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Glaring regional disparities in human development index

T. Ramakrishnan


CHENNAI: The Eleventh Five Year (2007-2012) Plan document, prepared by the State Planning Commission and formally released by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on Thursday, brought out glaring regional disparities in the overall human development index (HDI) in the State and the components of the HDI.

Though Tamil Nadu was one among the most developed states in the country, the report, prepared in December 2007, stated that the differences were a “matter of serious concern.” The difference in the HDI between the top-ranking district and the lowest-ranking district was substantial.

The overall HDI value for the State went up from 0.657 in 2003 to 0.736 in 2006. The improvement was attributed to positive changes in all the human development indicators. Four indicators – life expectancy at birth (LEB), literacy rate, gross enrolment ratio (GER) and the real per capita gross state domestic product (GSDP) at purchase power parity in terms of $ – were used to calculate the HDI. In the case of districts, the fourth indicator was the real per capita gross district domestic product (GDDP).

Talking of the disparity, the report, which referred to the first Tamil Nadu State Human Development Report (2003), said Chennai maintained the first place in the HDI rank with the value of 0.842. As in the case of the SHDR, Dharmapuri was the last (30th) in rank with 0.656. Krishnagiri (now bifurcated from Dharmapuri) and Villupuram held the 29th and 28th ranks respectively. [During the preparation of the Planning Commission’s document, there were only 30 districts].

As regards the inter-relationship of the different components of the HDI, many districts had varying levels of correlation. For example, Kanyakumari, one of the top-ranking districts in the literacy rate and GER, was ranked 17th in terms of the per capita income and 14th in the case of life expectancy. Chennai occupied not only the highest overall rank but also topped in life expectancy and income indices and held the fourth rank in literacy whereas Dharmapuri performed poorly in all parameters.

As for the Gender Development Index (GDI), the five top districts were Chennai, Tuticorin, Kancheepuram, Coimbatore and Tiruvallur while the bottom five districts were Dharmapuri, Villupuram, Krishnagiri, Tiruvannamalai and Perambalur. [The document defined GDI as one which adjusts or discounts gender inequality and shows the level of attainment in human development when there is no gender disparity].

A comparison of the HDI and GDI ranks showed that 22 out of 30 districts had identical ranks. The top and bottom five districts were the same in respect both HDI and GDI. The GDI ranks of four districts – Villupuram, Tiruvarur, Nagappatinam and Pudukottai – were less than their HDI ranks.

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