India ranks low 134 in Human Development Index

New Delhi: A UN study has ranked India at 134 out of 187 countries in terms of Human Development Index even as it has observed that life expectancy at birth in the country has increased by 10.1 per cent a year over the last two decades.

In the 2010 Human Development Report, prepared by UNDP, India had been ranked at 119 out of 169 countries. But the new report for 2011 says it is misleading to compare values and rankings with those of previously published reports, because the underlying data and methods have changed, as well as the number of countries included in the Human Development Index.

The report said India's Human Development Index (HDI) value for 2011 was 0.547 positioning the country in the 'medium human development category'.

Neighbouring Pakistan was ranked at 145 (0.504) and Bangladesh at 146 (0.500) respectively in terms of HDI.

It said between 1980 and 2011, India's HDI value increased from 0.344 to 0.547, an increase of 59 per cent or an average annual increase of about 1.5 per cent.

However, the report pointed that the country's HDI of 0.547 was below the average of 0.630 for countries in the medium human development group and below the average of 0.548 for countries in South Asia.

The HDI is a measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development such as a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

The report said the "mean" year of schooling for the country increased by 3.9 years between 1980 and 2011 and expected years of schooling increased by 3.9 years.

Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, who was present at the report release function, however, sounded dismissive about the figures in the report.

He said a better way of analysing the progress made by countries including India is to measure comparative success they have achieved on this count in the last few years from their previous record rather than by the number of their positions in the international chart.

Ramesh said such presentation of human development indices is "grossly misleading" and the country's progress in this respect should be seen from a 20-year perspective.

He said India has made huge strides in the field of education and water supply system but admitted that the biggest block in the human development indices for India is in the field of sanitation where 58 per cent of open defecation in the world takes place in India.

He also ruled that a mere expenditure of Rs 2000 crore in the field of sanitation is being made while the budget for water supply was Rs 20,000 crore.

Ramesh said that the answer to the problem of sanitation is massive public investment in the sector on the lines of what the Central Government has done in education sector.