India’s Human Development Journey: from Analysis to Action

31 May 2011


The document traces the journey of human development in India and the UNDP-Planning Commission partnership that has focused on building state capacity for human development reporting and analysis, capacity development of functionaries, gender sensitization in planning, advocacy and strengthening statistical systems.

The human development paradigm introduced in the early 1990s sought to shift focus from national income as the only indicator of development to expanding the choices people have. The aim, therefore, was to put people at the centre of the development process.

The concept of human development, pioneered by Mahbub ul Haq, and building on the work of Amartya Sen on the capabilities approach, was introduced by the United Nations Development Programme in 1990 in the first global Human Development Report (HDR). These reports which would become seminal publications also introduced the Human Devel Development Index that measures a country’s progress beyond gross nationalopment income to include social indicators such as health and education.

In India, this coincided with a period of economic reforms and liberalization of the economy. Amidst rapid growth and rising inequalities, a need was felt to reinforce the idea that people matter, and India welcomed the concept of human development. This was reflected in the 8 8th National Five-Year Plan, formulated in 1992, which stated that “human development was the ulti ultimate goal of all planning.” The global release of the HDR in New Delhi in mate 1993 provided further impetus to the process, and in 1995, Madhya Pradesh, India’s second largest state released the first ever sub-national HDR.

India has produced the highest number of HDRs in the world. Twenty-one Indian states have released HDRs and 80 districts are preparing district-level HDRs. Many of these reports have had considerable influence in their respec respective states’ media and policy debates. They have contributed to building tive greater awareness of human development issues and the human develop development perspective among the population generally.

The policy impact of the HDRs is evident as the Government of India and state governments have mainstreamed human development into planning, implementation and monitoring processes, including capacity development. Human development-oriented policymaking has been successfully supported through courses in public administrative training institutes nationally and at the state level. Several universities have introduced courses on human development. Numerous young research scholars have been introduced to the human development approach through orientation workshops. Private sector companies have also engaged with the human development approach to assess the human development impact of their business practices.

Popular thinking on development holds that government ownership and wide-scale participation are mutually exclusive Yet, India, the world’s largest democracy and home to one-third of the global poor, has shown that both can indeed co-exist. State government ownership and leader leadership of the HDR process is a firm reality and this ensures that states are ship accountable and sensitive to human development issues. At the same time, the voices of thousands have fed into this understanding of human development through stakeholder consultations, district and village- level reports and community mobilization.

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