India shines in its malls but slips badly when it comes to ensuring the well- being of its millions.
India may well be the world’s fastest growing “free market”economy, but it is no competition to its neighbours when it comes to the social wellbeing of its people.
A comparison with the neighbouring nations shows that besides Pakistan, all others like Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and China are far better off in terms of various social welfare indicators.
Even as India’s positive growth story makes headlines, it is the second worst performing country in South Asia when it comes to female literacy.
At 74 per cent, India is ranked just above Pakistan where 61 per cent of the women are educated. Even Bangladesh fares better.
And it gets worse.
Among South Asian countries India is probably the worst place to be born in, as the chances of survival till the age of five are much weaker than the chances in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and China. Yet again, we are better off than Pakistan, albeit slightly.
The revelation is not too surprising when 28 per cent of children in India are born underweight as against three per cent in China, 17 per cent in Sri Lanka, 21 per cent in Nepal and 22 per cent in Bangladesh.
This embarrassing performance has come to the fore with the release of a UNICEF report in the Capital on Wednesday.
The study highlights the state of poor children growing up in cities. Statistics on child survival, development and protection paint a very sorry state of India in comparison to its neighbours as well.
Not everyone in India, however, is unfamiliar with this scenario.
The Human Development Report 2011 released by the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR) (an autonomous body under the Planning Commission) last year had made some shocking revelations on the levels of food insecurity, malnutrition and the dismal health infrastructure of the country.
In January, the Prime Minister called malnourishment among children a “national shame”while releasing a report on hunger and malnutrition.
“It’s a shame that in some states of our country the levels of hunger and malnutrition are worse than some sub- Saharan countries. A lot needs to done in terms of social welfare of our children and women,”Shantha Sinha, head of the National Commission for protection of Child Rights, who was present at the launch of the report said.
URBAN POOR NEGLECTED
SHOWING how the cities in India have failed to nurture its poor children, the UNICEF report shatters the common perception that the urban poor are better off than their counterparts in rural areas.
Infant mortality rate for the underprivileged in cities (55 deaths for every 1,000 live births) is not too different from the scenario in rural India (62 deaths for every 1,000 live births).
Anaemia is almost equally prevalent in urban (71 per cent) and rural (72 per cent) children.
But the most embarrassing statistic is on the underweight children in urban areas. Forty seven per cent of urban poor children are born underweight as against 46 per cent in rural India. “Our report shows that growing up poor in a city is much tougher than it is in a village,”K. D. Maiti, planning monitoring and evaluation specialist with Unicef, India said.