India completes her 67th year as a free nation on 15th August 2013. Since then India has made enormous economic progress, its healthcare has improved a lot, food production has increased to manifolds, IT industry has flourished and made tremendous growth. Life expectancy has increased from barely 32 to 65 years. India has built approximately 1.25 million miles of new roads and steel production has have been multiplied by over 50 times.
At the same time, there is another data that proves that we have a long way to go in many areas. About 350 million people are still illiterate, millions of people are living below the poverty line, lack of access to drinking water and proper sanitation facilities, increasing number of malnourished children, social evils and lack of access to basic medicines in most of the villages in India are some of the daunting facts that cannot be ignored.
So how far India has grown since Independence? The question can only be answered by comparing past with present situation. This comparison will give a clue about whether we are actually growing or just living in an illusion. Though major changes and revolutions in India have transformed our lives but here I am going to concentrate on the areas that need development to achieve our former President Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s VISION 2020 of a developed India.
Though steady increase has been seen in the literacy rate but performance of India in this sector can be considered poor. In 50s the literacy rate was just above 18% and since then, on an average, there has been a 10% rise in the literacy rate each decade with large regional disparity. Kerala is still at the top with more than 90% literate population where as states of Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have less than 55% literate population. Female literacy rate is still low in India that is a leading cause of infant mortality, more birthrates per woman, and malnourished children.
As per the Constitution of India, initially major responsibility of elementary education was that of the states. But seeing the failure of states in addressing the literacy problem, central intervention was done and in 1976, it became the responsibility of the state as well as the center. Some of the major central initiatives like partial implementation of Kothari Commission Report (1964), National Policy on Education (1986), etc have met with limited success. In 2000, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and in 2001 the Mid-Day meal scheme were introduced. This for sure has increased the enrollment in the schools and India is supposed to achieve complete literacy by 2030 with this pace of progress. But again there are many problems associated with this. As per the Nationwide ASER Survey, learning level is going down and is very poor in many states. There is an overall drop in the quality of education. Though initially retention was the main problem but now it is the access, retention and quality.
Next is the issue of feeding the ever growing population of India. No doubt that India has become self sufficient in food grains, thanks to the Green Revolution that was initiated by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan in 1965. The revolution has transformed India from food deficit to food surplus economy. About 400 to 500 million lives have been uplifted with the Green Revolution. India became a net exporter of food grains. But still India has the maximum number of malnourished children. About 3,000 children die of malnutrition each day. Each day near about a quarter of Indians go without food. Since independence many schemes related to food grains and its distribution have come up so that poor can be fed. But almost all have failed at execution level. Tons of food grain is getting rotted in warehouses. If these schemes had been executed the way they should be then we must have had solved the food problem in India by now.
Poverty is another problem in India. Go back to any point in history and you will find the problems related to poverty in India. Though constructive efforts have been made by the government since Independence but like others this issue too has met the same fate. As per the World Bank report near about 32.7% of the total Indian people are living below the International poverty line of US$ 1.25 per day, whereas 68.7% live on less than US$ 2 per day. According to the latest UNICEF data one out of three malnourished children worldwide is Indian and 42% of the children in India are underweight.
After more than 65 years of Independence we are not able to manage the prevailing social evils. India is the fourth dangerous country to live for women. Regional violence, terrorism, caste related violence, rape, crime against women and children, etc are on rise.
Population growth has been recognized as a major obstacle in the course of India’s development since independence. From 360 million in 1951 to more than 1.21 billion in 2011, population is just growing. India has made a significant progress in decreasing the fertility rate. On an average about six children were born per woman in 1950 that has reduced to 2 to 3 in 2007. If India will keep on moving in the same direction then it is expected that by the year 2020 India will reach replacement level. But social taboos related to reproduction, sex education and awareness in India are making this task quite difficult.
Human Development Index
Human Development Index (HDI) that measures the social development is still low in India in spite of the great economic development. To calculate HDI, different factors such as literacy, education level, life expectancy and per capita income are taken into account. HDI ranks between 0-1. Any country that has HDI more than 0.8 comes under the category of developed country. India at present has an average HDI (0.63) and ranks 127th in the world according to the UNDP report-2005. High economic growth and low HDI indicates failure of India on social front. As per UNDP report – “Pervasive gender inequalities, interacting with rural poverty and inequalities among states are undermining the growth into human development.” Again regional disparities are clear in this case as well. HDI of Kerala is almost comparable to most of the European countries and it lies at 0.85. Policy makers play crucial role in raising human development and poor governance for sure is the major reason for low HDI.
Failure of India to grow on social front has led to social unrest. While economic development is a must and India is surely growing on this path but something great has to be done on social front as well.
For the overall development, India needs visionaries. Work done must be of global standards and then improvement in the same would help us grow and evolve. Government should act as a catalyst with its extraordinary leaders to achieve the said progress. Also to achieve growth, government should ensure that schemes and policies are efficiently delivered. We must learn a lesson from our past and must realize the VISION 2020 of a developed India.