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India Ranks 132 on UNDP Human Development Index, Global Progress Hit by COVID-19

India's HDI value of 0.633 places the country in the medium human development category.

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India has dropped by one spot to be ranked at 132 out of 191 countries in the 2021 Human Development Index, according to a report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) called 'Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: Shaping our Future in a Transforming World.'

India's HDI value of 0.633 places the country in the medium human development category, lower than its value of 0.645 in the 2020 report.

"Like global trends, in India's case, the drop in HDI from 0.645 in 2019 to 0.633 in 2021 can be attributed to falling life expectancy – 69.7 to 67.2 years. India's expected years of schooling stand at 11.9 years, and the mean years of schooling are at 6.7 years," the report said.

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Human development – a measure of a nation's health, education, and standards of living – has globally declined for two years in a row, 2020 and 2021, stalling for the first time in 32 years, the report said.

An unprecedented array of crises, mainly the COVID-19 pandemic, has set human progress back five years and fueled a global wave of uncertainty, the report said.

"It means we die earlier, we are less well educated, our incomes are going down. Just under three parameters, you can get a sense of why so many people are beginning to feel desperate, frustrated, worried about the future," UNDP chief Achim Steiner told AFP.

The HDI measures progress using four indicators – life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling, and the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.

Global Drop in Life Expectancy

According to UNDP, a large contributor to the Human Development Index's recent decline is a global drop in life expectancy, down from 72.8 years in 2019 to 71.4 years in 2021.

While economies recovered in 2021, the health crisis intensified, with two-thirds of countries recording even further reductions in life expectancy at birth, the report said.

"The world is scrambling to respond to back-to-back crises. We have seen with the cost of living and energy crises that, while it is tempting to focus on quick fixes like subsidizing fossil fuels, immediate relief tactics are delaying the long-term systemic changes we must make," Achim Steiner said.

"We are collectively paralyzed in making these changes. In a world defined by uncertainty, we need a renewed sense of global solidarity to tackle our interconnected, common challenges," Steiner said.

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India and South Asia

In India, human development mirrored global trends. However, compared to 2019, the impact of inequality on human development is lower, Shoko Noda, the UNDP resident representative in India, said.

"India is bridging the human development gap between men and women faster than the world. This development has come at a smaller cost to the environment. India's growth story reflects the country's investments in inclusive growth, social protection, gender-responsive policies, and push towards renewables to ensure no one is left behind," said Noda.

India's HDI continues to exceed South Asia's average. It has been steadily catching up to the world average since 1990.

Bangladesh and Bhutan, however, actually registered improvement in HDI in 2021.

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A Mental Health Collapse

According to the UNDP report, stress, sadness, anger, and worry have been increasing over the last decade and are reaching record levels.

Uncertainty, inequality, and insecurity go hand in hand with polarisation and lack of trust. Polarisation and mistrust shrink our capacity for social dialogue and stifle collective action, it said.

A part of the problem is a lack of focus on mental health. Countries, on average, spend less than two percent of their healthcare budgets on mental health.

According to the report, countries should implement policies with a focus on:

  • Investment in renewable energy and pandemics preparedness

  • Insurance to absorb shocks and prepare for uncertainty

  • Innovations (technological, economic, cultural) to strengthen the capacity to cope with future crises

"Policies that focus on the 3Is will enable people to thrive in the face of uncertainty. India is already a frontrunner in these areas with its push towards renewable energy, boosting social security for the most vulnerable, and driving the world's largest vaccination drive through Co-WIN, supported by UNDP," Noda said.

According to the UNDP, India is improving access to clean water, sanitation, and affordable clean energy.

It has also boosted access to social protection for vulnerable sections of society, especially during and after the pandemic, with a 9.8 percent increase in the budgetary allocation to the social services sector in 2021-22.

(With inputs from PTI and AFP.)

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Topics:  UNDP   Human Development Index   COVID-19 

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