lie in increasing budget allocation. India spends less than 5 percent (of GDP) Health and less than 5 percent on Education. But that isn’t the only problem.
Money is one aspect of it. Implementation is another. Developmental funds are not being utilised in the proper manner. At times they are not used, like this instance where funds sanctioned for urban development works were not used. Or they line the pockets of the people concerned, or they are simply used badly, inefficiently.
Just this month there was this huge world bank expose of the level of corruption in five projects that are backed and overseen by the World Bank. Everyone is guilty – from bank and government officials and private companies to non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The projects where money was stolen are:
1. The 114-million-dollar Malaria Control Project.
2. The 82.1-million-dollar Orissa Health Systems Development Project.
3. The 193.7-million-dollar Second National HIV/AIDS Control Project.
4. The 124.8-million-dollar Tuberculosis Control Project
5. The 54-million-dollar Food and Drug Capacity Building Project.
What’s shocking is that many lives were ruined because of inferior AIDS testing kits which resulted in healthy people being labelled HIV positive.
Corruption in these projects has come to light only because an outside agency like the World Bank is supervising. When our own government supervises, whether central or state, it gets easily hidden.
For example, does anyone know for sure as to why thousands of farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra? My uncle, who is a farmer, points out that this large scale farmer suicide didn’t happen in Gujarat even though BT Cotton is grown there as well. He blames the poor advise given to farmers on how to grow BT Cotton by the government, lack of proper irrigation, and also the abysmal lack of information on the high risk involved. Farmers, without adequate guidance, switched in droves from low yield low risk farming to high risk high yield farming and they failed. Our poor banking system forced farmers to take loans from unscrupulous moneylenders, and as for the funds to alleviate the farmers’ grief – they were were eaten up by corrupt officials. Well, I guess I have diverted from the main subject here!
But not really. I am trying to say that it is the government’s ineptitude and dishonesty which is making our country suffer.
Update: There are other instances, where lakhs of rupees collected by Red Cross societies in Punjab for Kargil War Relief, Orissa Cyclone Relief and Gujarat Earthquake Relief never reached the victims.
At one time, in one of my earlier write-ups I was quite hopeful that corruption in our country will soon be on the decline, and the government would get it’s officials to become more accountable, but I have changed my mind. Corruption seems to be on the increase. Some NGO’s too are into it. How much more corrupt do we need to get before we start to improve?
(Acknowledgments: The article which set off this chain of thought was P Sainath’s article and this was sent to me by Vivek Khadpekar. Thanks Vivek. I have also used an article on our infrastructure projects sent to me by Vishal. Thanks to you too.)
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