Inequality in health indicators on the rise in India: Economic Survey

The Economic Survey says that progress in healthcare has been slower than other countries equal in progress and GDP per capita

By Kundan Pandey
Published: Tuesday 31 January 2017

Children and women bear the burden of systemic deficiency in health delivery (via Creative Commons)

The gap in health indicators among different regions is increasing in India, points out the Economic Survey 2017, calling the situation as “perplexing”.

“Despite growing rapidly on average, there is sign of growing regional inequality among the Indian states. This is puzzling because the underlying forces in favour of equalisation within India—namely strong and rising movements of goods and people— are strongly evident,” says the Economic Survey that was released on January 31.

India’s progress on health indicators is also lagging when compared to other countries similar to it in progress and per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as per the survey. For instance, life expectancy in India is much lower than the average country on health parameters. The performances of states is also below par. Kerala’s life expectancy has increased by a mere 1.7 per cent over the past 11 years, which is lower than a country that started off with similar status in health indicators. This holds true for all the Indian states, says the report.

This trajectory has also been mirrored in the case of Infant mortality rates (IMR) in India. Indian states fall behind when compared to other countries equal in progress and per capita GDP. This is consistent with findings of last year’s Economic Survey that said children and women perhaps bear the burden of systemic deficiency in health delivery.

It is for experts to deliberate on the reasons of the slow progress in healthcare. In spite of the Economic Survey terming the situation as “perplexing”, India has, in recent past, not allocated sufficient funds to public health and delivery of services.

The Economic Survey states that India’s capacity to deliver essential services like healthcare and education has remained weak due to high levels of corruption, clientelism, rules and red tapeism. It adds that at the state level, competitive populism is more evident than competitive service delivery. Constraints to policy making due to strict adherence to rules and abundant caution in bureaucratic decision-making favours status quo, the Survey cautions.

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