[Model Answer QP2023 GS1] Why did human development fail to keep pace with economic development in India?


Human development is a multidimensional concept that goes beyond economic growth to consider broader indicators of well-being and quality of life. Human development can be defined as the process of enlarging people’s freedoms and improving their well-being through access to resources, health, education, and other basic opportunities.

Reasons for the Disconnect:

1. Inequitable Distribution of Wealth:

Economic growth has been concentrated in certain sectors and regions. As a result, while some urban and industrialized areas saw rapid development, vast rural areas remained untouched.

The wealth disparity between the rich and the poor has widened over the years, meaning economic benefits did not trickle down to the larger population.
2. Prioritization of Economic Over Social Goals:

A significant part of the post-liberalization strategy was centered on attracting foreign investments, boosting industrialization, and enhancing exports. As a result, issues like health, education, and sanitation sometimes took a backseat in policy prioritization.
3. Lack of Robust Public Services:

The public healthcare and education systems haven’t kept pace with the country’s needs. Many government hospitals and schools are underfunded, understaffed, and lack proper infrastructure.
4. Population Growth:

The consistent growth of India’s population has exerted immense pressure on resources and infrastructure. While the economy expanded, the per capita metrics concerning human development showed slower growth due to the demographic pressure.
5. Social Norms and Structures:

Deep-seated societal issues, such as caste-based discrimination, gender inequality, and child labor, have hindered human development. These issues have persisted even as the economy grew.
6. Regional Disparities:

States like Kerala and Himachal Pradesh have performed well in human development indices, while others like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh lag behind. Economic growth has not been uniform across states, which has reflected in varied human development progress.
7. Inefficient Utilization of Resources:

There have been instances of mismanagement of funds allocated for welfare schemes. Corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies have also hampered the effective utilization of resources meant for human development.

Human Development Kept Pace with Economic Growth

1. Educational Attainment:

Literacy Rate: According to the Census of India, the literacy rate increased from 52.21% in 1991 to 74.04% in 2011. This improvement indicates a significant commitment to education over the years.

Right to Education Act: Implemented in 2009, it guarantees free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14, leading to increased school enrollments.
2. Health Improvements:

Life Expectancy: Life expectancy at birth has risen consistently. As per the World Bank data, it increased from 58 years in 1990 to over 69 years in 2019.

Decrease in Child Mortality: The under-five mortality rate has decreased from 126 per 1000 live births in 1990 to 34 in 2019, a commendable reduction.
3. Financial Inclusion:

Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY): Launched in 2014, over 400 million bank accounts have been opened under this scheme, leading to greater financial inclusion and direct benefit transfers, reducing middleman corruption.
4. Sanitation and Cleanliness:

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Since its inception in 2014, there has been a significant drive towards building toilets and promoting cleanliness. Open defecation rates have drastically reduced, and as of 2019, the government declared India open defecation-free.
5. Infrastructure Development:

Rural electrification has seen significant advancement. The Saubhagya Scheme launched in 2017 aimed to electrify all households, and by 2019, 99.9% of all Indian households had an electricity connection.
6. Gender Equality Initiatives:

Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana: Launched in 2015, this scheme aims to address gender imbalances and discrimination against girl children through education and awareness. Since its launch, several states have reported improvements in their Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB).
7. Social Safety Nets:

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA): Introduced in 2005, it guarantees 100 days of wage employment in a year to rural households. It has significantly impacted rural livelihoods and reduced distress migration.
8. Nutrition and Food Security:

Mid-Day Meal Scheme: Serving nutritious meals to school-going children, it has not only increased school attendance but also addressed issues of malnutrition.
9. Technological Inclusion:

With initiatives like Digital India, there has been a significant push for digital literacy and ensuring government services are made available to citizens electronically.


While economic growth is crucial for a nation’s development, it doesn’t automatically translate to human development. The Indian experience underscores the need for policies that not only promote economic development but also ensure that its benefits permeate all sections of society.

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