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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Economic growth masks the other side of India

Even India was reported to have fast economical gowth and the medias claim the country is shining. But the truth is too bitter to imagine if human development is concerned. In some factors, India is even worse than some African countries.

The following report originated from The Guardian. The more details can be reached here.

In these heady times it is easy to forget the other 'real India'. This is the country in which 2.8 million children die annually as a result of poor nutrition and easily preventable illness - almost one quarter of the global total. Almost half of all Indian children are underweight for their age - a larger proportion than in Ethiopia. Meanwhile, some 300 million Indians survive on less than 50p a day.

Bangladesh is poorer than India and its economy is growing far more slowly. But over the past decade, child deaths have been falling at an annual rate 50% faster than in India, and Bangladesh now has a better child survival record.

When it comes to India's income poverty the picture is more mixed. The good news is that overall poverty rates are falling at about 1% a year. The bad news is that this is a derisory return on the high growth of the past decade.

Consider the hi-tech boom. This is seen by some as a force that is transforming Indian society, but the reality is more prosaic. The IT sector employs about 1 million people in a country where 8 million join the labour force each year. Employment in the formal manufacturing sector has fallen over the past decade. Meanwhile, agriculture, the source of livelihood for three in every four people, is trapped in a cycle of low growth and under-investment.

Uttar Pradesh, with a population bigger than Germany and Britain combined, has immunisation rates that compare unfavourably with those in Mali, and child death rates to match Sudan's.

The public education system is in a parlous state, with fewer than 10% of children making it to tertiary education. Business leaders such as Narayana Murthy, the head of the IT group Infosys, have warned that a first-world industrial system cannot be built on a foundation of mass illiteracy, exclusion from education and huge gender inequalities.

Gender inequality is another powerful impediment to social progress. Girls are 50% more likely than their brothers to die before the age of five - a death differential that translates into 130,000 missing female children each year.

While some observers are dazzled by growth rates, Indians themselves have a more sophisticated perspective. Last year, voters decisively rejected a government that went to the polls with the feelgood slogan 'India shining', reflecting a perception that social justice had been left off the agenda.

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