Human Development Index of Kashmir

Kashmir's Development statistics: Nailing a lie

Print edition : August 30, 2019

Schoolchildren arrive for class after the winter break in Srinagar, a file picture. In Jammu and Kashmir, the school attendance for female children above six years of age went up from 57.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 65.5 per cent in 2015-16. Photo: NISSAR AHMAD

Government data on the HDI of Jammu and Kashmir do not support the Centre’s justification for scrapping Article 370. The State is not very backward; rather, it has shown marked progress in various development indices and ranks higher than several other States.

In calling for the dissolution of Article 370 and other measures relating to Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national general secretary and Rajya Sabha member Bhupendra Yadav were emphatic that one of the reasons why the Article had to be scrapped and the State reorganised as two Union Territories was the need to address issues such as development and militancy. Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government was bringing an entire “system for J&K’s development, employment and planning”. He said the government would give the benefits of reservation, education and jobs to deserving children. In his speech delivered in Parliament, Amit Shah said that because of Article 370, the people of the Kashmir Valley were living in “qurbat” (Urdu for poverty), and did not get the benefits of reservation. There was injustice against women and the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, he said. Bhupendra Yadav stated in the Upper House that the expectations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir had gone up and it was their (the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government’s) responsibility to fulfil them. “Who will think of J&K’s development, of investment?” he asked rhetorically. He added: “Who will make avagaman [traffic] possible in J&K?”

The fact is that available government data do not substantiate the claims of the ruling party.

According to the Economic Survey (2018-19), the Subnational Human Development Index developed by the United Nations Development Programme for States in India in the period between 1990 and 2017 showed a marked improvement for all the States in the Indian Union. Kerala, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab were the top four in the list while Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh were in the bottom of the rankings. The State of undivided Jammu and Kashmir, that is before it was reduced to two Union Territories under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, 2019, was neither in the top four nor among the worse off States. The evidence of the State being backward or lagging in development as claimed by Amit Shah simply does not exist if the basic indices of human development are considered and compared with other States. The data expose the lie that the BJP-NDA government has used for the abrogation of Article 370 and the nullification of the subsidiary provision of Article 35A.

In fact, not only has Jammu and Kashmir kept pace with the other States in improvement in human development indices (HDI), some of the indicators pertaining to literacy rates, marriage and fertility, child sex ratios and school attendance rates for girls over six years of age are relatively better than those for Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. Some of Jammu and Kashmir’s indices are even better than those found in the new States carved out of larger States, such as Jharkhand from Bihar, Chhattisgarh from Madhya Pradesh or Uttarakhand from Uttar Pradesh, in the very first tenure of the NDA under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. A simple analysis of government data from the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS), the Sample Registration System (SRS) and Human Development Reports suggest that bifurcation does not necessarily lead to equitable development. Territorial bifurcation does not imply that people have been alleviated from poverty.

The HDI is an average of the subnational values of three dimensions, mainly education, health and standard of living. Education is measured through “mean years of schooling of adults aged 25 plus” and “expected years of schooling of children aged six”; health is measured by “life expectancy at birth”; and general standard of living by “gross national income per capita”. According to these indices, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh remained at the bottom of the rank for the last 27 years; north-eastern States (Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur) slipped down in their ranking, while Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka registered a significant upward climb in their HDI ranking.

Jammu and Kashmir ranked 11th

The HDI for Jammu and Kashmir showed an improvement from its 1990 status. It was ranked 11 among 25 States (highest scores ordered as rank 1), scoring better than Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Tripura, Assam, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and even Gujarat, which was ranked 14. The NITI Aayog developed a sustainable development goal (SDG) index classifying States and Union Territories into four categories of “achiever, front runner, performer and aspirant” depending on their scores. The SDG is based on a set of 17 global goals and 169 targets to be achieved by 2030, aimed at addressing global challenges.

Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu occupied the first three positions and were front-runner States while Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam were ranked lowest in the aspirant category. Jammu and Kashmir was placed in the “performer” category of 23 States alongside Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra and Punjab. It was ranked 17 out of 23 States, ahead of Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Odisha and Jharkhand. It was also ranked much better than Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Assam, which were in the “aspirant” category of States, ranked much below the performer and front-runner States.

One of the much-touted success stories of the NDA government has been its achievement in getting bank accounts opened for women under programmes to expand their financial inclusion and gender equality. However, even before the NDA assumed power, government data reveal that significant progress was made in Jammu and Kashmir in the past one decade. States were ranked on the basis of the extent of financial inclusion for women and household autonomy. The NFHS-4 (2015-16), which collected data on women with bank accounts, found that at the all-India level, the percentage of women with bank accounts increased from 15.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 53 per cent in 2015-16. In Jammu and Kashmir, the percentage of women with bank accounts increased from 22 per cent to 60 per cent, which, if anything, compares well with the all-India average and appears to be better than the increases in Bihar, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and even Karnataka. In fact, the figure for Jammu and Kashmir was at the same level as that of Gujarat, whose model of development has been held as a beacon by the BJP, worthy of emulation by other States. Similarly, the percentage of women using mobile phones at 54 per cent in 2015-16 is much higher than comparable figures for Jharkhand (35 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (37 per cent) and Chhattisgarh (31 per cent) and on a par with Uttarakhand (55 per cent).

