Development of India

Not long ago, India suffered from famines, and immense poverty and was not well developedIndia these days is a Newly Emerging Economy (NEE) and is developing at a rapid rate. An awful lot has changed! But not everything. The development of India is still ongoing as it changes from a farming society to a modern state.

Development of India Development of India

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Table of contents

    Development geography of India

    Within the next decade (before 2030), India is predicted to become the world's largest country in population, passing China!

    India will likely be the largest country in the world for the rest of the century, and also the world's largest democracy. India is also the fastest-growing major economy in the world.

    Here are some more key facts about India's development geography:

    • Mostly tropical climate; more farmable soil than any country other than the US.
    • Many port cities; located along a major maritime trade route connecting Europe with Asia.
    • Has most of the natural resources it needs.
    • Nuclear power; unfriendly relationships with Pakistan and China.
    • Discrimination based on caste (class) is widespread, though this has been banned for many years.

    For more basics on India, see our article India Country Profile.

    Urban development geography in India

    The National Capital Territory of Dehli, with over 30 million people is one of the largest urban areas in the world. Other megacities (over 10 million) include Calcutta and Mumbai.

    Over a third of all people in India live in cities. Though these cities contain vast slums with very poor living conditions, for many migrants they are still preferable to the rural areas they left. Cities have jobs, healthcare, and education that villages do not.

    Development of India, Tardeo Mumbai, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Tardeo at night. This Mumbai neighbourhood is one of the wealthiest in India.

    Impacts of development in India

    Until around 1990, India's government played a central role in economic development decisions. With the government largely controlling how the economy grew, businesses could not thrive and with outdated farming techniques in the villages, India became associated with poverty and starvation. And then...

    1. The 'Green Revolution' brought modern farming techniques and better seeds, helping boost how much food India could grow. India became a food exporter and could mostly feed its own people.
    2. The government loosened its grip and let people run their own businesses and form companies without much interference. Various economic sectors boomed, many people became millionaires and billionaires, and over 400 million people joined the middle and upper classes. India became an advanced country in high technology, manufacturing, the service sector, education.

    Social impacts of development

    Hundreds of millions of Indians remain in poverty. Today, close to 70% live in poverty, and 30% live in extreme poverty.

    Let's look at some statistics. We call these indicators. This means that they can tell us what India's development level is.

    For much more detail on this, you can read our articles Social Development of India and Economic Development of India.

    Development of India, Street market Uttar Pradesh, StudySmarterFig. 2 - A street market scene in Uttar Pradesh state

    Gross National Income (GNI) per head

    This measures how much income an average person receives.

    We get it by dividing the total income of the country by the population. In 1962, the GNI per head was 75 British pounds equivalent. This grew slowly until 2002, when it was around 380 pounds. After that, the GNI per head grew quickly and now is around 1750 pounds. This reflects annual economic growth of 5% to over 10%, which is two to three times what is considered good growth in the UK or US.

    You should keep in mind that this is only an average. Development in India is uneven (see below). Many people receive far less, and many receive far more.

    Infant mortality

    This measures how many children die at birth. It indicates health conditions and level of social development. India's rate is around 30 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.

    India has achieved a lot when you consider that in 1950, its infant mortality rate was 189/1,000. What is more, by 2100, the United Nations predicts that the rate will drop to just 5/1,000.

    Life expectancy

    India's life expectancy is 70, a massive increase from only 35 in 1950. Still, this only puts India at #191 in the world, meaning that 190 countries have higher expectancies and only 37 lower. Improved access to vaccines and antibiotics has greatly increased life expectancy.

    People per doctor

    The World Health Organization recommends one doctor per 1,000 people. India has around one per 1,400 people. Developed countries have over 3 per 1,000.

    Literacy rate

    India has made great strides in educating its people. Around 75% of Indians over the age of 15 can read and write: 82% of men and 68% of women. Compare this to the 1980s, only around 40% of Indian people were literate.

    Access to safe water

    Unsafe water means it is contaminated and dangerous to drink. This leads to many health problems. Now, after decades of improvements, less than 15% of Indians don't have clean water. However, this still means that 160 million people are without a source of safe water for drinking.

    Environmental impacts of development

    How does India's 1.4 billion people interact with the natural environment, and how are they affected by climate change?

