Economically upward, socially backward
The Economic Survey of India
· UNDP's global Human Development Report (HDR) for 2005 ranks India at 127 out of 177 countries of the world in terms of a composite Human Development Index (HDI) for 2003
· While India's absolute values of HDI and GDI improved between 2001 to 03, ranking remained at 127
· Slow improvements in life expectancy and infant mortality rates: 63 (2000-05) and 63 (2003) respectively (UNDP 2005)
· High maternal mortality of 540 as per UNDP 2005 remains an area of concern
· Improvement in the literacy rates which stands at 64.8 per cent but still low compared to China (86 per cent) or Sri Lanka (92 per cent)
The year 2005-06 saw impressive rise in income levels and yet, the Economic Survey of India reports that India lags far behind on many social development indicators. India has slipped three positions in three years from 124 in 2000 and was way behind China, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. It pointed out that even Bangladesh has outperformed India in education, healthcare and gender equality. (See Box 1)
It is notable that expenditure on the social sector by both central and state governments has been consistently rising. In the face of sustained and high economic growth of 8 per cent, the poverty ratio has reduced significantly.
However, the fast economic growth failed to produce as much growth in employment market, because of an even greater increase in population during the 10-year period till 2004. Unemployment rates for women also increased from 5.6 per cent to 9.3 per cent in rural areas and from 10.5 per cent to 11.7 per cent in urban areas during the review period.
The Survey also pointed out the growing difference in wages between men and women, which was more prominent in urban areas where a man engaged as casual labourer earned Rs. 75.51 per day, which is Rs. 30 more than a woman counterpart at Rs. 44.28. In rural India, on an average, a man working as a casual labourer earned Rs. 56.53 per day, which is Rs 20.38 more than a woman casual labourer who earned Rs. 36.15.
Looking ahead: Budget 2006-2007
A promise of education and health
A 31.5 per cent enhancement for education with a total outlay of Rs. 24,150 crore and a 22 per cent increase to Rs. 12,546 crore for health will be welcomed by the development sector. Currently around one crore (10 million) children below 14 years of age are not going to school. Much needs to be done to make education more accessible to children, especially girl children. In this regard, the government has put out some attractive incentives, in the form of a deposit of Rs. 3,000 for a girl who passes Class 8 and enrols into secondary school. She would be able to withdraw it on completing 18 years of age.
In education, some of the special programmes to receive focus will include primary education with allocation being enhanced from Rs.7,156 crore to Rs.10,041 crore to further reduce the number of children who are not receiving schooling.
Under the Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya Scheme, 1,000 new residential schools for girls from SC, ST, OBC and minority communities are to be opened in 2006-07. Rs. 128 crore has been provided for the scheme and an additional Rs. 172 crore is to be added during the year.
In the health sector, the finance minister has allocated more funding for the National Rural Health Mission with the budgetary provision being increased to Rs 8,207 crore in next fiscal from Rs 6,553 crore this year. Health facilities are yet to reach millions in the country, and whether the promise of reaching the services to one lakh rural blocks in the country will be kept, will be keenly watched.
In his Budget speech, he said, “I am confident that in 2006-07 more than 200,000 Associated Social Health Activists (ASHA) will be fully functional and over 1,000 block level community health centres will provide round-the-clock services.” The Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) scheme will be expanded with creation of 1,88,168 additional Anganwadi centres.
In 2005-06 for the first time, the government introduced gender budgeting in the annual budget. Ten demands for grants were covered last year. The government further showed commitment through an enlarged statement on gender budgeting to include schemes where 100 per cent of the allocation is for the benefit of women as well as schemes where at least 30 per cent of the allocation is targeted towards women. Budget 2006-07 covers 24 demands for grants in 18 ministries/departments and five Union Territories and schemes with an outlay of Rs.28,737 crore. This year, gender budgeting cells have been set up in 32 ministries and departments.
The government is taking many steps in the right direction (See Box 2). There seems to be no dearth of welfare schemes and programmes launched by the government like:
Take for instance, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), one of the government’s ‘flagship programmes’. It is described as “a response to the demand for quality basic education all over the country.” The expenditure on the department of elementary education and literacy is sought to be raised from Rs. 12,500 crore to Rs. 17,000 crore as per the Union Budget of 2006-07. The rationale may be that spending more will result in more children being educated. Yet, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2005 facilitated by the NGO, Pratham reveals a dismal status of education in India.
“The report shows that only 60 per cent of the children in class five can read a simple story, but it should be at least 95 per cent,” said Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
In rural Karnataka 98 per cent children aged between 6-14 years go to school. But 45 per cent of them can not solve simple numerical sums of subtraction or division, the report reveals.
There are some positives too. The news channel, NDTV reported that under the SSA, an attempt is being made to universalise elementary education by community-ownership of the school system. This is apparent in the district of Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh where educational facilities are being delivered on a boat to children of a fishing community. It has helped tackle the reluctance of parents to send their children to school and who would rather have them help with the work.
For the investments to translate into tangible benefits at the ground level, there is a need for transparency and accountability in the implementation of various schemes and programmes. The schemes would be more effective if they are community-centric and community controlled. What is now required is a shift in the focus of social sector programmes for education and health from universalisation to an improvement in quality. And this requires a new approach to the implementation of programmes, not mere increase in the allocations.
It is heartening to note that communities are being empowered through progressive legislations like the Right to Information (RTI) Act. This ensures effective implementation of the schemes. The Act is a useful tool in the hands of those working in the sector to ensure this.
