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‘Inequal’ India slips on human index scale
A child in Orissa’s Kalahandi, one of India’s poorest districts. File picture

New Delhi, Nov. 4: Despite India’s impressive economic growth, rising inequality in life expectancy, education and income has pulled down the country’s human development index (HDI) value by 30 per cent, a UN report released today has shown.

The Human Development Report (HDR) 2010 ranks India 119 among 169 countries whose life expectancy, education and income were used to compute the HDI value. India’s HDI rank is lower than China’s 89 and Vietnam’s 113, but higher than Pakistan’s 125 and Congo’s 126.

The HDI is a composite measure of development that reflects the status of health care, education and income in a country. In South Asia, Nepal has been ranked second among top movers on non-income HDI, while India is among the top 10 movers in GDP growth, according to the report.

But India’s HDI value of 0.519 drops nearly 30 per cent to 0.365 when the authors of the report takes into account inequalities that might undermine progress in development. This is the first time that the HDR has factored in inequalities in addition to averages.

“The inequality-adjusted HDI shows that in many countries, despite rising overall average development achievement, far too many people are being left behind,” said Jeni Klugman, the lead author of the report.

Since 1970, life expectancy has increased by 23 years in Bangladesh, 18 years in Iran, 16 years in India, and 10 years in Afghanistan. The average life expectancy in South Asia is now 65 years, the report said.

But inequalities also impair India’s performance on each of the three factors used to compute HDI values. The report has shown a 31 per cent loss in life expectancy and 40 per cent loss in education, and a 17 per cent loss in income — when adjusted for inequalities.

“Far too many people are being left out of India’s growth story,” said Syeda Hameed, a member of India’s planning commission who was present for the launch of the report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) here.

The report has shown that China’s per capita income has increased 21-fold over the past four decades and has helped hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. But China is not among the top performers in improving either school enrolment or life expectancy.

“For lasting improvements on the quality of life of citizens, economic growth must be accompanied by spending on health and education,” Klugman said in a statement issued through the UNDP.

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