India still low in human development index, in top 10 on income growth

The Human Development Report (HDR) 2010, released by the UNDP today, highlighted India as among the 10 countries that showed the fastest progress in human development, in terms of income-related measures, between 1970 and 2010. In fact, in an indication of the changing geography of economic growth, eight out of the top 10 improvers are from East, Southeast and South Asia (China was first). Botswana and Malta are the only two countries from outside these regions that figure in the list.

However, oddly, the Report clubs India along with 20 other countries where a potential for exposure to "civil war" imposes limitations on "freedom from fear". While Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Colombia are categorised as countries with "major civil war" threats, India is put into a league with Burundi, Mali, Sudan, Myanmar, Iran and Israel among others in a "minor civil war" threat category (for those with civil conflicts that have resulted in fewer than 1,000 deaths).

India, otherwise, is ranked as a "Medium Human Development" country, and is 119th of 169 territories listed in the 2010 report. Norway, at the top, has a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.938; India's is 0.519. The Report points out that India's ranking has improved by only a single spot between 2005 and 2010. In other words, while income-related factors have done well, India has performed relatively poorly on the other indicators.

Neighbouring China and Nepal have been highlighted as the countries that have made the greatest progress in improving their HDI value. China is ranked 89 and has a middle-level HDI of 0.663. Nepal, at 0.428 is ranked low, at 138. Yet Nepal is the second-best performer in terms of improving the non-income aspects of human development, despite its record of civil insurgency. The Report ascribes this to a "major public policy push". Free primary education from 1971 and secondary education in 2007 meant enrolment and literacy soared; health improved through "the extension of primary healthcare through community participation, local mobilisation of resources and decentralisation." Pakistan, meanwhile, has been ranked 6 places below India, with an HDI of 0.490.

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