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Country climbs ladder — by one rung

New Delhi, July 24: India continues to lag on human development indicators in spite of a slew of welfare programmes, with a UNDP report released today ranking it 135th among 187 countries that were judged on progress in areas such as life expectancy, education, income and employment.

Analysts blame India’s poor performance on lack of accountability in implementation of the welfare programmes. Former National Advisory Council member N.C. Saxena said state governments prepare bogus reports projecting successful implementation of schemes. He said Uttar Pradesh had reported that 92 per cent of households have access to sanitation facilities while the census survey put the figure at 30 per cent.

“These human development reports are never discussed in the state assemblies. The bureaucracy in the states always manufactures data to project a rosy picture about implementation of schemes,” Saxena said.

The report puts the global Human Development Index (HDI) value at 0.702. India’s HDI value in 2013-14 is 0.586, marginally up from 0.583 in 2012-13 when it ranked 136th (see chart). Norway has the highest, at 0.944. Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands and the US are the other nations that make up the top five.

According to the report titled Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, India ranks the lowest among the BRICS countries. Russia ranks 57 with an HDI value of 0.778. Among the Saarc countries, Sri Lanka (73) and Maldives (103) are ahead of India.

The UNDP estimates reveal that almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty. The figure is higher than the 1.2 billion estimated according to the income-based measure of poverty — people living on $1.25 or less a day.

One of the main reasons for poor the HDI value is inequality in income and wealth. The poorest two-thirds of the world’s people are estimated to receive less than 13 per cent of the world’s income. About half of the world’s wealth is owned by the richest 1 per cent, with the richest 85 people collectively holding the same wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, the report says.

Favouring universal provision of basic social services and calling for governments to recommit to the objective of full employment, the report says the majority of the world’s population lacks comprehensive social protections such as pension and unemployment insurance. It argues that such measures are achievable by countries at all stages of development. Providing basic social security benefits to the world’s poor would cost less than 2 per cent of global GDP, it asserts.

Social activist Shekhar Singh said that bureaucrats in India are less accountable than even politicians, who at least have to face the voters every five years. A number of welfare schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and National Rural Health Mission are well-intended, he said.

“Most of the schemes are crippled by poor implementation and corruption. The Government of India acts as a funding agency with little monitoring while state governments function in the usual non-serious style,” Singh said.