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July 24, 2002 | 1920 IST
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India ranks 124th on Human Development Index

India has bettered its human development record by .006 value over the previous year - ranking 124th among 173 nations on an index measuring educational attainments, life expectancy and income levels.

The United Nations Development Programme commissioned Human Development Report 2002 released in New Delhi shows that the country's Human Development Index value has gone up from 0.571 in last year's report to 0.577 this year.

India's ranking on HDI last year was 115 and the countries were 162. As the number of the countries surveyed has increased this year, India has slipped on the HDI. But when adjusted against this change, India would rank 114 this year, Brenda Gael Mcsweeney, the UNDP Resident Representative and Resident Coordinator, told a press conference in New Delhi.

The release in India coincides with the global launch of the report in Manila, Philippines.

Chairman of National Human Rights Commission J S Verma, who released the report, said development was a human rights issue. The report has underlined the important point that growth by itself does not translate into poverty eradication.

The central message of the report is that democracy needs to be widened and for people to have a real voice to influence decisions that shape their lives and the power to hold decision makers accountable not only during elections but also in the period between the elections.

The report points out that while formal institutions of democracy have become a universal norm, it is important to develop and sustain core values of inclusiveness, participation and accountability, before institutions can be seen truly democratic.

The report makes a case for decentralisation to deepen democracy and cites India's Panchayati Raj as a case.

India's effort at decentralised governance through Panchayati Raj Institutions and Constitutionally-mandated one-third reservation of seats for women to promote inclusiveness, have been lauded in the report.

An independent judiciary provides the necessary checks and balance between democratic institutions of governance. The report says India's independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the country's democracy.

India's vibrant voluntary sector also comes in for favourable mention in the report. The report, which has as its theme 'Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World,' stresses that democratic institutions are not enough and success depends upon democratic participation.

It emphasises accountability at the national and international level as central to democratic governance. This also includes accountability of media, international organisations and NGOs.

India ranks 55th on the Human Poverty Index in the report.

It says many countries are behind target to halve the number of the poor and hungry people by 2015 and if the progress continues at a snail's pace, it would take more than 130 years to rid the world of hunger.

Politics matters for human development. Reducing poverty depends as much on whether poor people have the political power as on their opportunities for economic progress.

The report calls for greater participation and accountability in global institutions of decision making, seeking more voice for developing countries.

It is critical of the veto power of just five countries in the UN Security Council. It points out that close to 50 per cent voting powers are in the hands of just seven powerful nations in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The influence of just a few industrialised countries in the World Trade Organisation, despite voting rights for all, has come in for criticism.


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