Although the World Bank has lauded Himachal for making steady headway in reducing poverty, it has raised concerns over the widespread malnutrition in children and gender inequality prevailing in the state. In a recent report released here on Wednesday, it said though the state has seen significant decline poverty rates over the years it has not been able to replicate the progress in health and education services.
On poverty reduction, the report observed that between 1993–94 and 2011 rural poverty in Himachal Pradesh declined from 36.8 percent to 8.5 percent – a fourfold fall. It also noted while rural poverty rates continued to fall after 2004 those in urban areas declined only marginally between 2004 and 2011.
“Himachal Pradesh stands apart from many states in India with its strong track record of poverty reduction, service delivery and human and social development outcomes,” Maitreyi Das, one of the authors of the report-Scaling the heights, said. “The dramatic decline in female births is another worrisome issue for the state and it needs to meet these challenges. Though infant mortality rates have dropped neonatal mortality rates are still high,” she said, adding despite these shortcomings Himachal has better health indicators as compared to other states in the country.
“Poverty reduction and malnutrition among children are contradictory but the state needs to meet the challenges before it,” said a government official.
“With reduction in poverty over the years, state also needs to tackle the declining female sex ratio and healthcare for the growing number of old people. Though the social structure in the state is strong but increasing number of old age population may be a major concern for the state around after ten years,” said Das. At present the elderly account for around 7.4% of the total population with the figure expected to double by 2026.
The report further stated it would have implications for the labor market and for economic growth, as well as for the care of the elderly and their caregivers, who are most likely to be women.
Among those present on the occasion were state social justice minister Dhani Ram Shandil, additional chief secretary Tarun Shridhar, principal finance secretary Srikant Baldi, planning adviser Akshay Sood and John Blomquest, World Bank program leader for South Asia.