Boosting India’s growth rate

| | in Oped

It's time for a developing country like India to realise that growth without development is unsustainable. This is why the country is experiencing jobless growth

Growth and development are often talked in the same perspective by a common man without realising that there is stark difference between the two. India’s growth rate has been applauded countrywide and even worldwide. Growth refers to the measurement of economic and monetary parametres of the country, such as the gross domestic product whereas development refers to the social indicators of the country such as literacy rate, infant mortality rate which is absent from the mainstream economic, political and social debates in the world's largest democratic country India.

Time and again India is viewed to be on the path of gaining largest economic power position. But its development parametres indicate an opposite scenario where its position is second lowest (life expectancy, infant mortality, immunisation of children, girl's schooling) in South Asia (except Afghanistan) leaving Pakistan behind. The dismal level of development indicators is also evident from the United Nations Development Programme's human development index, where India slipped down one position to 131. Thus, the societal reach of India's growth is limited and fruits of growth are not utilised to provide even the basic facilities to citizens and developing human capabilities. Certainly, more is expected from the highest and fastest growing largest democratic country by effectively and efficiently integrating growth with development. It's high time to realise that growth without development is unsustainable and that is why India is experiencing jobless growth.

India is multi-religious, multi-caste and multi-class based country, so efforts of the same quantum and magnitude is required but there is surely lack of willingness and shortage of accountability in the public sector. Definitely, there has been improvement  as compared to 1951 such as life expectancy increased from 32 to 66 years, infant mortality improved to 44 from 180 per 1000 and female literacy has gone up from nine per cent to 65 per cent and although efforts and policies (Right to Education Act 2010, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act, Integrated Child Development Services) are undertaken from time to time to climb the ladder of development but more is expected from the country which gained remarkable Hindu growth rate of 3.5 per cent immediately after independence by adopting the policy of Government ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’. However, even after seven decades, India still struggles with the problem of illiteracy, poverty and poor health indicators.

The explanation of the deficiency lies in the basics. India's education system is plagued with twin problems of limited coverage and poor quality whereas the health sector lacks universal healthcare programme. These two combined leads to massive poverty and, thus, declines the overall development of the country. There is tremendous difference in the northern and the southern India where States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala perform better than Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh. One of the reason for this difference is that in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, women take active role in the enhancement of the society and as a matter of fact, the Integrated Child Development Services (the sole programme for the children below six years of age) is entirely run by women, as a result of which, more than 80 per cent of the children are immunised which is highest in India. Thus, there is requirement in other States for commitment to comprehensive and universalistic social policies in public health, childcare and elementary education.

India spends lower proportion of GDP (1.2 per cent) in the health sector as compared to counterparts such as China (2.7 per cent), Bangladesh among others. Out of which India's public sector spending is only a small share (one-third) and this leads to extensive role of private sector in the health economy. Since health and education are public goods (Paul Samuelson, 1954) and as per Public Report on Basic Education, official school days is around 200 but with absenteeism (20 per cent) ratio of teacher and student (33 per cent) along the actual teaching activities, the days remain only 50 in Government schools. Since these basic facilities are not provided efficiently by the public sector, private sector plays a huge role and so they suffer from problems of externalities, asymmetric information and this leads to adverse selection and moral hazard such as relying extensively on private schools which demand high tuition fees (it is coming into light now after been unaddressed for many years). Also, a recent analysis found that only three per cent of the questions in the Parliament are related to children which comprise 40 per cent of the total population. The mainstream media and democratic politics lack discussion and debate on children health and education. Naturally, India's child immunisation rates are lowest in the world. This further fosters inequality in the economy.

Thus, there is requirement to provide basic elementary education and universal healthcare programme by eradicating corruption, active role of women, especially in demographic transition, self awareness schemes. This means first, integration of growth with development and second, more accountability in the public sector to foster trust and remove credibility gap between public and Government are the key to the development of human capabilities which will in turn lead to high rates of growth and then India will become an economic leader and socially powerful country in the true sense. It is time to realise the circular relation between education-health-human capabilities — poverty-development-growth. It depends upon the Government whether to make it vicious circle or virtuous circle and from fastest and largest democracy. Certainly, expectations are high.

(The writer is Assistant Professor, Delhi University, and a PhD scholar of Economics)

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