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Human Development’s Wide Variations


  • India is ranked 132 out of 191 countries in the Human Development Report for 2021–22, behind Bangladesh (129) and Sri Lanka. (73).
  • India’s economy is currently one of the fastest-growing ones worldwide.
    • Its Human Development Index has not increased in line with this growth, though. (HDI).


GS Paper-2: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

Mains Question

The Human Development Index’s methodology is unknown. India continues to have the lowest indicators of human development despite consistently experiencing high growth. Examine (250 Words).

Key Points

  • Addressing subnational or State-wise disparities in human development is crucial given India’s size and large population.
  • For this purpose, a new index has been developed using the methodology suggested by the UNDP and the National Statistical Office (NSO), which measures human development on a subnational level for 2019–20. o Doing so will aid India in realizing its demographic dividend.

The HDI is calculated at the sub-national level using four indicators

  • the life expectancy at birth, the mean number of years spent in school, the anticipated number of years spent in school, and the gross national income (GNI) per capita.
  • Estimates of life expectancy are derived from the Sample Registration System, and data on the average and anticipated years of education are taken 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 the GSDP (PPP at constant prices 2011–12).
    • The Registrar General of India’s office provided a population projection that was used to calculate the GSDP per capita.
  • HDI scores range from 0 to 1, with higher values indicating higher levels of human development; the methodology involves calculating the geometric mean of the normalized indices for the three dimensions of human development while applying the maximum and minimum values advised by the UNDP and NSO.

Key Findings

  • The subnational HDI reveals that while some States have made significant strides, others are still having a difficult time.
  • Bihar is in last place, with Delhi taking the top spot.
    • However, it is important to note that Bihar is no longer regarded as a low human development State, in contrast to earlier HDI reports.
  • Delhi, Goa, Kerala, Sikkim, and Chandigarh are the five States with the highest HDI scores.
  • 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.
  • Nineteen States are categorized as having high human development, including Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Punjab, Telangana, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh. These states have scores between 0.7 and 0.799.
  • The five States with the lowest levels of human development are Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jharkhand.
    • States with HDI scores below the national average, such as Odisha, Rajasthan, and West Bengal, are also included in this category.
    • The ratings of these underperforming States are comparable to those of African nations like Namibia, Congo, Kenya, and Ghana.
  • Gujarat and Haryana, two of the larger States with the highest GSDP per capita, have not been able to convert this advantage into human development and currently rank 21 and 10, respectively.
  • In contrast, Kerala stands out with consistently high HDI values over the years, which can be attributed to its high literacy rates, robust healthcare infrastructure, and relatively high income levels. Bihar, on the other hand, has consistently held the lowest HDI value among the States, with high poverty levels, low literacy rates, and poor healthcare infrastructure being the contributing factors. It is important to note that the impact of COVID-19 on subnational HDI is not cap.
    • Once post-pandemic estimates are available, the full effect of COVID-19 on human development will be known.

Human Development Index (HDI)

  • The Human Development Index (HDI) was developed by the United Nations Development Programme to assess and compare the level of human development in various geographical areas of the world.
    • It was introduced in 1990 as a substitute for traditional economic measures like Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which do not take into account the more comprehensive facets of human development.
    • The HDI evaluates a nation’s average performance in three areas: knowledge, a decent standard of living, and a long and healthy life.

Reasons for Discrepancies

  • One of the primary causes of this discrepancy is the uneven distribution of economic growth.
  • Over 77% of the wealth in India is held by the top 10% of the population.
  • Another reason is that while India has made significant progress in reducing poverty and increasing access to healthcare and education, the quality of such services remains a concern.
    • This has led to significant disparities in access to basic amenities, healthcare, and education.
  • For instance, despite almost universal primary enrollment in the nation, the standard of instruction is still subpar.

Way Forward

  • In order to ensure that the advantages of growth are distributed more fairly, governments must prioritize both human development and economic growth.
    • To do this, a multifaceted strategy that addresses issues like income and gender inequality, increases access to high-quality social services, tackles environmental problems, and prioritizes investments in 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 is required.


Addressing some of the more fundamental health and education determinants of HDI will be essential for India to fully realize its potential as a leading economic player in the global economy.

February 2024