A Review of Human Development Trends in South Asia: 1990-2009

2010 Occasional Paper
By Kumar, Avinash

This paper is a review of the broad human development trends in the South Asian region over the last twenty years. It attempts to identify the changing patterns, the region’s persisting sluggish performance on human development indicators in general as well as country-specific and intracountry variations, along with explanations towards the same. It concurs with the recent findings that the economic growth and the Human Development Index have little in common. The paper also looks at different models of development that the countries within the region have followed; their fall outs and; their respective attempts to overcome challenges through various social protection policies. What comes across as a specific characteristic of the region is the phenomenon of continuing socio-economic exclusion of a certain set of people on the basis of caste, ethnicity, religion and gender. The paper, outlining these challenges, argues that while a direct attack on poverty through social protection measures is necessary, it is in the overall paradigm of development that the inclusion of the poor is extremely urgent. In this sense, what needs to be done is both at the level of the state to create grounds for social, political and economic transformations and at the level of the civil society, to destabilize the informal networks of caste and other identities which continue to sustain an exclusionary hierarchical structure.