    In urban and rural areas, contamination has worsened from industrial pollutants, agricultural chemicals, and other sources. More people and more economic activity have led to more pollution. India is one of the world's top food producers, but climate change could cause wetter crop areas to dry out. Droughts could cause devastating damage. Even the Ganges River, a water source for hundreds of millions, is not safe, because much of its water comes from the Himalayan glaciers, and these are melting fast.

    You can read more about these problems in our article Environmental Development in India.

    Development of India, Oshiwara River contamination Mumbai, StudySmarterFig. 3 - The Oshiwara River in Mumbai.

    India also has many environmental solutions. India has more environmental groups than any other country an is legendary for its tree-planting efforts. It has a strong national parks system that protects its important and famous animals and plants. Environmental laws are very strict in India.

    For many visitors to India, the worst effect of development they will see is air pollution in the major cities. The National Capital Region is one of the most polluted urban areas in the world, and the air is often dangerous to breathe. The main polluters are automobiles, cooking fires, dust, and industrial emissions.

    Birth rate and death rate in India

    India's birth rate dropped from 44/1,000 people in 1950 to just 17/1,000 in 2022, or a 1.2% drop per year. It is projected to keep dropping. This works out to a fertility rate (average children born per woman) drop from six to a little over two. At the same time, thanks to modern medicine, the death rate dropped from 28/1,000 to 7.3/1,000. This all works out to a current population increase rate of about 1%, meaning India adds around 11 million new people to the world population every year.

    Uneven development in India

    India has poorer and richer regions. Let's take a brief look at why.

    Development of India, Tilling a field traditionally in Tamil Nadu, StudySmarter Fig. 4 - Traditional farming in Tamil Nadu state.

    The biggest factor in India's uneven development is the divide between rural areas and urban areas. States like Uttar Pradesh, which has over 200 million people, are mostly rural, which means much lower development indicators than states that are mostly urban and industrial.

    There are many reasons why India's farmers are poorer than its city dwellers. Here are a few:

    • It is harder to provide services to areas that are spread out and sometimes difficult to reach, compared to cities. Cities have many education, health, and job sites nearby.
    • Jobs in cities pay more than what farmers can earn.
    • Different cultures in rural areas versus cities. Rural areas are more traditional than cities, so people may not accept change as easily, even if it means better and faster development.
    • The caste system may be stronger in rural areas. Low-caste people have difficulty getting good jobs.

    Development of India - Key takeaways

    • India is a country of 1.4 billion, growing around 1% a year; it is projected to become the world's largest country before 2030.
    • India has made many advances in its human development since 1950, as measured by various indicators. It has gone from a country stricken by famine to a Newly Emerging Economy in the middle of the world's countries in health, education, and income.
    • Though India's rapid economic development has harmed the environment, the country has many environmental groups, parks, and environmental laws.
    • India's birth rate is around 17/1,000, and its death rate is 7.3/1,000.
    • India suffers from uneven development, in which rural states are much less developed than urbanized and industrial states.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Development of India

    How does India's location affect its development?

    India's tropical climates make it favorable for agriculture, while its location along a major maritime trade route gives it good access to world markets.

    How has the location of India benefited its development?

    India is centrally located between Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to the west, and eastern Asia and the Pacific to the west, which means its development has benefited from the trade that moves between these areas.

    What are the impacts of development in India?

    India's economic and social indicators have improved greatly since 1950, but almost 70% of the population still lives in poverty. India no longer suffers from famine, and its very high rate of economic growth and relatively low rate of population growth means that every year, there is more income available. Environmentally, India's population, industrial development, and urbanisation have contributed to many environmental problems, including air pollution.

    Is India a developing country?

    Yes, India is a developing country ranked as a NEE (Newly Emerging Economy).

    What makes India a developing country?

    India still has almost 70% of its population in poverty and has many social and environmental indicators that rank it toward the middle to the low end of the world's countries. These include life expectancy, ratio of doctors to population, GNI per head, and others.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    What is the capital of India?

    Why did India's population grow so rapidly during the 20th century?

    True or False:The Deccan plateau is flanked by the Vindhyachal Mountain Range.

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    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Development of India Teachers

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