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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.