"There is a huge gap there (on social front) as China is one of the best performers in terms of social indicators," Sen said while speaking at the Indian Economic Association convention here.
Making an assessment of the Indian economy and the benefits that have percolated down the social sector, he said, "India's disadvantage can be seen even in comparison with countries that are doing far less well than China, but still a lot better than India."
While India has been overtaking other countries in the progress of its real income, it has been lagging behind others in terms of basic social indicators of quality of life, he said. In fact, India is being overtaken in these respects by many other countries even within the region of South Asian itself, he added.
He said India's average ranking among six South Asian economies (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan) has "fallen from being the second best to being second worst and this is so despite the fact that India has grown immensely faster than all other economies in South Asia in terms of GNP or Gross Domestic Product (GDP)."
The relation between economic growth and advancement of living standards depends on many factors. One of them is what is done with the public revenue that is generated by economic growth, said Sen who won the 1998 Nobel Prize for his contributions to welfare economics.
Comparing the two leading Asian economies, Sen pointed out "The fact that China devotes 2.3% of government expenditure on health care compared with India's relatively miserable 1.4%, is directly relevant to the much greater health achievement of China compared with India.""It contributes to China's much higher life expectancy than India's (the former being 73.5 years compared with India's 64.4 years)."
"One result of the relatively low allocation to public health care in India is the development of a remarkable reliance of many poor people on private doctors, many of whom have little medical training," Sen said.
"India has moved towards reliance on private health care without developing solid basic public health facilities."
The comparison in terms of social indicators such as those covered in the Human Development Reports of the United Nations or in the list of Millennium Development Goals, tend to be entirely in favour of China against India, he noted.