With four years left until the 2015 deadline for achieving the eight globally-agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), India is at a crucial point with some successes and some failures. On the infant mortality indicator, India remains far behind the requisite target. The latest data from the Sample Registration System for 2010 estimate India’s infant mortality rate (IMR) at 47 for every 1,000 live births. Despite the annual reduction of three per cent since the nineties, India lags in achieving the MDG target of 27 per 1,000 live births.
According to the World Bank, India stands at 54 in world ranking in IMR, while other low-income neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh are on track to meet the MDG 4 with a significantly higher rate of reduction.
Since 2000, IMRs have fallen at a faster rate in rural India, declining at four per cent a year, while in urban areas the decline has been around three per cent a year. However, despite the faster fall, rural India registered 51 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010, much higher than what the urban segment achieved in the early noughties. (Click hre for chart)
The diversity in development across India is evident in the wide variations in IMRs across states. At one end of the spectrum, IMR in states like Goa, Kerala and Manipur are already far below the MDG target. At the other end, states like Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Assam, Rajasthan, Meghalaya and Chhattisgarh are laggards with IMR exceeding 50 per 1,000 live births. Interestingly, Andhra Pradesh is the only southern state above the all-India average.
Infant deaths in most states are concentrated in rural areas. For instance, in Rajasthan, IMR in urban areas is close to the all-India average, while in rural areas IMR is at least 10 percentage points higher than the all-India average.
Again, the extent of inequality across states is higher in rural segments than in urban areas. While IMR in urban areas varies from nine per 1,000 live births in Manipur to 44 per 1,000 in Uttar Pradesh, in rural areas it ranges from 10 per 1,000 in Goa to 67 per 1,000 in Madhya Pradesh.
Looking at the trend since 2000, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh have seen the most significant reduction of more than 25 points in IMRs. Daman and Diu, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are other states whose IMRs have fallen at a rate higher than the all-India average. On the other hand, Mizoram and Andaman and Nicobar Islands portray a disturbing increasing trend of IMRs. Bihar, Assam and Gujarat with IMRs higher than all of India witnessed a less than 20 point fall over the past decade.
The reduction in IMRs across the country though substantial, has been very uneven. Considering the differences in IMR trends across states, policies that account for state-specific demographic patterns and key determinants need to be put in place urgently.
Indian States Development Scorecard, a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics, focuses on the progress in India and across the states across various socio-economic parameters.