Booked for arms

UNDP's Human Development Report has become a bone of contention for 2 Indian ministries

By Rahul Shrivastava
Published: Wednesday 30 November 1994

COMMENTS on the funding of education in India that feature in the Human Development Report 1994, prepared by the United- Nations Development Project (UNDP), have triggered a fracas between the Union ministry of external affairs (MEA) and the ministry of human resourcedevelopment (MHRD).

The UNDP report had mentioned that "India opted for high defence spending at the cost of basic education to all 15 million girls out of school. The country has 27 per cent of the world's poorest people and is still a leading purchaser of conventional armament."

In a belated response to the UNDP report which came out in April, Union minister of state fog external affairs, Salman Khursheed told the press in October that India may sever ties with the UNDP if it Continued making such remarks. MEA officials claim that the assessment in the report was highly subjective and the figures quoted were incorrect.

Speaking on behalf of the G-77 nations prior to the United Nations; Conference on Social Development, Khursheed put to practice the expertise gained from observing armtwisting of UN organs by the developed nations. Said Khursheed, "The G-77 nations have several problems with the Human Development Report, including intrusive mechanism employed to monitor development. The nations do not have to justify its spendings to outside their country but only to the voters. The increasing Subjectivity of the report is a cause for concern. The report looks at government in a way that detracts from their sovereignty."

But the comments in the UNDP report are being defended by officials in the cash-strapped MHRD. Says a senior HRD official, "The report vindicated our stand. Education needs higher budgetary allocation. Governments recklessly spend on armaments to cover up continuous failures on the diplomatic front." The MHRD ministry has been demanding 6 per cent of budgetary allocations against the present 3.5 per cent.

Poor performance
India's ranking according to the Human Development Report, 1994
Human Development Index 135
Access to health services 67
Life expectancy 52
Daily calories supply 43
GNP per capita 72

Meanwhile, the G-77 nations ranked as poor performers on the Human Development Index have chosen to challenge the validity of the report by seeking more transparency and clarifications on whether the report purports the views of the UN and the UNDP.

A section of MHRD officials believe that the actual reason behind the MEA outburst is that the report has been authored by Mahboob ul Haq, former finance minister of Pakistan who has been amassing influence at the UN at the cost of the Indian delegates. MEA Officials, however, denied it.

The reaction of the minister caught even the UNDP unawares especially because the Human Development Report has become popular during the last 5 years as the closest to authentic assessment of performances of nations in support of welfare.

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