“Overall, India has made steady progress on the Human Development Index (HDI). Its HDI value has gone up from 0.556 in 2000 to 0.612 in 2007,” said Patrice Coeur-Bizot, resident representative, UNDP.
But a change in methodology and the relative improvement of other countries has meant that India’s rank remains unchanged from two years ago.
The HDI is a measure of development that moves beyond gross domestic product per capita and takes into account life expectancy and literacy too.
Why does India lag behind? One reason is that only income is responsive to short-term policy changes. Health and education take longer to improve.
“We continue to pay the price for our relative neglect of education and health in the first 40 years of our development,” said Dr Santosh Mehrotra, former chief economist of the Global Human Development Report.
“We spend a lot on these schemes,” said Abhijit Patnaik, senior researcher at the Accountability Initiative at the Centre for Policy Research, “but the money has gone into building physical infrastructure rather than producing outcomes."