21 March 2023: The wide disparities in human development

Governments must prioritize human development alongside economic growth to ensure that the benefits of growth are more evenly distributed.

What is the human development index?

  • The HDI is a combined statistical and analytical index created by UNDP to analyze and compare the level of human development in different countries. It was introduced in 1990 as an alternative to traditional economic measures of development, namely GDP and PQLI. The previous measurements of human development didn’t consider road-related aspects of human development and the standard of living.
  • According to the Human Development Report of 2021, 2022, India ranks 132 out of 191 countries, behind Bangladesh at 129 and Sri Lanka at 73.

Calculating HDI

  • The HDI is calculated using four indicators: life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling, and gross national income per capita.
    • Life expectancy
    • Mean years of schooling
    • Expected years of schooling
    • Gross state product, domestic product per capita


  • The methodology in walls for calculating the geometric mean of the normalized indices for the three dimensions of human development
  • HDI scores range from 0 to 1, with higher values indicating higher levels of human development.

Facts and findings

The subnational HDI shows that while some states have made considerable progress, others continue to

  1. Delhi occupies the top spot, while Bihar occupies the bottom spot. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that Bihar, unlike the previous HDI report, is no longer considered a low human development state.
  2. The five states with the highest HDI scores are Delhi, Goa, Kerala, Sikkim, and Chandigarh. Delhi and Goa have HDI scores above 0.799, which makes them equivalent to countries in eastern Europe with a very high level of human development.
  3. 19 states, including Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Punjab, Telangana, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh, have scores ranging between 0.7 and 0.799 and are classified as high human development states.
  4. The bottom five states are Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Assam, with a medium level of human development.
  5. Despite having the highest GSDP per capita among larger states, Gujarat and Haryana have failed to translate this advantage into human development and rank 21 and 10, respectively.
  6. 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.
  7. Bihar, however, 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.

Reasons for discrepancies

  1. One of the main reasons for the discrepancy is that economic growth has been unevenly distributed; the top 10% of the Indian population holds over 77% of the wealth.
  2. 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.


Governments must protect human development alongside economic growth to ensure that the benefits of growth are more evenly distributed. This requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses:

  1. Income inequality in gender inequality
  2. Improved access to quality social services
  3. address environmental challenges and
  4. Provides for greater investment in social infrastructure such as healthcare, education, and basic household needs.

India must cherish investments in human development and job creation, particularly for its


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