October 22, 2011 2:55:44 am
In the gathering gloom of slowing growth and political drift,comes some good news to brighten up the festival season. The latest Human Development Report,released today,shows that inclusive growth the mantra of the entire political establishment may not be just a mere slogan.
Socially and economically weaker sections,like Scheduled Castes,Scheduled Tribes and Muslims,are finally catching up with the rest of the country on important human development indices like literacy,infant mortality rate and child labour,according to data of the first eight years of this century.
While India,as a whole,has shown improvement on the human development index during this period,these communities SCs,STs and Muslims have improved at a much faster rate.
Significantly,reflecting growing awareness,education and health of women,the Muslim community has shown the sharpest decline in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR). The higher fertility numbers for Muslims has been used by some political parties,especially the BJP,to raise the bogey of Muslim threat and Hindu decline.
Data shows that the total fertility rate in Muslims has come down from 3.59 (children per couple) in 1998-99 to 3.09 in 2005-06. It is still higher than the national average of 2.68 (down from 2.85 in the same period) but has been declining at a much sharper rate than the national figure.
It is a very good sign. Gradually,over the last decade or so there has been a growing consciousness among the Muslim community to meet the developments and challenges of the present day. There has been an effort to keep pace with the times, said Wajahat Habibullah,chairperson of the National Commission for Minorities,reacting to the report.
Significantly,the Scheduled Castes have shown an improvement faster than the national average on eight of the 11 parameters. Scheduled Tribes have shown a better pace of improvement on six indicators. There is some surprising data as well. The report shows that the total fertility rate of the Scheduled Tribes has actually increased,from 3.06 to 3.12. While that may be a cause of concern,it does puncture the argument that tribal communities are slowly getting extinct.
The report also reveals that traditionally backward states like Bihar,Madhya Pradesh,Assam,Chhattisgarh,Jharkhand,Uttar Pradesh,and Orissa have all been improving on the human development indices at a faster rate than the national average.
These states,however,continue to remain below the national average,that has jumped from 0.39 on the index in 1999-2000 to 0.47 in 2007-08.
This indicates that the regional imbalances in human development might be slowly bridging. As many as 21 states are above the national average on the composite human development index.
Convergence (of indices of backward communities and states with the national average) on most of the parameters indicates a move towards social inclusion during this period, said Santosh Mehrortra,director general of Institute of Applied Manpower Research that has produced the report.
However,Zafarul Islam Khan,editor of The Milli Gazette,said that it would be wrong to attribute the upward mobility of the weaker communities or the backward states on the human development index to government policies.
I feel the change has nothing to do with the policies of the government. Muslims have become conscious that they too should join the race for embracing modernity and should not lag behind others sections of the society. For instance,there was a time when there used be no schools in an area where Muslims are thickly populated. Now,anywhere you go in the country,you will find a large number of private schools in a typically Muslim-dominated area. The government has no role whatsoever in this, he said.
The composite human development index is composed of three indices health,income and education. While the education index has shown maximum improvement in the period,health has lagged behind.
The most worrisome aspect of Indias health system is that the share of public expenditure on healthcare remains consistently low at just over one per cent of GDP, the report says.
(with Manoj CG)
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