India’s economy is currently one of the world’s fastest expanding. Yet this expansion hasn’t translated into a matching rise in the country’s Human Development Index (HDI). The United Nations Development Programme developed the HDI as a composite statistical measure to assess and compare the degree of human development in various parts of the world. It was created in 1990 as a substitute for traditional economic measurements like Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which do not take the more comprehensive facets of human development into account.The HDI measures a nation’s average performance in three areas: knowledge, a high quality of living, and a long and healthy life. India is ranked 132 out of 191 nations in the Human Development Report for 2021–2022, behind Bangladesh (129) and Sri Lanka (73).
It is crucial to address the subnational or State-wise gaps in human development given India’s vastness and big population. India would be able to realise its demographic dividend if this is done. For this reason, I have created a new index that assesses human development on a subnational level for 2019–20 using the approach recommended by the UNDP and the National Statistics Office (NSO).
Four factors are used to determine the HDI: life expectancy at birth, average number of years spent in education, anticipated number of years spent in school, and gross national income (GNI) per capita. Estimates of life expectancy are derived from the Sample Registration System, while data on mean years of education and projected years of education are gathered from the National Family Health Survey 5. Gross state domestic product (GSDP) per capita is used as a stand-in indicator to gauge living standards because estimates for GNI per capita are not available at the subnational level. The Handbook of Statistics on Indian States published by the Reserve Bank of India serves as the source for GSDP (PPP at constant prices 201112).The population prediction published by the office of the Registrar General of India is used to calculate GSDP per capita. The approach entails adopting the maximum and lowest values advised by the UNDP and NSO while computing the geometric mean of the normalised indices for the three aspects of human development. A higher score on the HDI, which ranges from 0 to 1, indicates a better degree of human development.
The subnational HDI demonstrates that although some States have achieved significant advancements, others are still having difficulty. The top place belongs to Delhi, while the worst slot belongs to Bihar. Nonetheless, it is important to note that Bihar is no longer regarded as a poor human development State, in contrast to earlier HDI estimates.
Delhi, Goa, Kerala, Sikkim, and Chandigarh are the five States with the highest HDI ratings. Delhi and Goa both have HDI scores above 0.799, placing them on par with Eastern European nations with the highest levels of human development. 19 States, including Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Punjab, Telangana, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh, are categorised as having high human development and have scores between 0.7 and 0.799.
The five States with the lowest levels of human development are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Assam. States with HDI ratings below the national average, like as Odisha, Rajasthan, and West Bengal, are also included in this group. These underperforming States have scores that are similar to those of African nations including the Congo, Kenya, Ghana, and Namibia.
Gujarat and Haryana rank 21 and 10 respectively despite having the highest SGDP per capita among bigger States due to their inability to convert this advantage into human development.
Kerala, on the other hand, stands out with continuously high HDI values across time, which may be ascribed to its high literacy rates, strong healthcare system, and relatively high income levels. However among the States, Bihar has always had the lowest HDI score due to its high levels of poverty, low literacy rate, and subpar healthcare facilities. Notably absent from this analysis is the effect of COVID-19 on subnational HDI. When post-pandemic figures are available, the entire effect of COVID-19 on human development will be known.
The unequal distribution of economic development is one of the key causes of this mismatch. Almost 77% of the country’s wealth is held by the wealthiest 10% of Indians. Access to necessities, healthcare, and education now differs significantly depending on one’s location. The quality of these services is still an issue even though India has made significant strides in decreasing poverty and expanding access to healthcare and education. For instance, despite the nation’s nearly universal enrollment in elementary school, the level of instruction is still subpar.
In order to make sure that the advantages of growth are dispersed more fairly, governments must prioritise both economic growth and human development. This calls for a multifaceted strategy that tackles issues like income and gender inequality, expands access to high-quality social services, tackles environmental problems, and allocates more funding for social infrastructure like healthcare, education, and basic household amenities like access to clean water, better sanitation, clean fuel, electricity, and the internet in underdeveloped States. India has to prioritise investments in job creation and human development, especially for its young people.