In my previous post in a series evaluating the economic performance of BJP and Congress, I analyzed the GDP growth achieved by Gujarat under Narendra Modi to the other nine largest states of India. In this post, I will focus on improvements in Human Development Index (HDI) in all ten states. Similar analysis of HDI improvements in India under UPA, compared to its peers, can be found in another post.
HDI is often used as a shorthand for the state of overall human development. This is not a measure of just income, but a composite measure that includes measures of income, life expectancy, health, and education.
The chart below shows the HDI values for the ten states in 1999-2000 (in red), and the improvements since then (in green) as reported in the India Human Development Report 2011, the latest such report to provide state-by-state HDI scores. These improvements cover the period until 2008. The states are ordered by 1999 HDI score, smallest to largest from left to right.
This chart shows that Gujarat’s improvement in overall development in this period pales in comparison to all major states except Rajasthan. Gujarat’s performance is worse than less developed states like Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, and it is worse than that of more developed states like Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. The improvement achieved in Gujarat lags behind eight of the nine major states both in absolute terms (quantum of improvement in HDI score), and relative terms (improvement as a percentage of base value, shown in parentheses in the green bars above). In this same period, India as a whole achieved an average improvement in HDI score of 21%, compared to Gujarat’s 13%. So in terms of overall development, Gujarat’s performance was below-average.
HDI includes income as one of the metrics. Given Gujarat’s slightly faster GDP growth, this underperformance on overall development indicates a larger lag in other socioeconomic metrics like education and health. To put it another way, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka achieved more overall development with less income growth than Gujarat managed to do with more income growth in the same period.
When we put the GDP growth performance and the HDI improvements together, it is clear that the growth Gujarat experienced under Narendra Modi is not exceptional. It is therefore not possible to make a fact-based argument that Narendra Modi’s economic performance was unusually good.