An Oxfam study released on Thursday put India's growth story in perspective: the country trails Sri Lanka and even Bangladesh on the development front.
The findings did not surprise Planning Commission members Professor Abhijit Sen and Sayeda Hameed, who faulted the government's delivery system for the lopsided growth in the country.
Hameed admitted that she had seen “failure of our schemes in Barmer, Malegaon, and Uttar Pradesh. People are suffering despite so much money being pumped into development.”
Sen emphasised the need to strike a balance between fiscal prudence and social responsibility. The issue, he added, was also debated at length at Wednesday's meeting of the full Planning Commission.
Both agreed that the government machinery alone should not be blamed for the mess. They sought greater participation of the people in development. For example, "government schemes have brought improvement in states like Kerala and Himachal Pradesh where people participation is high," Hameed said.
Swati Narayan, author of the Oxfam report, said that in Bangladesh the infant mortality rate had fallen by two-thirds in the last few decades and enrolment in primary schools had risen from 73 per cent to almost 100 per cent. In India, 14 million children are still out of school.
The report cites a comparative study between Bangladesh and Pakistan and Kerala and Bihar to emphasise the need for people's participation. Bangladesh and Pakistan have similar incomes, but the former has reduced infant mortality rate by two-thirds. In Pakistan, the infant mortality rate is as high as 60%. Kerala is doing much better than Bihar in basic human indicators, the report stated.
India fares better than Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal, which have a bad record of death of pregnant women and infants and poor school education system.