There is nothing more basic in terms of human necessities than the adequate availability of roti, kapra aur makaan
. Going beyond these bare essentials of food, clothing and housing, one can add sanitation, health care and education. Let's examine how the two biggest nations in South Asia are coping with such fundamental necessities of their population:
Food is the most basic necessity of all. In terms of being better fed, Pakistanis consume significantly more dairy products, sugar, wheat, meat, eggs and poultry on a per capita basis than Indians, according to FAO data
. Average Pakistani gets about 50% of daily calories from non-food-grain sources versus 33% for average Indians.
There is widespread hunger and malnutrition
in all parts of India. India ranks 66th on the 2008 Global Hunger Index of 88 countries while Pakistan is slightly better at 61 and Bangladesh slightly worse at 70. The first India State Hunger Index (Ishi) report in 2008 found that Madhya Pradesh had the most severe level of hunger in India, comparable to Chad and Ethiopia. Four states — Punjab, Kerala, Haryana and Assam — fell in the 'serious' category. "Affluent" Gujarat, 13th on the Indian list is below Haiti, ranked 69. The authors said India's poor performance was primarily due to its relatively high levels of child malnutrition and under-nourishment resulting from calorie deficient diets.
India has recently been described as a "nutritional weakling
" by a British report.
According to Werner International
, Pakistan's per capita consumption of textile fibers is about 4 Kg versus 2.8 Kg for India. Global average is 6.8 Kg and the industrialized countries' average consumption is 17 Kg per person per per year.
There is widespread homelessness in India with the urgent need for 72 million housing
units. Pakistan, too, has a housing crisis and needs about 7 million additional housing units, according to the data presented
at the World Bank Regional Conference on Housing last year.
India might be an emerging economic power, but it is way behind Pakistan
, Bangladesh and even Afghanistan in providing basic sanitation facilities, a key reason behind the death of 2.1 million children under five in the country.
Lizette Burgers, chief of water and environment sanitation of the Unicef
, recently said India is making progress in providing sanitation but it lags behind most of the other countries in South Asia. A former Indian minister Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told the BBC
that more than 65% of India's rural population defecated in the open, along roadsides, railway tracks and fields, generating huge amounts of excrement every day.
As an example, let's compare India's largest slum
Dharavi with Pakistan's Orangi Town. The fact is that Orangi is nothing like Dharavi
in terms of the quality of its housing or the services available to its residents. While Dharavi has only one toilet per 1440 residents and most of its residents use Mahim Creek, a local river, for urination and defecation, Orangi has an elaborate sanitation system built by its citizens. Under Orangi Pilot Project's guidance, between 1981 and 1993 Orangi residents installed sewers serving 72,070 of 94,122 houses. To achieve this, community members spent more than US$2 million of their own money, and OPP invested about US$150,000 in research and extension of new technologies. Orangi pilot project has been admired widely for its work with urban poor.
A basic indicator of healthcare is access to physicians. There are 80 doctors per 100,000 population in Pakistan versus 60 in India, according to the World Health Organization
. For comparison with the developed world, the US and Europe have over 250 physicians per 100,000 people. UNDP recently reported that life expectancy at birth
in Pakistan is 66.2 years versus India's 63.4 years.
India's literacy rate
of 61% is well ahead of Pakistan's 50% rate. In higher education, six Indian universities have made the list of the top 400 universities published by Times Higher Education Supplement
this year. Only one Pakistani university was considered worthy of such honor.
Pakistan has consistently scored lower on the HDI sub-index on education
than its overall HDI index. It is obvious from the UNDP report
and other sources that Pakistan's dismal record in enrolling and educating its young people, particularly girls
, stands in the way of any significant positive development in the nation. The recent announcement of a new education policy
that calls for more than doubling the education spending from about 3% to 7% of GDP is a step in the right direction. However, money alone will not solve the deep-seated problems of poor access to education, rampant corruption and the ghost schools
that only exist on paper, that have simply lined the pockets of corrupt politicians and officials. Any additional money allocated must be part of a broader push for transparent and effective delivery of useful education to save the people from the curses of poverty, ignorance and extremism which are seriously hurting the nation.
In spite of deficiency in education, how is it that Pakistanis can maintain better standards of living in terms of food, clothing, shelter, sanitation and healthcare than their neighbor India? The answer can be found in the fact that their real per capita incomes are actually higher than reported by various agencies. The most recent real per capita income data was calculated and reported by Asian Development Bank
based on a detailed study of a list of around 800 household and nonhousehold products in 2005 and early 2006 to compare real purchasing power for ADB's trans-national income comparison program (ICP). The ICP concluded that Pakistan had the highest per capita income at HK$ 13,528 among the largest nations in South Asia. It reported India’s per capita as HK $12,090.
Clearly, the status of an average Indian is not only worse than an average Pakistani's, the abject deprivation in India is comparable to the nations in sub-Saharan Africa. However, Pakistanis do need to worry about their woefully inadequate state of education and literacy. They must find a way to develop the skills, grow the economy and create opportunities for their growing young population. As Pakistan's former finance minister Salman Shah recently told the wall Street Journal
, "Pakistan has to be part of globalization or you end up with Talibanization. Until we put these (Pakistan's) young people into industrialization and services, and off-farm work, they will drift into this negative extremism; there is nothing worse than not having a job." Unless Pakistanis heed Shah's advice, there is real danger that Pakistan will slip into total chaos and violence, endangering the entire nation in the foreseeable future.
To summarize, this post has discussed six different indicators of life in any nation: Availability of food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, health care and education. The published data that I have shared with you shows that PAKISTAN IS AHEAD OF INDIA IN FIVE OF THE SIX INDICATORS. In education, however, Pakistan is marginally behind India, which itself suffers from low levels of literacy and wide gender gap
resulting in very poor showing on the UNDP HDI this year, and in prior years. In fact, India dropped six places on the world rankings from a low of 128 to an even lower 134. Unfortunately, Pakistan has also slipped three ranks on the list, down from 138 to 141, mainly due to its deficit in literacy and gender discrimination.
Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India
Food, Clothing and Shelter For All
Is India a Nutritional Weakling?
Asian Gains in World's Top Universities
South Asia Slipping in Human Development
What Does Democracy Deliver in Pakistan
Do South Asian Slums Offer Hope?