India, the 1% Society

Indra Sharma excerpts from a Business Standard editorial:

The percentage of people below the poverty line showed a drop from 35.4 per cent in 1993 to 26.4 per cent in 2000 — a 9-percentage-point drop in seven years, or roughly 1.3 percentage points annually.

The literacy rate improved from 52 per cent in 1991 to 65 per cent in 2001 — once again, at the rate of 1.3 per cent of the population every year.

Life expectancy improved by 0.7 years annually, moving from 58 in 1991 to 65 a decade later — which actually works out to about 1.2 per cent on the base.

The average rate at which the key social indicators improve in the country works out to be slightly more than 1 percentage point each year.

India’s human development index (put together by the UN Development Programme) has gone up by 0.323 points- from 0.254 to 0.577, in the 30 years to 2000, which makes it an annual improvement of almost 1.1 per cent of the potential maximum on the index.

India’s rating of UNDP’s Gender Development Index moves up from 0.250 to 0.563 between 1970 and 2000, which too makes it an annual improvement of fractionally more than 1 per cent of the potential maximum.

Interesting, this 1 per cent figure seems to hold fairly steady, irrespective of whether the economy is growing rapidly or slowly, whether it was the stagnant decade of the 1970s, or the more rapid period of the 1980s and 1990s.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.