India’s development saga vs. BPL: Who are we kidding?

India’s journey towards development is much like the fairy tale of Vikramaditya and Betaal. Destination seems inches away from reach, but the path seems to get rickety by the day. Five years plans came and went, LPG became a topic for group discussion, fiftieth Independence Day was celebrated with pomp and vision 2020 became every Indians dream, thanks to our President APJ Abdul Kalam. Sixty years later, we are still a developing country, now fondly called an emerging economy.

If figures are testimonials of growth, India has more to its kitty than its population of 1.2 billion, as it is the ninth largest in the world by nominal GDP and the fourth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). But on the flip side, we are ranked 119th in Human Development Index with 41% of the people living below the poverty line.  With a BPL set at Rs.31 in urban areas and Rs.25 in rural areas, Indian Government can hide behind the economic growth rates, but would India be able to justify the BPL cap set.

The definition of people under the poverty line, who are entitled to subsidized food and energy supplies, have varied from time to time, based on the governments, state legislatures and planning commissions. However, it was never been able to fathom the exact level of poverty that actually exists, with more than half a billion people living in horrendous conditions.

Mankind has moved long way ahead from the dreams of “Roti, Kapada aur Makaan” and “Bijli, Sadak aur Pani” has become passé. However, the BPL revised in 2011 is based on a survey conducted in 2002, with respect to a person’s private expenditure on food, education and health. No wonder, the BPL lines are dubbed as starvation lines.

The former U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt rightly said: “The unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power. The plans that build from the bottom up and not from the top down and  that which put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”

As we recover from one recession and head into another, let us remember that holistic and sustained development would be the only key to India’s success. It would require consistent and focused effort in socioeconomic development by taking the “common man” up in the economic pyramid. This would happen only with the realization that economic growth is merely a single aspect of the process of economic development and that it has several dimensions including standard of living, human capital, infrastructure development, sustainable environment, social equality, health, literacy, etc.

All said and done, the question remains whether India is set to be a developed country and economic super power by 2020. Ten years from now could be an unrealistic target if economic development has to be achieved in its true sense, but better late than never.