Access to Social Services in India: Findings from a Social Equality Index (SEI)
45 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2018
Date Written: August 15, 2018
Despite being one of the fastest growing economies in the world in recent years, the average Indian remains relatively poor due to a highly-skewed income distribution and inequitable access to basic social and economic services. The poorer half jostles for less than 4.1% of national wealth while relational inequities continue to rise across states. This gap of more than four times between the richest and the poorest state in India is seen to be responsible for one of the highest level of disparity in the developing world, subsequently affecting delivery mechanisms and access to basic social services such as basic education, healthcare, credit institutions, law enforcement justice mechanisms and other basic amenities (drinking water and sanitation).
This study provides an in-depth assessment of each Indian State’s performance in ensuring access to basic social and economic services (including access to basic health care, education, credit or financial services, water and sanitation facilities and access to justice-law enforcing institutions) to its citizens. The objective of this in-depth data analysis is to initiate policy level discussions on minimizing levels of unequal opportunities for citizens residing across identified states of the country.
We theoretically use a Mini-Max approach (inverse to the Maxi-Min utilitarian principle) in understanding the relative dimensions of social and economic inequality present across states in India. The objective of using such a concept is to promote minimum access to some identified social and economic services that enable people (across states) to develop capabilities which are instrumental towards the maximization of their well-being over a period of time. The five fundamental pillars constituting as basic services to be safeguarded and provided by agencies of the state include:
a) Access to Basic Amenities (Drinking water and sanitation facilities) b) Access to Education c) Access to Basic Healthcare services d) Access to Credit and Financial service e) Access to Justice (Public Institutions of law enforcement).
In terms of methodology, we use a principle component analysis for deriving the index values for each pillar. The states based on index value have been classified as leaders, above average performing states, average performing states, below average performing states and least performing states. The classification acts as a scorecard for the persistence of access inequality in the Indian states and will draw the attention of policymakers towards states that lag behind in the implementation of the various policies and reforms. Such a method of ranking also enables states to identify their counterparts who have successfully ensured greater progress in terms of providing basic social and economic services at nearer proximity and as per the state population needs.
Keywords: Social Equality, Inequality, Indian Economy, Development, Economics
JEL Classification: O00, O20, O1, O15, O18, O53
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