Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
In the latest report on global hunger, India is ranked miserably (97th) among 118 countries that were surveyed to see if people in those countries were fed properly or not, to know the status of under nutrition and malnourishment, generally among children and also amongst specific population such as tribes and other marginalised section. Rest of the Asian countries are faring well in comparison to India. China is at 29th position, Nepal is 72nd, Sri Lanka is 84th, Bangladesh is 90th and Myanmar is 75th. Only Pakistan is behind India.
The report again brings forward pending issue of poverty and hunger on the centre stage because the centre has launched a number of schemes like Right to Food Act. India has been self-sufficient in food since the Green Revolution. Yet hunger persists in some parts of India and surfaces in the form of starvation deaths. Despite all the measures being taken and schemes being rolled out during last 10 years, the situation doesn’t seem to improve.
Though depending too much on statistics is not too fair. There is a saying that 99% of statistics explain only 49% of story. But the global hunger index has been taken seriously by every country and this indeed highlights the issue.
There is a dichotomy – India has fastest growing economy in the world and hence the growth is expected to trickle down and help to improve the status of poor, malnourished and hungry citizens. But it will take time. The biggest factor is India’s population. China had similar statistics but their hunger eradication rate was faster because the policy was much better suited as there was different kind of polity and system. This cannot be applied to India as it practices democracy.
There are many areas in which India has started performing much better, though there are gaps, due to interventions from MDMS and anganwadis. The challenge is that India still has a long way to go as it has to deal with poverty, unemployment, safe drinking water, sanitation and lack of effective health care. These issues which combined together also create difficulties in realisation of the objectives of various policy interventions of successive governments fail to achieve.
India faced monsoon deficiency for two years. 12 states declared droughts in 2016. And this report comes close on the heels of drought years but naturally it is factoring in the weather condition. This shows that India is not well prepared with its policies to face these situations as drought which is not new.
It is not the first time India is shown the mirror of its condition. HDI comes every year and it tells where the problem lies. India does extremely well when it comes to economic growth but when the health and education indices are factored in, India is pulled back in chart.
Responsibility of state government
Health is a state subject and hence primarily the responsibility of state government and in a federal structure, the centre can push upto a certain point. Recently, the 14th FC had also allocated many resources to state. Devolution is a positive indicator that in a federal set up, states have to accept such responsibilities.
But there is a strong fear amongst development experts that states may not be able to absorb that kind of funding or spend the fund in a targeted manner. Lot of centrally sponsored schemes have been scrapped and thus the states need much more money to be spent both on education and health sector.
Every effort should also be made by the states to increase the efficient delivery of health, sanitation and educational services to the poor through higher investments in these areas. The universal basic income cannot replace the government’s investment in the provision of basic amenities to the population, but it can give cash in the pockets of the poor for food.
Models of development
At some stage it is also a question of development model because there are various factors affecting the funding as well as policy decisions. In capitalist model, focus will be on generating more money so that citizens get benefited from the growing income. Also, the GDP growth is necessary to generate money for welfare schemes. But it has been seen that there exists lot of inequality between the classes thereby neutralising the effect of higher growth.
On the other hand, socialist model has not to be compulsorily adopted. But if there is GDP led growth, it has to be also taken care that the right kind of policy is adopted which will benefit. Also, allow states certain incentives. More important is distribution and equity
Thus, policy makers must look at development models. So model of growth is important as India is going to face newer challenges. . There is a new challenge of sustainability coming from climatic change, automation etc.
It is one of the biggest factor behind poverty and hunger. Over the past 5 years, there has been higher rate of unemployment. Although many skill development initiatives are being rolled out, but this will take time to show result.
Globally, the jobs are not seeing the rise they should. The main reason is automation and new technological developments. Even countries which are overpopulated are falling prey to technological model of growth.
Under previous government, a lot of socialist schemes were initiated and rolled out successfully. Ex MGNREGA. But they have not generated heartening results from implementation of these programmes. There has been no proof that jobs generating from NREGA is adding to quality of life of poor people. And this is why the current government is revisiting the NREGA model even though they have continued with the programme.
Given the fact that majority of rural population lives in villages and agriculture is in big crisis as seen by rural distress, India has to also think that there are certain areas in which India has to slow in terms of ensuring the jobs that are needed. If this is not done then there is another problem.
There has to be a model which ensures high growth as well as distribution of wealth, creation of jobs and mixing of technology so that large number of people get benefit of growth.
Hunger index is based on parameters such as shares of undernourished population, wasted and stunted children aged below five years and infant mortality rate. Amidst so much progress on many fronts and having the highest rate of GDP growth in the world, to have millions of undernourished children is something inexplicable and shows the extent of inequality of incomes and callousness towards the poor.
Hunger reported simultaneously with bumper crop production reveals the incapability of administration. Thus, to climb up the hunger index ought to be the top priority for India with adequate policies supplying food to each and every citizen of the country.
Connecting the dots:
What is the importance of India’s ranking in global hunger index? Critically analyse.
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