The Human Development Index (HDI) in the country rose by 21% says a report while cautioning that health, nutrition and sanitation remained key challenges for India. India Human Development Report, 2011, prepared by Institute of Applied Manpower Research, placed Kerala on top of the index for achieving highest literacy rate, quality health services and consumption expenditure of people. Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Goa were placed at second, third and fourth position respectively.
The report was released on October 21 by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia in the presence of Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh. It said, as on today, two-thirds of the households in the country reside in pucca (cemented) houses and three-fourth of families have access to electricity for domestic use. According to the report, India's HDI has registered an impressive gains in the last decade as the index increased by 21 per cent to 0.467 in 2007-08, from 0.387 in 1999-2000.
However, it noted that Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Assam are those states which continue to lag behind in HDI and remain below the national average of 0.467. At the same time, the quantum of improvement in HDI in some of the poor states was higher than the national average, the report said, citing the cases of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Assam. The overall improvement in the index was largely attributed to the 28.5 per cent increase in education index across the country.
It ranges from 0.92 for Kerala to 0.41 in the case of Bihar. The improvement in the education index was the "greatest" in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to name a few, the report said. The analysis also indicates that improvement in the health index, as compared to education, has been lower. It ranges from 0.82 in Kerala to 0.41 in Assam. It observed that despite the Right to Education Act, school education faces challenges of quality and employability. The report also said that despite improvements, health, nutrition and sanitation challenges are most serious.
Stating that open defecation was posing a serious threat to health and nutritional status, the report said even though half of the population had access to sanitation in 2008-09, there was still wide inter-state variation. It said 75% households in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Uttarakhand do not have toilet facilities. The report revealed even in Nirmal Gram Puraskar winning villages, toilets are often being used for storing, bathing and washing purposes. On the issue of right to food and nutrition, the Human Index Report revealed that calorie consumption has been declining and the intake of calories by poor are way below the recommended norm.
The report said Gujarat fares the worst in terms of overall hunger and nutrition among the industrial high per capita income states. The report also noted that "India is the worst performer in terms of low birth weight, underweight and wasting among children in BRIC and SAARC countries”. Reacting to the findings, Ramesh said increased focus should be laid on health and nutrition during the 12th Plan period even as he lauded the growth in the education sector. "On nutrition, I am puzzled as to why high rate of malnutrition continue to persist even in pockets of high economic growth," he said referring to findings of Gujarat. The minister said total expenditure on sanitation has been only one-tenth of the resources allocated for the water sector.
Ramesh attributed the positive growth in education to Central "interventions" like Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan and RTE. The report said between 2002-03 and 2008-09, there has been an improvement in condition of people's housing with 66% population residing in pucca housing. In rural areas, share of household in pucca houses has increased from 36% to 55%. It said a greater proportion of Muslims than the SCs and STs live in pucca houses due to their urban concentration. The report revealed that three-fourths of all households had access to electricity, with 75% households having access to electricity for domestic use. Insofar as tele-density was concerned, the report said it increased at an "impressive pace" over time from 22% in 2008 to 66% till December 2010, largely led by growth in urban tele-density.
It said good governance and social mobilisation by state governments was reflected by the fact that SCs and OBCs in Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala were better off than even the upper castes in Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh in terms of various health outcome indicators. The report also highlighted the fact that 60% of the poor were concentrated in states like Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. It said though incidence of poverty declined over the years across states, the above said states performed much worse than others in terms of poverty reduction. Further, asset ownership both in urban and rural areas continued to be highly unequal and concentrated among top five per cent of households.