The series of exposés by the Indian Express show lack of transparency and accountability in the Employment Guarantee Scheme. The investigations were carried out by reporters armed with the RTI Act and revealed that crores of public money supposed to be spent on giving work to rural labourers, was siphoned off with bogus names in the muster and irregularities in pay-for-work projects. Only a vigilant society and media can ensure that public money is well spent.
For Delhi’s own Laadlis
Visitors at Population First's Laadli stall at the Bhagidari Mela, New Delhi.
The first three months of 2006 were busy and exciting for us at Population First. In January, Population First’s executive trustee, Mr. S.V. Sista and programme director, Dr. A.L. Sharada made a presentation to the CM on Laadli’s activities in Mumbai and the various interventions with stakeholder groups in the city. After all, Delhi needs a girl child campaign even more urgently than Mumbai given its worse child sex ratio of 865 girls for every 1,000 boys, as per Census 2001 figures.
Ms. Dikshit instantly approved the campaign plan and appointed the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) headed by Ms. Kiran Walia as the nodal agency for the Laadli campaign in Delhi.
Population First was invited to participate in the Delhi government’s annual Bhagidari Mela at Pragati Maidan on February 25, 2006. The Mela brings together various citizens groups and government departments under the Delhi government’s Bhagidari scheme, which is a citizen-government collaboration to help solve civic and social problems.
At the Mela, the Laadli stall had an attractive and informative backdrop and film screenings on the girl child. Flyers and information booklets were distributed. It was an opportunity to familiarise Delhiites with the Laadli campaign and generate awareness on the need for a girl child campaign that works on the issue of sex selection.
Laadli was officially launched in Delhi with much fanfare by Ms. Dikshit on March 5, 2006 at the India Gate with a gathering of almost 5,000 women to mark the International Women’s Day. The communication strategy will be evolved to suit the specific needs of the city, and Population First is the cause partner for Laadli in Delhi.
Dignitaries present at the event included Ms. Renuka Chowdhury, Union minister for Women and Child Development, the renowned Jain muni Lokprakash Lokesh, members of the DCW and Mr. Sista and Dr. Sharada from Population First. The CM led the audience in reading the Laadli pledge in Hindi. The audience vowed not to resort to or encourage sex selection, or remain a silent spectator to the act. Singers Usha Utthup and Shibani Kashyap entertained the gathering with some energy-filled performances. The whole atmosphere was ‘electrifying’ in Dr. Sharada’s words- a perfect welcome for Laadli in Delhi.
Laadli mela marks Women’s Day
(From left): Ms. Gulati, Ms. Dani, Ms. Mhapsekar, and Dr. Parihar, participate in the panel discussion.
March 8 is celebrated the world over as the International Women’s Day to mark the struggle of millions of women for equality and justice. Yet, millions of girl children are being denied the right to be born through the abhorrent practice of sex selection. Population First observed this day by organising a Laadli Mela on March 7, 2006 at the Sachivalaya Gymkhana, Nariman Point, Mumbai. The idea was to bring together the various stakeholder groups in the Laadli campaign and arrive at a common understanding of the issue.
The chief guest, Ms. Anna Dani, Principal Secretary – Family Welfare inaugurated the Mela. Other dignitaries present included Ms. Jyoti Mhapsekar, President, Stree Mukti Sanghatana, Dr. J. Thanekar, executive health officer, MCGM, Dr. Surekha Mehta, nodal officer, PCPNDT committee, MCGM, and Mr. S.V. Sista, executive trustee, Population First.
The Laadli Mela was attended by almost 35 NGOs and community-based organisations, the medical fraternity, civic staff and the public at large. NGO stalls, dance performances, street plays, puppet shows and film screenings on the theme of the girl child were all part of the Mela.
The film, Born to Die focusing on the issue of sex selection was screened for the audience around which a panel discussion, ‘Are we going to keep silent about this national emergency?’ was held. The panel members included Dr. Mandakini Parihar, Chairperson, family welfare committee, Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), Ms. Mhapsekar, Ms. Medha Shriram, an activist on gender issues, Mr. Ravindra Rupam, who works against sex selection and was instrumental in formulating the PCPNDT Act, Ms. Anuja Gulati, state programme officer, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Dr. Mehta. The discussion was facilitated by Dr. A.L. Sharada, programme director, Population First.
There is a need for documenting the reasons why people go in for sex selection at the grassroots level. This is important to be able to create sensitive and targeted programmes. This vital point emerged from the panel discussion.
During the discussion, an audience member pointed out that the medical community has the most important role to play in ending this practice. To this Dr. Parihar replied that as an umbrella body of obstetricians and gynaecologists, FOGSI was committed to taking action against erring doctors and clinics. She assured the audience that if any malpractice was brought to FOGSI’s notice, they would take required action and penalise the doctor. She added that in the recent decoy operation that exposed a sex selection racket in Dombivli this year in February, it was a doctor who facilitated the process.
NGOs, Cehat, Comet Media, Media Matters, SMS, Avehi and Coro For Literacy had put up stalls to exhibit and sell their products/publications. A photo exhibition by Point of View on the girl child and women’s issues was up on display. Another NGO, Akshara Foundation had a game stall with interesting games on gender issues. The play Mulgi Jhali Ho! was performed by members of SMS and a puppet show was organised by a team from Mobile Crèche. Two short films made for the Laadli campaign by Suneeta Rao and Joe Cordo were screened, as also a photo-exhibition by Delhi-based photojournalist, Ruhani Kaur.