ndia keeps talking big on its growth story since the turn of this century, and the claims were essentially anchored on the economic growth, which clocked around nine per cent at that time – many a times higher than the growth rate of fast-developing China. At the same time, little regard was given to the ground scenarios as is reflected in an iteration of global studies and surveys. Human Development Indices, for one. India is always at the bottom of the ladder, with several nations even in Africa – widely considered as worst scenes of poverty and squalor – upstaging India in the matter of better living conditions for their citizens. India’s position in a just-released World Economic Forum report on Gender Gap must be seen in this context.
The report has put India at rank 112 among nations in terms of existing gender gap. India finds a place among the bottom-five nations. Worse, it is noted that India’s gender balancing scenario is turning from bad to worse over the years. In 2006, the first time such an annual report began being compiled and released, India stood at 96th place. Last year, India stood at 108th place. Clearly, rather than registering an improvement, the gap between male and female status is worsening year after year.
Political parties form governments which come and go every five years, and what they leave behind are big claims about taking the nation forward. Another example is the GDP rate which was projected as the yardstick for growth in the recent past. That claim too has been belied of late with the rate going below five per cent and every sector of the national economy palpably feeling the pinch.
Admittedly, it is not easy for any government to pull the nation out of the depths to which it has sunk, for the reason that the population remains ever-bulging, now touching at around 1.50 billion and threatening to outdo the largest populated country – China. Population bulge is acceptable if the youth of a nation is gainfully trained and employed in productive sectors of the economy. Large segments of the Indian youth are, in sum, lazying away their time. Opportunities are mostly urban-centric. There is neither an encouragement to the entrepreneurial spirit nor the creation of job opportunities. This, also as the manufacturing sector is taking huge hits in the context of the massive invasion of markets with Chinese goods.
The report also notes that the gender gap in political fields worldwide has narrowed down, but sadly the gap in economic empowerment between men and women has worsened. The economic opportunity gap has widened from 202 last year to 257 this year, which might also be linked to the present global recessionary trends. India has improved its positioning on women political empowerment to the 18th place, but slipped to 150th position on basic living requirements of health and survival, 149th in terms of economic opportunities and to 112th place in education. The report also notes that on health and survival, women of Pakistan, India, Vietnam and China fared the worst.
Two aspects need special mention vis-à-vis India. The report notes that only one-quarter of women – as against 82 per cent of men –engage actively in the labour market; and this at 145th slot is cited as among the lowest globally. It also notes that the estimated income of women is mere one-fifth of the male income – also, sadly, the world’s lowest, at 144th position.
All of which goes to show something is seriously wrong with India’s Growth Story. What the Indian establishment and media trumpet about is no more than a casual reflection of the urban scenario, where no more than 35 per cent of the people live and work. Despite the big talk about its economic super power status, several social sectors of the economy too are seriously ailing, as the gender gap report demonstrates. In other words, India as a whole needs to undertake more efforts in more serious ways to ensure a dignified existence to its citizens, especially women.