Child Sex Ratio

According to the NFHS-4, the percentage of currently married women (in the age group of 15-59 years) participating in the overall household decision-making process increased across the country. Jammu and Kashmir ranked better than most other States, including Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Assam, Chhattisgarh and some of the States in the north-eastern region. Its ranking was on a par with Tripura, Uttarakhand and Telangana. Similarly, it did not rank badly in terms of health infrastructure, according to the norms of the Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS). According to the Rural Health Statistics, NFHS-4, Census SRS Bulletin on the 2014-16 maternal mortality ratio (MMR), Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were among the States with high-performing primary health centres conforming to the IPHS norms indicating a high level of antenatal care, while Haryana and Uttar Pradesh (both ruled by the BJP at present) ranked poorly in meeting such norms, reflecting very high MMR. A comparison of the health indicators between NFHS-4 (2015-16) and NFHS-3 (2005-06) shows a marked improvement in Jammu and Kashmir in the decline in child and infant mortality rates, or IMR, (including under 5 mortality rates), as well as in MMRs. Compared with Jammu and Kashmir, where the IMR rates were 32 and 38 (for under five) for every 1,000 births, the figure for Gujarat was 34 and 43 deaths per 1,000 live births respectively.

Moreover, the literacy rates in Jammu and Kashmir improved for both men and women, with a 10.5 per cent increase in the percentage of women who had studied beyond class 10. Similarly, the school attendance for female children above six years of age went up from 57.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 65.5 per cent in 2015-16. School attendance rates for children improved progressively, better than in Uttar Pradesh. While the adult sex ratio showed a decline from 976 to 972 in the 10-year period, the sex ratio at birth in Jammu and Kashmir improved substantially (921 female births for every 1,000 male children in 2015-16 compared with 902 in 2005-06), higher than the developed State of Gujarat (906, the figure being the same for both NFHS-3 and NFHS-4). The fertility rate (number of children per woman) in Jammu and Kashmir went down to 2.0, lower than the recommended fertility rate of 2.4 children per woman. There was an almost 50 per cent decline in the percentage of women getting married before the age of 18 years. Some 8.7 per cent of the women were reported as getting married under the age of 18 compared with the much developed State of Gujarat, where nearly 24.9 per cent of the women continued to get married before the age of 18. The use of family planning methods was also higher in Jammu and Kashmir (57 per cent) compared with Gujarat (46.9 per cent).

What do the other development indicators reveal about Jammu and Kashmir? The NFHS data showed a marked increase in the percentage of households with electricity (from 93 per cent to 97 per cent), sanitation (24.5 per cent to 52.5 per cent), using clean fuel for cooking (38 to 58 per cent) and improved sources of drinking water (81 to 89 per cent). The rates of households using improved methods of sanitation in the State were better than that of Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. If we look at data on rural road infrastructure, Jammu and Kashmir was definitely not among the better off States, but certainly not the worse off either.

The Basic Road Statistics of India, compiled by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, gave poor ratings for all the north-eastern and hilly States for terrain-related reasons. Jammu and Kashmir was ranked 22nd out of 28 States while Haryana, Jharkand and Uttarakhand were ranked 19th, 20th and 21st respectively with marginal differences among all the four States. At least seven States, including Goa, were worse off than Jammu and Kashmir in terms or rural roads infrastructure.

The claim that Jammu and Kashmir has been the recipient of excessive Central funding has been refuted by the noted economist Arun Kumar. In a recent article titled “Does development of J&K lag behind that of other States of India?” he says that the State was not the biggest recipient of funds from the Centre. In fact, what it received was slightly more than the per capita average given to special category States but much less than what was given to special category States such as Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim where the per capita assistance was Rs.55,254 and Rs.51,128 respectively. Jammu and Kashmir received Rs.15,580 per person, slightly more than the national average of Rs.14,080 a person.

The presence of Article 370 was not an impediment in the overall development of the State as claimed by the government. All government data and surveys indicate a marked improvement in almost all human development indices in the State. By the same argument, there has to be some explanation as to why States in the general category have lagged behind in HDI with some of them showing a decline in child sex ratios, an indicator of gender discrimination in society. A close analysis of the government data suggests that the development of Jammu and Kashmir and the welfare of its people were not reasons for the drastic measure to abrogate Article 370 and reduce the State to Union Territories.

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.

Sincerely,

R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor