Human Development Index

Human Development Index (HDI) ranking of eight major economiesof South Asia in the 2009 Human Development Report, released earlier this week,show a dismal record with all countries relegated to the third category of medium development states with the global rankings falling in the second half of the listings of 182 countries. Topping the ranking list of the South Asian nations in 2007, the date for which comprehensive data was available, was Maldives (95), followed by Sri Lanka (102), Bhutan (132), India (134), Pakistan (141), Nepal (144), Bangladesh (146) and Afghanistan (182).
The only positive trend was that four out of the eight South Asian nations made positive gains moving up the rungs, while the others remained stable.The highest gains were made by Maldives and Bangladesh--both countries moving up by two rungs, while Bhutan and Pakistan improved their ranking by just one position.
The worst aspect of the India's low HDI ranking was its dismal record in even a core area like life expectancy .Life expectancy at birth in India was only 63.4 years, which pushed it down in the last but one category, just above Afghanistan where the life expectancy was a dismal 43.6 years.South Asian countries scoring above India in life expectancy included Bhutan and Bangladesh (65.7 years each), Pakistan (66.2 years), Nepal (66.3 years), Maldives (71.1years)and even the civil war hit Sri Lanka (74years).
India's record on life expectancy is made worse by the low rates of survival of young persons. The estimates show that the probability of dying before the age of 40 is among the highest in India, with 15.5% of the cohort loosing their lives. This is almost three times the level of mortality in Sri Lanka where only 5.5% of the population fail to cross the 40-age mark. Afghanistan fared the worst where the chances of survival over 40 was worst--with almost 40% of the persons dying before attaining this age.
What makes matters even worse is that the prospects of improving chances of survival of the younger age groups and improving overall life expectancy may continue to be hampered by its lackadaisical approach to improving child welfare, especially the nutritional levels. A comparison of the statistics on underweight children in South Asia show that India's record was among the worst, with 46% of the children underweight, a record which was only next to that of Bangladesh where the share of underweight children was a notch higher at 48%. India's poor record in meeting child nutrition standards are surprising given that even countries like Bhutan have been able to reduce its share of underweight children to less than half the levels of India.
India's 66% record in adult literacy was relatively better with the country ranking third in South Asia, but much below Maldives (97%) and Sri Lanka (90.8%). Bhutan, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh had a literacy rate in the 50%-plus range. But the long-term prospects of moving up the rungs on this indicator among other South Asian nations are not very bright given the low gross enrolment rate. As in the case of other indicators, India's gross enrolment rate of 61% fell short to that of Sri Lanka ( 68.7%) and Maldives (68.7%), but was still better than thatof othernations.
One reason for this dismal scenario is India's ability to catch up wealth generation as at least three of the South Asian nations have higher per capita incomes on a purchasing power parity basis. India's PPP per capita income of $2,753 was sizably lower than that of much smaller neighbours like Sri Lanka ($4,243),Bhutan ($4,837)and Maldives ($5,196). Nepal ranked lowest in this category with its PPP per capita income of $1,049 being even lower than that of Afghanistan ($1,054).
Making matters worse on the income front is the large disparity in the earnings between male and female workers. The ratio of female to male incomes in India was 32%, which was lower than that of other South Asian nations like Nepal (61%), Sri Lanka (56%), Maldives (54%), Bangladesh (51%) and Bhutan (39%). The only nations that had a worse ratio of male to female income were Afghanistan (24%)and Pakistan (18%).

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