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What India’s Ranking In The Human Development Index Tell Us About Govt’s Priorities

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The world will always be grateful to Pakistani economist, Mahbub ul Haq, and Indian Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, for introducing the human development index (HDI) in the year 1990. Since then, every year, the UNDP comes up with the Human Development Report (HDR) which ranks the countries on various parameters of developmental indicators, with a score between 0 to 1.

All these countries are either categorised as having very high human development, high human development, medium human development or low human development. 

Dr Mahbub ul Haq wrote in the opening lines of the first report in 1990, “People are the real wealth of the nation.”

HDI is the summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and having a decent standard of living. It takes into consideration an aesthetic and aspirational quality of life. It does not reflect inequalities, insecurities, empowerment etc.

The latest HDI report was released on the 9th of December 2019, based on the data collected in 2018. Out of 189 countries that were covered, (187 countries are part of the UN along with Palestine and Hong Kong), India was ranked 129, climbing one rank up than the previous HDR, (2018), where it was ranked 130.

Henceforth, India is a medium developed country, with an HDI of 0.647.

Here’s How Our Neighbours Faired In The Human Development Index

Pakistan was ranked at 152, with an HDI of 0.560, Bhutan at 134, with an HDI of 0.617, Nepal at 147, with an HDI of 0.579, Bangladesh at 135, with an HDI of 0.614,

Myanmar was ranked at 145 with an HDI of 0.584. But China and Sri Lanka ranked much better and were placed at 85, with an HDI of 0.758 and 71 with an HDI of 0.780 respectively.

With the aim of becoming the next superpower, why are human beings lagging behind, as a resource, in India?

What is interesting to note, is some countries which have been in conditions of turmoil, and continue to be, but have performed better than India. For instance, the South American country of Venezuela is ranked at 96 with an HDI of 0.726. This is despite the fact that many Venezuelans have migrated to other countries, in search of better economic opportunities.

There has been nutritional deficiency among lactating women and children, as most of them were not able to afford nutritional food, due to the economic crisis. Remember, there were times in Venezuela when oil was cheaper than water!

If we look at the HDI for the various Indian states and UTs, the first rank goes to Kerala with an HDI of 0.790, which is comparable to Serbia. Bihar is ranked lowest at 36, with an HDI of 0.566, which is comparable to Pakistan. Delhi is ranked 5th, with an HDI of 0.744.

India can do much better, especially in the metro cities, by helping its large urban poor population. As elections in Delhi are approaching, people are watching out to see if the government has delivered on promises; including in areas of education and health care, tackling the pollution menace, improving women safety and much more, which in turn, would increase the HDI over the years.

Where Does Education Stand?

Since there are many good public schools in the capital, there needs to be more dialogues and discussions when it comes to reaching out to the underprivileged children. They are victims of casteism and are mostly left behind when it comes to access to education.

We already have many social evils and stigmas to fight in our country, and a value-based education system is one of the first steps in tackling these problems.

Sometimes, the conditions are so bad, that ‘dreaming of going to school’ could have dangerous results. It becomes even more difficult if the child is a girl. We already have many social evils and stigmas to fight, and a value-based education system, is one of the first steps, in tackling these problems, prevalent in our society.

Surely, we have initiatives like ‘Teach for India’ (TFI), where many college graduates take up this noble fellowship for two years and teach the underprivileged kids. I know many people from my school and college, who have left their high paying corporate jobs, and joined TFI to create change, and improve the lives of the downtrodden. It gives them pure mental satisfaction.

If school-going children are encouraged to be part of programmes like TFI, (there are volunteering options) so they could reach out to the downtrodden, it could have a greater impact.

How A Student Is Empowering Others To Learn

I was fortunate enough to learn about a student named Aryaman Lal, who is currently studying in Class XI, at Modern School, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi.

Aryaman Lal, who is currently studying in Class XI, at Modern School, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi.

He has been engaging himself in various activities, aimed towards the betterment of society. Over the past three years, he has been involved in the cause of ‘transforming literates to being educated Indians’ through the following media:

Teaching children from economically weaker sections (EWS) from JJ (Jhuggi Jhopdi) cluster at Rangpuri, Mahipalpur, New Delhi: He has been assisting in teaching Math and Science to students from classes IV-VII.

The Community Library Project at Panchsheel Vihar, New Delhi: This project has encouraged children, as well as adults, in taking up reading, sorting books, data entry, etc., along with promoting indoor mind games, such as ‘Chess’ to develop mental ability.

Providing digital literacy in two rural schools in Tilhar, Shahjahanpur, UP: He has been assisting the rural children from classes VI-X  in learning how to use a computer; so that they can get an idea on how to access the internet, send emails, access videos on YouTube, and learn the basics of Microsoft Office tools.

Promoting environmental sustainability via a community awareness program on solar energy and solar-powered fans in Tilhar, Shahjahanpur, UP, Delhi and Madhubani, Bihar: The aim of the project was to encourage people to shift from grid-based electricity to solar energy. The prototype of the fan has been created out of waste and reusable materials.

Children like Aryaman are giving goals to other people of his generation, to follow suit and make our country progress to even greater heights. The basic idea is not to leave anyone behind, although it might seem to be a utopian dream, yet there is always room for improvement and making strides towards an equal and just society.

Editor’s note: Do you want to know where India stands in the Human Development Index (2019)? You can access the report, released on December 9 (2019), here.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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