Saturday, 31 August 2013

India and its state

Dr. Devendra Kothari
Population and Development Analyst,
Forum for Population Action

India has just celebrated its 66th birthday (on 15th August), a healthy age among the nations that emerged after World War II. Since 1947, there have been great achievements - self-sufficiency in food, increase in life expectancy, nearly universal primary education and revolution in information technology. Enormous though these achievements are, however, its glory is diminished by what India has not been able to do. Sixty years of a planned economy has not been able to resolve the issues of   poverty, low status of women, poor quality of education and pathetic governance as well as law and order.

In fact, things are going from bad to worse. India’s rank in the UN’s Human Development Report has fallen from 123 in 2001 to 134 out of 187 countries and territories in 2011. Further, India is simply not doing enough for its women either. The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, released by the World Economic Forum, reveals a stark and deep rooted gender gap in India. The country has fallen from 96th rank in 2006 to 113th in the last 6 years. In addition, recent studies paint a grim picture of education, posing the risk of eroding the long-term competitiveness of World’s fourth largest economy. A study by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) found that out of 74 countries, Indian school students at the higher secondary level ranked almost at the bottom, with only Kyrgyzstan faring worse than India. Today, more children are going to school but what they are learning is not clear. The post discusses why this depressing scenario.

All this is a rather   shameful reflection of the prevailing conditions in a country that is said to be on a growth song, and indicate that India is heading towards an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty that could lead to despair, social instability, political strife, policymaking paralysis and capital flight as well as a rapid collapse in growth rates. It appears that efforts made over the years to improve the quality of life have partially been neutralized by neglecting some basic issues. The next General Election is around the corner and our political parties are organizing or will organize some sort of     'Chintan Shivirs’ or brain storming sessions to work on a roadmap to win the election. In the changed situation, the measures like MGNREGA, the Food Security Bill or Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, Free Medicine, Free Electricity for Farmers, etc. will not provide balm. In fact they are hurting development. All these, to a greater or lesser extent, are examples of outdated populist measures to win the elections. The political class has to accept the fact that things have changed especially the voter profile and requirements.  As such, the political class has to keep pace with the changed situation and   focus on real issues[1].

The next post discusses why pace of development is slow in India.

[1] In this connection, see newspaper article by Jug Suraiya “For a Change”, Times of India, January 16, 2013.  Also see  post by author:  “To beat the gloom, India needs to focus on real issues” at link:,   dated January31,  2012