India and the World: Are we moving with the global social progress?

by Fact Fold Desk on Sun, 09/23/2018 - 11:25

The conversations on development have finally moved beyond the barriers of GDP and entered the arena that caters to the needs of the citizens of the nation.

With the release of the Social Progress Index 2018, it is evident that the global performance varies from the status of progress in Norway, which tops the charts at 90.26 to the Central African Republic, ranking last at 26.01. A difference of 65 points is enough to show that even though the world's social progress outcomes have improved, giving way to a better standard of living for all the citizens in the country, there remains regional disparity.

India stands at a crucial juncture in terms of its economic development, wherein it is currently the fastest growing world economy. However, it is necessary to understand that the sustainability of its economic development will be dependent on the social progress of the nation. 

So, where does India stand? In 2018, at 100, which is only 7 points behind the state of social progress of the world as a collective. This indicates that India is in tandem with the world average in terms of social progress, and it has had an uphill climb since 2014. The view for India's social progress looks quite decent and lays a foundation for a stronger future for the nation.

However, even though India's performance has improved over a period of time, it is necessary to see two things: one, where is India moving ahead and how can it escalate the progress via the domain that is already well-performing? Second, it is important to capture the backlogs India is carrying forward in the hope for creation of a sustainable nation? The answer lies in the trajectory for progress that India has been following, especially in the last four years.

Even the world has improved by only 1.66 points in the last four years, India has moved by 2.29 points, indicative of potential for even greater social progress in the future. India's social progress is currently driven by information and communication as well as the enhanced access to higher education. India is witnessing an upward movement of telephone subscribers growing at a monthly rate of 0.51 per cent, which is complemented by the growing network of companies that are making connectivity accessible aligned with a supportive regulatory environment. The telecom sector in India is getting strengthened, especially with the recent conversations on adoption of 5G in India, enabling digital transformation. The ongoing fourth industrial revolution demands strengthening of the access to information and communication. Therefore, what India needs on its way forward is capture the abilities of the nation and convert the potential to progress. 

Connectivity and accessibility via use of regional languages in India can speed up the process of social progress and take the nation forward.

It is not only the communication domain, but the enhanced higher education system in India too that has lifted the social progress of the nation. However, the aspect of higher education in India needs more grilling to be honed to be the driver of social progress. As per the OCED data, India does have 24,300 doctoral candidates, which is the 4th highest across the world, preceded only by US, UK and Germany. Even the quantum of enrolment in Ph.D. stands at 126,451 for the year 2015-16, as per AISHE data. However, the fact of the matter remains that even though higher education in India is showing strength at the global level, it needs to strengthen the reach and accessibility of higher education and ensure percolation of access to the bottom of the pyramid. that India's manpower meets the needs for the future of work.

Even though India is doing well on the aforementioned pillars and strengthening its social progress, there are possible factors that can drag down the state of development. The progress across the world remains uneven, wherein the progress is uneven since three of the 12 pillars that form the foundation of social progress have shown a decline. A similar trend is also visible for India, wherein the threat to India's social progress lies in the domain of personal rights, the access to which has declined over the last 4 years, and the domain of inclusion, which has barely shown any improvement. If not catered to, the concerns of personal rights and absence of inclusion can drag the state of the nation and derail the process of social progress. 

Here, it becomes important to understand that even though India has domains that fuel the social progress, there cannot be laggards within the concept of social progress for India.

Recently, with the decriminalisation of homosexuality, India has taken a move towards provisions of personal rights and inclusion. Complementing this is the need for amendments in the SC/ST Atrocities Act due to the exclusionary processes. The problems that are arising out of identities, whether the identities are historically present or evolved after birth, they continue to remain a problem for India. An inclusive society needs to be supported to ensure the personal rights of all individuals equally, otherwise the social progress of the nation will be curtailed in the absence of such catalysts.

The important thing is to understand that these factors wont simply singularly push social progress, instead build the other pillars, for example, digital infrastructure will enable social inclusion. The idea is to ensure social progress and ensure that the strengths are focused on to accelerate the process, and the threats are dealt with to ensure nothing brings the social progress trajectory down. The focus remains on actionability for social progress.

(Amit Kapoor is chair, Institute for Competitiveness. The views expressed are personal. -Amit Kapoor & Paramjeet Chawla