What ifIndiawere to opt out of the famous BRIC composite? And instead, a few states were to stand-in for the country? Not that there is a choice but how would things look then, particularly on parameters like the critical United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI)? Or other indicators?

IndiaSpend’s Dhritiman Gupta surveys a host ofIndia indicators against the BRICS countries and then stacks up a few states against them. The interesting conclusion: In many cases, we were doing quite well. Which you might know intuitively. But the specifics are interesting. For instance, Kerala andDelhi are two states that match or beatBrazil,Russia,China andSouth Africa on the critical HDI index.

Let’s first look at country rankings.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) publishes the Human Development Report (HDR) annually. The HDR analyses and ranks countries on the basis of holistic development in parameters like income, health and education.

Achievements in the three fields are combined to provide what is an index of overall development of a country, namely, Human Development Index (HDI). HDI ranges from 0 to 1. According to the latest HDR in 2011,Indiawith a HDI of 0.547 ranked 134 out of a total of 187 countries. The top spot was taken byNorwaywith an HDI of 0.943. DemocraticRepublicofCongocame in last with an HDI of 0.286.

Now, let’s take a closer look at HDI figures forIndiain contrast to BRICS nations -Brazil,Russia,ChinaandSouth Africa.

GlobalRankCountryHuman Development Index(HDI)Life Expectancy at birth (Years)Mean Years of Schooling(Years)Expected Years of Schooling(Years)Literacy Rate (%)Gross National Income per capita (at $ PPP* 2005)Non-Income HDI
66Russian Federation0.75568.89.814.199.614,5610.777
84Brazil0.71873.57.213.890.010,1620.748
101China0.68773.57.511.694.07,4760.725
123South Africa0.61952.88.513.188.79,4690.604
134India0.54765.44.410.374.034680.568

*PPP- Purchasing Power Parity

Source: UNDP HDR Report 2011, UNDP HDR Report Statistical Tables 2011, Census 2011

India Lags Behind BRICS Nations

Note that Indiaranks behind all the other BRICS countries. Russiais the top BRICS nation ranked at 66th global rankings. Moreover, India does worse in all subheads of HDI compared to all countries except with regard to life expectancy in South Africa which is a low 52.8 years due to the AIDS epidemic there.

Despite India’s ‘tiger growth’ status, per capita income is less by $ 4,008 than China. The per capita income differential with top ranked Russiais $ 11,093.The difference of $ 11,093 happens to be more than the per capita income of Romania, which has a per capita income of $ 11,046 and is at 50th in the HDI rankings.

When it comes to education,Indiaagain lags behind its partners in the BRICS. An Indian on average does 4.4 years of schooling. The figure is 9.8 years inRussia, 8.5 years inSouth Africa, 7.5 years inChinaand 7.2 years inBrazil. The literacy rate re-emphasizes the gap betweenIndiaand the other BRICS countries. The difference in literacy rates betweenIndiaand the closest countrySouth Africais 14.7%.

If we look at the non-income HDI, which leaves out per capita income out of the HDI calculations, the figures for all countries exceptSouth Africaimprove.

States vs BRICS Nation Rankings

Now, with that background, how do some of the states do? Our quick comparisons show that while there are wide variations at a country level, many states could easily be key players in the BRICS equation.

Let’s do a comparative analysis:

CountryHDI (Country) Top Four Indian StatesHDI(State)
1. Russia0.7551. Kerala0.790
2. Brazil0.7182.Delhi0.750
3. China0.6873. Himachal Pradesh0.652
4. South Africa0.6194.Goa0.617

Source: India HDR Report 2011, HDR 2011

The HDI ranking of Indian states are available only till 2007-08. In the meantime much progress has been made so a comparison on current numbers might be more encouraging. Yet, Kerala with a HDI of 0.790 does much better than all the BRICS nations. In fact in Global rankings Kerala would come in 48th.Delhi also does really well with an HDI of 0.750. It just comes in behindRussia but easily beatsBrazil,China andSouth Africa.

Let’s take a look at a few other indicators:

Country Life Expectancy(in years)Indian States Life Expectancy in 2004(in years)Projected Life Expectancy 2006-10* (in years)
1. Russian Federation68.81. Kerala74.074.5
2. Brazil73.52.Delhi72.9
3. China73.53.Goa69.5
4. South Africa52.84. Himachal Pradesh67.071.5

Source: India HDR Report 2011, HDR 2011

Comparing life-expectancy at birth we find that Kerala beats all the BRICS nations, with a projected life expectancy of 74.5 years over 2006-10.Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Goa all beatRussiaandSouth Africawhile being marginally beaten byBrazilandChina.

CountryLiteracy Rate (%)Indian StatesLiteracy Rate (%)
1. Russian Federation99.61. Kerala93.9
2. Brazil90.02.Delhi86.3
3. China943.Goa87.4
4. South Africa88.74.Himachal Pradesh83.8

Source: India HDR Report 2011, HDR 2011, Census 2011

When it comes to education, however, Indian states still lag the BRICS nations.Russiahas attained universal education and so willChinain a few years. The only state which can provide some competition to BRICS nations is Kerala. With an impressive literacy rate of 93.9% Kerala beats both Brazil and South Africa.

Donate to IndiaSpend

Support IndiaSpend’s award-winning investigative journalism.

Your tax-deductible contribution to IndiaSpend will help us, and other publications around the country, reveal critical stories that otherwise wouldn’t be told - stories that make a difference!