About India: Challenges
Persistent inequality is reflected in the low human development attainments of the country’s most marginalized groups including scheduled castes, tribal and rural populations, women, transgenders, people living with HIV and migrants.
Gender Inequality Despite Economic Growth
Gender inequality in India persists despite high rates of economic growth, and is particularly apparent among marginalized groups. Women participate in employment and decision making much less, than men. This disparity is not likely to be eliminated soon. India’s poor performance on women’s empowerment and gender equality is reflected in many indicators, particularly, the low sex ratio.
The government has launched several commendable schemes to save and educate the girl child and the national average has risen from 943 females per 1000 males. However, in many parts of India it continues to remains low. Gender inequality is also reflected in India’s low rank on UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index. In 2014, the country ranked 127 out of 146 countries with a value of 0.563.
Implementation Challenges of Rights-based Schemes
The effectiveness of rights-based legislations such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Forest Rights Act and Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas has been hampered by weak implementation. Reducing corruption is a key priority for India’s government.
Rising Vulnerability to Climate Change and Disaster
India is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world and it is estimated the country loses about two percent of its GDP to disasters. Around 68 percent of cultivable land in India is prone to drought of varying intensities and around 12 percent of total land is flood prone. Diverse factors, natural and human induced, adverse geo-climatic conditions, topographic features, environmental degradation, population growth, urbanization and industrialization play a huge role in accelerating the intensity and frequency of disasters resulting in huge economic losses and human casualties. With close to 533 million or 40 percent of the population expected to live in urban areas by 2025, the vulnerability of India’s cities to hazards is also likely to increase.
While India is the world’s fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG), per capita GHG emissions are amongst the lowest in the world. The challenge is to simultaneously and sustainably reduce the GHG intensity of growth while improving the access of people living in poverty to clean, sustainable and affordable energy. Much of India’s efforts to bring close to 304 million people on-grid will depend on its ability to harness renewable energy and achieve greater energy efficiency in a range of energy intensive sectors. As the second most disaster-prone country globally, vulnerable communities especially women lack the capacity to cope and adapt in the face of natural disasters, climate change and extreme weather events.
India is also one of the 17 mega-diverse countries, with four global biodiversity hotspots. However, 41 percent of forest cover in India is considered degraded. Of India’s land area of around 328 million hectares, about 120 million hectares is degraded.
Feminization of the HIV epidemic
An estimated 2.08 million people live with HIV in India, and are among the most visible of sexual minority groups, transgender remain largely invisible, isolated and subject to stereotypes. While new infections have declined by 57 percent in the past decade, states with low prevalence such as Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Odisha, Punjab, Assam, Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand now account for 41 percent of new infections. According to the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), the HIV epidemic has been increasingly feminized. In addition, the HIV epidemic in several states in the north and northeast of the country point to strong links between poverty, migration and HIV.