India is behind sub-saharan Africa in environmental sustainability and social spread of economic benefits even as it is among top six countries for amassing foreign exchange since 1995, a United Nations report said.
The report pointed out that in case of environmental disaster around 1,200 million people in South Asia, including India, will get affected as compared to 1,000 million people in sub-saharan Africa. Recent reports have indicated that India's economic growth model is not environmentally sustainable and the report says that the "business as usual" model would prove environmentally disastrous.
India had witnessed high economic growth but was not able to spread its benefits to its population as some other low growth countries including African nations have done. China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh have shown that despite low growth, income disparities in these countries were plugged.
Rajiv Chibber, who presented the report in presence of reform oriented economist and deputy chairperson planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, on the other hand, said inequality in south Asia (read India) has increased since economic reforms were initiated.
Rehman Soban, noted economist from Bangladesh, said China and Korea was ahead of addressing inequality and south Asia was way back. He observed that China has leveraged its economic growth for poverty alleviation whereas India has failed on account of its "partly structured and closed" system.
Soban, from Cambridge, took another dig at Oxford educated Ahluwalia saying land was being appropriated for the industry without creating permanent benefits for dislocated people. "Many of these (dislocated) guys from Singur or Orissa land up in Gurgoan or Kolkatta as rickshaw pullers," he said.
Ahluwalia agreed that lower growth can result in more social gains and that was the driving force behind the UPA's 12th five year plan (2012-17). "We have 25 monitorable goals for 12th plan which include social sector," he said.
India's bid to earn demographic dividend because of its majority young population may boomerang if it failed to create sufficient jobs for its educated youth --- a cause for Arab spring. "The turmoil in several countries in the Arab states is a reminder that people, especially the young, who are better educated and healthier than previous generations put a high premium on meaningful employment," the report said.
The disconnect between education and jobs, Chibber warned, could be a cause for social explosion in countries like India, where the government wants around a quarter of its young population to be in higher education in 2020. Around five millions jobs, mostly in agriculture was lost between 2004-05 and 2009-10, government data shows.