The question “Why did human development fail to keep pace with economic development in India?" was asked in the Mains 2023 GS Paper 1. Let us look at the model answer to this question.
Answer: Human development is defined as the process of enlarging people’s freedoms and opportunities and improving their well-being. As per IMF’s predictions, India is very much on target to become the third-largest economy in the world by 2030. However, India ranked 132nd among 191 countries and territories on the 2021 Human Development Index (HDI). This shows the gap between human development and economic development in India.
Reasons that human development failed to keep pace with economic development in India
- Gaps in education: India’s literacy rate continues to rise but according to the education ministry, over 1.2 million students are out of school, most of them at the elementary level in 2022-23. This is due to a lack of quality education, inadequate infrastructure, gender gap, etc.
- Income Disparities: Income is considered as a proxy for command over resources since access to health and education with other capabilities depends on income.
- Social Inequality: India’s caste and communal differences have not led to proper social cohesion which is required for all sections of the society to progress.
- Gender Inequality: Gender disparities persist in India, affecting women's access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Gender-based discrimination and cultural norms continue to hinder women's full participation in society.
- Lack of Skill Development: There has been inadequate investment in skill development and vocational training programs, leading to a skills gap and reduced employability for many Indians.
- Population: Rapid population growth in India strains resources and makes it challenging to improve human development indicators.
- Low public expenditure: Government expenditure on health and education stands at around 2.1% and 2.9% of GDP which is very low as compared to developed nations.
- Last mile connectivity: Better infrastructure saves time and money. With lack of infrastructure, both digital and physical, it has been hard to connect with marginalised and downtrodden.
- Focus on top-down approach: Since independence, India has focussed on policies to percolate from central government to state to local. But the corruption and time it took to reach the last man was so big. It resulted in poor human development.
- Resource curse: Though some states like Jharkhand have been bestowed with mineral wealth, they have been unsuccessful in utilising the resources for human development.
- Lack of health infrastructure: Health being an integral part of human development was given less importance, resource crunch being one of the reasons.
Measures need to be taken to fast-track human development:
- Appropriate investments in human capital(health, education and skill development) can accelerate, inclusive, and long-lasting growth while maximising the effects of India's economy's structural changes.
- Good Governance: There is a need to strengthen institutions, reduce corruption, and ensure transparency in government programs.
- Reduce Income Inequality: Implement progressive tax policies and social safety nets to reduce income disparities along with creating job opportunities and promoting fair wages, especially for low-skilled and informal workers.
Addressing human development in India is of vital importance since a large portion of the population is living below the poverty line and income inequalities are rising by the day. Though India has attained great economic growth since LPG reforms, to nurture and promote more equitable and sustained growth, more economic and governance reforms as well as further human development in education and skills are required.