Access (In)Equality Index (AEI): Measuring (In)Equality of Access to Basic Opportunities Across India


This report was published by the Centre for New Economics Studies, O. P. Jindal University, in 2021. It contains the Access (In)Equality Index (AEI), which studies peoples’ access to healthcare, education, socio-economic security, justice, and basic amenities such as drinking water, sanitation, housing and clean energy – across states and union territories in India.

‘Access’ has been measured in terms of the affordability of services, geographical proximity, adequacy of the content and quality of services, and the availability or physical access to services. The report presents inequalities spread across region (urban or rural), caste and gender, highlighting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on these disparities. The AEI ranks states based on a composite index score of 0.23 to 0.67, measuring inequality in access to services. Based on their performance, they are grouped into three categories: ‘Aspirants’ (below 0.33), ‘Achievers’ (0.33-0.42), and ‘Front-runners’ (above 0.42).

The 67-page report is divided into seven chapters: Background (chapter 1); (chapter 1); About the Index (chapter 2); Findings from the Index (chapter 3); Equality of Whom? (chapter 4); Impact of Covid (chapter 5); Limitations of the Data and Methodology (chapter 6); Conclusions and Way Forward (chapter 7).


  1. The report states that existing income and wealth inequality has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to data released by Oxfam International in 2021, India saw 70 new millionaires everyday between 2018 and 2021. On the other hand, the number of people living in poverty increased by 75 million during this time, accounting for nearly 60 per cent of the global increase in poverty.

  2. The AEI ranks the following states as ‘aspirant’, with index scores of less than 0.33: Jharkhand (0.23), Uttar Pradesh (0.28), Bihar (0.29), Assam (0.31), Odisha (0.31) and Madhya Pradesh (0.32).

  3. The states of Meghalaya (0.33), Manipur (0.33), West Bengal (0.35), Tripura (0.36), Rajasthan (0.37), Chhattisgarh (0.38), Uttarakhand (0.40), Gujarat (0.41), Arunachal Pradesh (0.42) and Maharashtra (0.42), have an average index score between 0.42 and 0.33 and are termed ‘achievers.’

  4. Haryana (0.43), Nagaland (0.43), Andhra Pradesh (0.45), Karnataka (0.46), Mizoram (0.46), Punjab (0.48), Telangana (0.49), Himachal Pradesh (0.52), Kerala (0.53), Tamil Nadu (0.55), Sikkim (0.6) and Goa (0.67), are ‘front runners’ – states with an AEI score of greater than 0.42.

  5. The report studies states and union territories separately for ‘clear representation’. The union territories are ranked as follows: Daman and Diu (0.37), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (0.38), Jammu & Kashmir (0.42), Delhi (0.49), Andaman & Nicobar Islands (0.50), Puducherry (0.52) and Chandigarh (0.55).

  6. Among all the states and union territories, Goa ranks first in access to basic amenities, healthcare and socio-economic security; it ranks second in access to secondary education. While smaller states can provide better cover of services both geographically and demographically, larger states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Telangana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, have performed well in providing access to services to its citizens.

  7. Based on population projections of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, government of India, 65.8 percent of India’s population resided in rural areas in the year 2020. Yet the 75th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) – conducted by the National Statistical Office in July 2017-June 2018 – revealed that only 21.6 per cent of the households in rural areas have ‘easy’ access to piped water supply. This number stands at 56.9 per cent for urban households.

  8. The NSS also states that about 38 per cent of rural households – compared to around 70 per cent of urban households – reported the presence of a secondary school within the distance of a kilometre. Rural areas witness higher dropout rates and have a lower Net Attendance Ratio (NAR) – the number of persons in an age-group who attend a particular level of education to the total number persons in the age-group. At the secondary level, NARs were reported to be 56.6 per cent and 61.5 per cent for males in rural and urban areas respectively – as compared to the 55.2 per cent and 63.7 per cent for females.

  9. According to data by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, about 80 per cent of India’s health infrastructure, medical manpower and other health resources are located in urban areas when only 31 per cent the population lives there.

  10. Access to banking facilities is an important aspect of socio-economic security. The report analyses data from the Reserve Bank of India and states that only 33 per cent of the branches of public sector banks and 20 per cent of ATMs are in rural areas. Private sector banks have 21 per cent of their branches and eight per cent of ATMs in rural areas.

  11. As per a 2015 report by the Bank of America and Dasra, a philanthropy foundation based out of Mumbai, almost 23 per cent of girls in India drop out of school when they reach puberty due to a lack of water and sanitation facilities.

  12. Citing data from the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the report states that 45.9 per cent of the total Scheduled Tribe population was in the ‘lowest wealth bracket’. About 26.6 per cent of the total Scheduled Castes population and 18.3 per cent of the total Other Backward Class population were also in this bracket.

  13. As per a report released by Ideas for India, an economics and policy portal, the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown resulted in a 47 per cent decline in the average seasonally adjusted per capita real household income between February and April 2020.

  14. The National Commission for Women recorded a rise in instances of domestic violence in India, says the report. Complaints against domestic violence increased by 2.5 times since the beginning of the lockdown.

    Focus and Factoids by Shafia Shaan.


Deepanshu Mohan, Latika Sharma, Richa Sekhani, Vanshika Mittal and Advaita Singh


Centre for New Economics Studies, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat