India today presents a striking contrast of development and deprivation. Nearly two decades after the unleashing of economic reforms, there is no doubt that GDP growth has accelerated. The rate of GDP growth has consistently been above five per cent during the last two decades (Nagaraj, in this volume). India is the 12th largest economy in the world in terms of GDP and is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world today (World Bank, 2008). In terms of indicators of quality of life as well, India has had some successes. Life expectancy at birth has nearly doubled from around 36 years in 1951 to about 65 years in 2001 (NHP, 2002). The infant mortality rate, which stood at 146 in 1951, has come down to 58 according to the recent estimate (SRS, 2006). Under-five child mortality rate has declined to 17.8 from 57.3 at the time of independence. Similar improvements are also found in literacy levels and school enrolment ratios.
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