Delhi holds many of the most
prestigious academic institutions and expensive retail locations in all of
India. But is it possible that glamorous views of Delhi mask a bleaker truth of
the real conditions? In fact, between 1999-2000 and 2007-2008, the data clearly
points to the fact that in regards to education and income indices, common
indicators used to measure economic development, Delhi's performance
deteriorated between the two periods (data.gov.in). Whether these statistics
are significant, it's
unclear with the meager
dataavailable, but the need to critically analyze whether perceptions are
aligning with the reality of development and economic growth in Delhi is clear.
human development index (HDI) was developed prior to 1990 out of a need for
more qualitative and diverse indices upon recognition that economic growth was
not always hitting the mark on how an economy was faring relative to the
indicators usually associated with development. Time and time again, scholars
have stressed the fact that economic growth is a necessary, but not sufficient
condition for growth. Development does not happen in an echo chamber, but it is
also not a direct result or cause of growth. The main thrust of The United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in their creation of HDI is that it aims
to show how "growth translates- or fails to translate- into human development
in various societies (UNDP 1990)." An easily digestible and widely read
publication, The Human Development Report of 1990 brought the relationship
between economic growth and development not only to the attention of scholars
outside the fields of development studies and economics but also to the lay
person. While the measurements have changed over the years since they began
indexing HDI, the three sub-indices of measurement have remained the same:
knowledge, a decent standard of living, and a long and healthy life (UNDP
2015). Or put more simply: education, income, and health.
The UNDP Report Office that
conducts the Human Development Report stakes no claim over HDI. They encourage
countries and even smaller sub-regions to not only use HDI, but to modify it to
help meet their needs. They even offer detailed descriptions for ways in which
regions can adapt HDI to meet their specificities and create an even more
comprehensive index (UNDP 2015). A national human development report was
released in India titled, National Human
Development Report 2001 (NHDR01). They measure nearly 70 indicators from
1980 and they highlight the rural-urban gap and gender gap as significant
barriers to development in India. Since it was released in 2001, more than 200
academics and writers have cited it as a source in research or other relevant
projects (Google Scholar). NHDR11 included indices from 1999-2000 and 2007-8.
For both of these time frames, data is publicly available on HDI for each of
the categories and the composites for 22 states and the Northeast (excluding
Assam which is part of the prior). This data is shown in Figure 1 below.
The data at first looks extremely unassuming. The indicators
seem to generally be going up, which makes sense even according to the belief
that economic growth is the same thing as development as the period of
2000-2008 saw growing economic growth starting to near the double digits after
the economic reforms of the 1990s including the opening up of the economy after
around 40 years of extremely strict restrictions on financial and physical
capital out- and inflows. But even now as we know that economic growth isn't
necessarily the same thing as human development, this result of a general
upward trend makes sense given India's upward trend in the UNDP calculated HDI
since 1990 from 0.428 in 1990 to 0.494 in 2000 to 0.580 in 2010.
The Case of Delhi
there is an exception.In Delhi it actually goes down, and in
fact not by a negligible amount. Figure 2 below graphs each of the states
horizontally with the HDI level. Blue dots represent the HDI 1999-2000 and red
dots represent the HDI 2007-2008. Every
shifts blue to red except for Delhi, which shifts red to blue, indicating that
the HDI went down over the time period. Another benefit of this graph is
that it's easy to see the magnitudes of the changes. It's noticeable that Delhi
went down by a fair bit, while many states went up by 2 or 3 times as much as
Delhi went down.
Delhi was fortunate enough to reap some of the benefits of
the economic reforms of the 1990s. They emerged as a hub for "major trading,
commercial [firms], banking, insurance, retail, and entertainment (NCT GOV.
2002)." Between 1993-4 and 2001-2, Delhi experienced one of the highest average
annual rates of growth in India at 4.7% just below West Bengal, Karnataka, and
Tamil Nadu. Not only was Delhi performing well on economic growth terms during
this period, but India was thriving in economic growth as well. In regular
growth rate, India jumped from what was coined the "Hindu rate of growth" of
3.5% from independence to 1980, to 5.6% in the decade 1980-81 to 1989-90 and
5.8% in the following decade. From the decade 2000-01 to 2009-10 which falls
closest to our test period, the growth rate jumps up to 7.3%, this is even
higher than the growth of the following decade which was 6.1%. This is all to
say, that throughout the 115-year period of 1900-01 to 2014-15, the decade in
which economic growth was the highest in India was 2000-01 to 2009-10. Economic
growth looked so good everywhere that there is still one big question: what
happened to the standard of living in Delhi that made it deteriorate in a
divergent path from the national economic growth pattern?
data is not available for any sort of robust analysis. Ironically, while the
education index went down in Delhi, the best that can be done on this topic for
now is to take an educated guess. The one thing that's obvious is
provide a reason to look critically at the state of affairs in
Delhi and the discrepency between the economic growth and living conditions.
There is a reason why hundreds of economic indicators exist; no one indicator
is going to show the big picture. But it's necessary to acknowledge the information we get
from each one and HDI is sending a message to reevaluate what the other
indicators are telling us, namely the story of economic growth.
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Development Programme, accessed November 1, 2017,
Sen and Jean Dreze, An Uncertain Glory:
India and its Contradictions (Allen Lane, 2013).
"Delhi Human Development Report 2006:
Partnerships for Progress," Government of
NCT of Delhi, 2002.
Development Report 1990," United Nations
Development Programme, 1990.
"India Human Development Report 2011: Towards
Social Inclusion ," Planning Commission,
"Human Development Report 2016: Human
Development for Everyone," United Nations
Development Programme, 2016.
ul Haq, Reflections on Human Development (England:
Oxford University Press, 1995), 46.
Narayana, "Measurement of Education Achievement in Human Development: Evidence
from India," International Education
Journal 7, no. 1 (2006).
"National Human Development Report 2001," Planning Commission, 2002.
"The HDI 2010: New Controversies, Old
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