Development Ideas

The qualitative indicators of development as conceived by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are unique. Monitoring development over time is important in order to improve the lifestyles of the common people.

Development Ideas


The qualitative indicators of development as conceived by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are unique. Monitoring development over time is important in order to improve the lifestyles of the common people. Some typical qualitative indicators are literacy, mortality and morbidity rates, income etc. Consequently, development with a human face and pragmatic analysis of broader dimensions of human well-being circumvent the policy makers. The UNDP over the years has focused on inter-relationships between human development and human rights.

It analyses the impact of growth, economic structures, human rights development and reiterates that elimination of poverty should be addressed as a basic entitlement of human rights and definitely should not be perceived as an act of charity. The value of the Human Development Index (HDI), as well as its relevance and importance are well recognized. Consequently the human poverty index (HPI) emerges as a powerful instrument for conceptual understanding and embracing sustainable development. Recognizing the poverty of choices and opportunities implies that poverty must be addressed in all its dimensions, not income alone, despite the fact that a lot can be achieved in human development by utilizing income. It is absolutely essential that income should not dictate the value of the HDI. The HDI index has been criticized on a number of grounds.

For example it failed to include any ecological considerations including environment, exclusively pinpointing on national performance and ranking and not paying cognizance to development from a global perspective. The imperfections of the HDI index and its shortcomings like other composite indices evoke many pertinent questions including its transformation and evolution as well as its distillation and refinement. Advocating equal rights for women and children has been and will continue to be an important factor underlying this evolution. The assessment of perceived satisfaction and dissatisfaction has proven to be useful.


Administrative records do not always give correct results. On the contrary, statistics supplied by nodal agencies are likely to be inaccurate. For example, in education, one of the most commonly used indicators derived from administrative statistics, namely school enrolment, doesn’t mention dropouts. The claim of 100 per cent literacy in some districts of West Bengal, echoed by the leaders of the CPI-M during their almost three and half decades of rule was not only inaccurate but ludicrous. It is unfortunate that this important indicator of development is inflated purposely so that figures give wrong ideas. Another indicator is the proportion of households with at least one literate member.

Most developed countries which have had compulsory education do not necessarily measure literacy. Similarly few hospital beds or limited availability of health care centres per 10,000 population is an indicator of lack of minimum infrastructure, because of geographical maldistribution of health care centers that are inaccessible to the lower income group. However, the UNDP ignores the essential needs of human beings such as harmony and happiness while considering the HDI. Expansion of health, education and income, according to UNDP, would enable human beings to be more developed. Surely income and health may be attributed as a powerful instrument of development.

Good incomes can combat inequality of opportunities in many respects. Generation of income is good and perhaps a driving force to improve the quality of life to a certain extent. At the same time, effective and meaningful use of income seems to be more important, particularly in the field of education which would ultimately bring social harmony and happiness. The classical ideas of development as perceived by Aristotle, Karl Marx and John Stuart Mill are significant even today. The terms development and freedom are common. However, careful consideration would reveal the intricacy of the two words. Development for whom? What is freedom? There certainly exist various types of freedom, like freedom of speech, freedom to write and express views and ideas, freedom of thought. Political and civil freedom is part of human freedom. But there appears to be lack of freedom affecting millions in our country. Labour bondage is an example.

The ruling parties are vociferously highlighting the profound success of development issues and performance which is supported by reports and statistical data. On the other hand, the opposition describes all this as propaganda, and an illusion of development. It asks whether development in various sectors can be measured only by citing statistics. The real test is the fulfillment of basic needs with regard to food, housing, clothing, health care, education and employment opportunities. Be that as it may, the citizens of India have been watching various development projects initiated by the union and the state governments, aimed at welfare of the common people, for several years.

Appeasing the rural electorate during presentation of the annual budget proves to be ineffective in bringing development in the true sense of the term. At the same time elimination of corruption would appear to be a prudent step in marching ahead for the development of a nation. Distribution of resources to the unprivileged; sagacious consideration of economic growth, and measures for creating job opportunities are equally important. Development should be viewed as a journey to achieve freedom. It is a process of generation and realization of new opportunities. Sustained development, however, is a continuous process. Needless to say, imparting proper education is a deliberate, spontaneous, process. It enlarges abilities.

Social goals and social content of education appear to be equally important. Freedom of education alone can ultimately bring human freedom and total development. It is a glorious journey from untruth to truth, from darkness to light, from ignorance to consciousness. Freedom through education is necessary in our country with 424 million illiterates. Around 35 million children, aged between six and 10, do not even attend school, and about 40 per cent drop out before reaching class five. In tertiary education, the enrollment is six per cent only. If advancement of human freedom is our main object and means for total development, it is imperative that we should re-examine our education policy, particularly for rural and backward sections.

It is absolutely imperative to initiate qualitative improvements in the field of education, right from the primary to higher education level immediately, if real nation building development is our aim. Rural reconstruction as perceived by Tagore has great relevance even today, despite the ‘smart cities’ concept. According to Tagore, rural reconstruction was nothing but national development, and this area should be given the utmost priority in a nation building venture. His novel, Gora, published about a century ago, is worth recalling. Gora, an educated city-born young man and brought up in a cultured society, had horrifying experiences in the village. Tagore wanted the welfare of the rural poor not by prodding mere literacy but by nurturing and widening their minds to give strength and consciousness in all possible directions. According to Tagore, reading and writing is a secondary question, communication from heart to heart is what matters more. He reiterated that without restoration of a balance between city and village, no development was possible.

Cities have their function of maintaining wealth and knowledge in concentrated forms, but they should not be centers of irrigation; they should gather in order to distribute. They should be like lamp posts; the light must transcend their own limits. ‘The religion of man’ written by Tagore in 1931 is unique and extremely relevant even today. The dissolute, disorderly, unregulated, bohemian intelligence of people with profound learning is dangerous indeed, and a matter of graver concern than people without literacy. The human must transcend from self to self-sacrifice for others, be compassionate and tender, possess profound sympathy for the destitute, and must unite the heart with the entire living and non-living materials of the environment. Such development is difficult to perceive and presumably cannot be measured by any mathematical index.

(The writer, a former Reader in Chemistry, Presidency College, Kolkata was associated with the UGC and UNICEF)