Is India a Failing State? Opinions Vs Facts – GD Topic


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In a hard hitting note for his magazine’s Cover Story “Covid 2.0: The Failed State”, (ISSUE DATE: May 17, 2021) India Today Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie wrote, “Prime Minister Modi and his party were re-elected in May 2019 because people still believed he was a man of action and would deliver good governance as he had repeatedly promised. It is cruelly ironic that today we have to witness our citizens gasping for breath and dying like flies because of an acute shortage: of hospital beds, drugs, oxygen cylinders, ambulances, hearses, even a place to cremate the dead. In the eyes of many, the state has collapsed and failed its citizens, denying them their most fundamental right—the right to life. The tragedy is that it didn’t have to be this way.” 


Earlier on May 3, 2021 Financial Times London also wrote a scathing article titled - “A broken state is failing India under Modi too.” 

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In the backdrop of lakhs of deaths and monumental damage caused by the second wave of Covid 19 in India, many other commentators in India as well as abroad have latched on to this narrative. But is India really a failed state? With our stock market booming, and GDP counted amongst Top nations, and many other achievements, has India failed to deliver for its people?


Given the importance of this topic, MBA aspirants must understand facts and prepare this topic for both GD Topic and MBA Interview. presents both sides of argument for this topic – Is India a failing state? Or Is India a failed state?


Complacency on COVID 19 control
On January 28, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared to the World Economic Forum, “A country with 18 per cent of the world’s population has effectively controlled Corona and saved humanity and the world from great misfortune.” Two months later, in April, India was seeing a daily increase of over 300,000 cases and an average of 3,200 deaths a day. Undoubtedly, this complacency has done a big damage to India.


While this is a big debacle for India, the country has made progress on many fronts in last few decades. 


According to an analysis by Marcellus Investment Managers, a financial services firm founded by well-known author and financial markets voice Saurabh Mukherjea, India has done well on most of the parameters used for measuring development of a nation.


Is India really failing? Marcellus data shows otherwise
Marcellus analysed different metrics under broader categories like health, development, and social sectors. As shown in the table below, in terms of the above indicators, India has improved steadily over the past 30 years. India’s progress on these fronts has been, in general, superior to other large Emerging Markets (EMs) and to India’s immediate neighbours.


For this analysis, Marcellus compared India with other large EMs and its neighbouring countries, we chose 3 countries each under the large EMs (China, Russia, and Brazil) and neighbours (Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan) categories.


Table: India fared better than Russia, China, Brazil on Health & many counts


Exhibit Reference
Metric [ measured over the past 30 years]
Has India fared better than other large Ems*?
Has India fared better than its neighbours**?
Life expectancy
Infant mortality
Literacy rate
Human Development Index
GDP per capita
Access to clean water
Access to the internet
Maternal deaths
Poverty headcount ratio

Source: Marcellus Investment Managers; *are Russia, China & Brazil. ** are Pakistan, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka


Here are a few charts from Marcellus’ analysis.

1. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy at birth is the number of years a person is expected to survive. Exhibit 1 shows progress on this metric for India, large EMs and India’s neighbours

Life Expectancy

Source: World Bank database (


In the chart above, the rate of growth in life expectancy can be seen between 6 sets of countries on average and India. It is evident that India’s rate of growth - in terms of the number of years lived - has been the highest – even above that of the EMs – over the last 30 years


2. Infant mortality: Infant mortality per 1000 live births is the measure of the number of deaths at birth for every 1000 live births. It has long been seen as a reliable measure of the ability of a state to provide basic health services to its people. Exhibit 2 shows progress on this metric for India in comparison to its neighbours and other large EMs. Whilst India has performed better than its neighbours, the other large EMs have performed significantly better than India on this front.


Infant mortality


Source: World Bank database (, infant)


3. Average literacy rate: This metric measures the number of people who are literate (over 15 years of age) as a percentage of the total population. Exhibit 4 shows this metric over the years for India, its neighbours, and large EMs. India clearly surpassed its neighbours and large EMs in terms of the rate of growth in literacy rate over the past three decades.

Average literacy rate

Source: World Bank database ( rate)


4. Average Human Development Index (HDI): This metric is a mixture of three metrics – life expectancy, the standard of living at Gross National Income, and education in terms of expected and mean years of schooling. Exhibit 6 shows this composite index for India, India’s neighbours, and large EMs. The exhibit makes it amply clear that in terms of the rate of growth in HDI, India has beat both, its neighbours and large EMs over the last 30 years.

Average Human Development Index (HDI)

Source: United Nations Development Programme (


5. Average GDP per capita (constant $ 2017 PPP): This metric measures GDP per capita that is converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. It measures the overall income for countries on an equal footing. Exhibit 7 shows this data for India, its neighbours, and large EMs. The conclusion is self-evident from the chart

Average GDP per capita (constant $ 2017 PPP)

Source: World Bank database ( Capita-PPP)


Conclusion: Looking at the above analysis by Marcellus Investment Managers it will not be fair to say that India is a failed or failing state. While we have lost a lot to COVID 19 in 2020 and 2021, we must not forget that we have achieved a lot in last 3 decades.


While discussing this topic in GD or Interview, take help of above facts and make a compelling argument! 

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