By Santosh Kumar Mohapatra
India is observing the 71 years of independence today. Since Independence, India has witnessed many changes, vicissitudes in the political and socio-economic landscape. India of 2018 is vastly different from India of 1947. Undergoing the awful experience of partition, devastated by the war with China and Pakistan, baffled by religious fundamentalism, linguistic antagonism, communal skirmishes, yet standing strong in the face of all and that’s India for the world.
India is the world’s largest democracy and popular in world because of its secular credential and socialistic in nature. It is the only country in Asia that has remained democratic ever since it attained its independence from British rule. India is only nation in the world which gave every adult the right to suffrage from its first day under Nehru. Success of parliamentary form of government, rule of law and people’s faith in democratic process is the biggest achievements of independent India.
However, in emergency period, India democracy was in slumber. But under present NDA regime, democracy seems to be in jeopardy. India is witnessing a systematic subversion of democracy, self- censorship of press as evident from various indices. Similarly India has been dubbed as flawed democracy in the Democracy Index 2017. India has slipped to 42nd place among 165 independent states, down by 10 slots from last year.
The economic history of India is the story of India’s evolution from a largely agricultural and trading society to a mixed economy of manufacturing and service, though majority still survives on agriculture. The policy of mixed economy with public sector demanding the commanding height of the economy during Nehru regime led to establishment of many industries and progress of nation. But now public sectors are decimated to give way for rise of private sectors.
Right after independence, India was importing food grains and depending upon international food aid up to mid-1960s. In 1963, the Green Revolution modernised agriculture with better seeds, fertilisers and technology. Today India has self- sufficiency in food production and exports various food grains. We are largest producers of fresh fruits, milk, pulses and oil seeds, sunflower seeds and second largest producers of wheat, rice, sugarcane, potato, tea, cotton etc.
India’s literacy rate at the time of independence was a mere 18 per cent; today it is 74 per cent. Life expectancy at birth in 1947 was 32, now it is 68.89 years. However, according to World health statistics, the report the life expectancy in India is just 59.3 years which is very low as compared to several other developing countries. We have successfully eradicated various epidemics and Polio from our nation. We have made rapid stride in space technology, information technology and scientific innovation.
Since independence, decades after decades, India has witnessed rising growth rate and last decade have seen an average 8.3 percent. Though it is debatable, proponents of neo-liberalism attribute high growth to economic reforms initiated in 1991 by then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh.
In reality after reforms, India’s long-term economic growth has steadily accelerated without any prolonged reversals but it has led to rise of inequality, rapid depletion of natural resources, environmental pollution, degradation, job losses. The country still continues to be plagued by poverty, hunger, inequality, rural distress, farmer’s suicide and unemployment
While, on one hand, it led to accretion of wealth by few and brought prosperity for middle classes, on other hand it has marginalised vulnerable sections of society especially by leading to privatisation of essential services such as health and education. According to a new Oxfam report, in India, 73 percent of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest one percent, while 67 crore Indians
Now India is sixth largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and third largest in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) with GDP amounted to $2.597 trillion (1 trillion is equal to 1 lakh crore.) in 2017.What is surprising is that, India per capita income$1940 in 2017 is lowest among top ten countries in term of GDP. In terms of per capita GDP while India placed abysmally at 139, it is placed at 122 in term of purchasing power parity.
Now, social sectors are worst hit. Public investment in social infrastructure such as health, education, which is considered critical to economic progress, has been dipping during present BJP government. The decline in health and educational expenditure has resulted in to decline in development despite high growth. India ranks a lowly 145th among 195 countries in terms of healthcare access and quality in 2016 behind its neighbours like China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, according to a Lancet study.
It’s highly regretful that India is home to the highest number of hungry people in the world, at 194 million, surpassing China, according to United Nations annual hunger report 2014-15. What is worrisome is that India has a “serious” hunger problem .Though proportionate people under poverty line has declined, in absolute number, it is much high. Around 30 crore people are languishing under poverty.
According to Oxford survey, of the country’s 217 million children, nearly 50 percent endure multidimensional poverty. Maternal mortality and child mortality is exceptionally high.Under-5 child mortality (rate per 1000 live births) is 43 and maternal mortality (ratio per lakh live births) is 174 and mortality rate due to air pollution per lakh population is 184.3.
India has biggest number of people, who don’t have access to toilets The fact that close to 50 percent Indians defecate in the open, more than 50 percent children are malnourished and only 62 percent are immunised makes for poor comparison even with much poorer countries like Bangladesh and Nepal..
Despite high growth, India is placed abysmally in all social international indices even behind neighbouring countries. India is placed awfully at 131 in human development index; 100th in global hunger index; 133 in World Happiness Index 2018; 108 in the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index.
What is worrisome is that in the annual Inclusive Development index (IDI) 2018, India is placed at 62nd place among 103 much below its neighboring countries such as (26), Nepal (22), Bangladesh (34), Sri Lanka (40), Pakistan with (47).All those substantiate that after independence, the country has achieved high growth but growth has not led to the wellbeing of people as expected.
The writer is an Odisha-based economist.