Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders
General Studies 3:
Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Financial inclusion for the differently abled
Three years ago, from ramparts of the Red Fort Prime Minister Modi had spoken about financial inclusion which has since then successfully made a paradigm shift in banking penetration. Now, after opening new banking accounts for most households, we must move to the next stage where benefits should reach the silent majority of those individuals with disability.
India, a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in effect from May 2008, has an obligation to comply to the convention which promotes, defends and reinforces human rights of the disabled.
As the 10th year of compliance to one of the most comprehensive human right treaty of the 21st century approaches, India needs to take a look at its efforts for the disabled.
Financial inclusion till now:
Consequent to the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana, nearly 99.9 per cent of households now have a bank account. A bank account implies availability of financial resources, for livelihood purposes, at reasonable rates without being at the mercy of greedy money lenders charging exorbitant interest rates.
India, though unrecognised, has been a pioneer in financial inclusion starting with nationalisation of commercial banks in 1955, 1969 and 1980, and undertaking various initiatives such as priority sector lending and encouraging microfinance institutions for higher banking penetration.
However, following continues to restrict financial inclusion of certain sections of society, especially the disabled- Lack of awareness, Poverty, low income, Illiteracy and Inadequate branch network
Who are the disabled in the country?
The country has, by extremely conservative estimates, about 2.7 crore people categorised as persons with disability (PwD). Census 2011 shows that nearly 69 percent of PwDs stay in rural areas and only one-third of this disabled population are working, out of which 31 per cent are in agriculture. Those with locomotor disability accounted for largest share of 20 per cent amongst the disabled followed by those with visual and hearing disability.
In fact, though not included, a large number of 11 crore elderly also struggle with similar disabilities impacting their banking activities.
In view of the diversity in the issues faced as well as types of disabilities, necessitate a need for multi-spectral approach to ensure financial inclusion of PwDs.
To address the issue of financial inclusion of the disabled, global practices vary. International guidelines for web accessibility is followed by countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the US. It ensures multiple formats of information like audio, braille documents and larger font size, and images with text description. Tactile keypads, optimised ATM locations, ramp facilities, larger screens, audio output, low tables, specialised privacy standards during banking operation are features ensured in Australia, Sweden and the US.
Inefficient steps till now:
As in advanced countries, the Government needs to consider providing financial assistance and assistive equipment to PwDs and their families to enhance probability of livelihood or directly provide jobs to PwDs.
The Government, given its mandate, could also consider incentivising private sector to encourage recruitment of PwDs.
In 1977, nominal reservation of 1 per cent for specific disabilities in government jobs was introduced and extended in 1995 to 3 per cent. However, the Government and public sector institutions have achieved limited success.
Poor workforce participation:
Several studies show that on an average, PwDs account for nearly 0.5 per cent of total workforce in the organised sector. ILO claimed that 73.6 per cent of PwDs in India are still outside the workforce.
To tap the potential of demographic dividend, it is imperative to equip and enable the youth amongst PwDs to be at par with the rest of the cohort.
Entrepreneurial ventures is one of the means for the disabled to be financially independent, free from discriminatory and sometimes stringent requirements of mainstream employment. But unfortunately, PwDs face multiple societal hurdles. Majority of the financial services including banks do not take a benign approach in providing financial support to the disabled.
The RBI guidelines must be taken seriously. The guidelines to banks includes providing cheque books, ATM and locker facilities to the visually challenged, ramp facilities and tactile keypad at ATMs and to not deny services on grounds of possible risk in operation of banking facilities.
There is also an issue in terms of identifying the magnitude of disability leading to preconceived notions on capacity of the individual. Hence, cultural brokering can be an effective means of training the service providers, including banks and sensitising the general population of special needs of PwDs so as to bridge the cultural gap.
In an emerging economy like ours, it is very important that government and welfare-oriented institutions play an important role and share the responsibility of providing the disabled a dignified life. It also makes economic sense, as according to World Bank, ensuring employment to the disabled can help in enhancing economic growth. Banking services should be accessible, in terms of design and technology, for the nearly three crore special needs population
Connecting the dots:
The journey for financial inclusion in India has been interesting one. But its time we take it to next level and ensure inclusion for differently abled. Discuss.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests.
Securing historical affinity with our neighbors
India needs to rekindle the SAARC process in order to secure historical affinity with its neighbours
As the stand-off between the Indian and Chinese militaries enters its third month at Doklam, it is not just Bhutan that is keenly anticipating the potential fallout. The entire neighbourhood is watching. There is obvious interest in how the situation plays out and the consequent change in the balance of power between India and China in South Asia. India’s other neighbours are likely to take away their own lessons about dealing with their respective “tri-junctions” both real and imagined, on land and in the sea.
When the Maldives first turfed private infrastructure group GMR out of its contract to develop Male airport in 2012, few could have imagined the situation today with Chinese companies having bagged contracts to most infrastructure projects. This includes development of a key new island and its link to the capital Male and a 50-year lease to another island for a tourism project.
Similarly, when the then Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli signed a transit trade treaty and agreement on infrastructure linkages with China in late 2015-2016, Ministry of External Affairs mandarins had brushed it off as a “bluff”. Today, China is building a railway to Nepal, opening up Lhasa-Kathmandu road links, and has approved a soft loan of over $200 million to construct an airport at Pokhara.
Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port construction project went to the Chinese in 2007 only after India rejected it. Today, China doesn’t just own 80% of the port; it has also won practically every infrastructure contract from Hambantota to Colombo.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh last October saw $24 billion committed in infrastructure and energy projects. Earlier this year, the largely state-owned Chinese consortium, Himalaya Energy, won a bid for three gas fields in Bangladesh’s north-east shoulder from the American company Chevron, which together account for more than half of the country’s total gas output.
Above shows where India’s immediate neighbours, which are each a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are headed in the next few years. More pointedly, once the investment flows in, it will be that much harder for them to stave off a more strategic presence which China is now more unabashed about. If one of the aims of the action in Doklam is to save Bhutan from the same fate, India needs to ensure that China doesn’t succeed in creating similar space for itself in Bhutan.
What needs to be done?
India must regain its role as a prime mover of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Despite sneers all around, SAARC has survived three decades in spite of its biggest challenge, India-Pakistan tensions. That New Delhi would cancel its attendance at the summit to be held in Pakistan in the wake of the Uri attack, winning support from other countries similarly affected by terrorism such as Bangladesh and Afghanistan, is understandable. But a year later, the fact that there have been no steps taken to restore the SAARC process is unfortunate.
This will hurt the South Asian construct and further loosen the bonds that tie all the countries together, thereby making it easier for China to make inroads.
It should be remembered that despite China’s repeated requests, SAARC was one club it never gained admittance to.
For all the present government’s promotion of alternate groupings such as South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC), BIMSTEC, the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiative and Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), none will come close to SAARC’s comprehensive cogency.
Not picking sides
India must recognise that picking sides in the politics of its neighbours makes little difference to China’s success there.
In Sri Lanka, the Sirisena government hasn’t changed course when it comes to China, and despite its protestations that it was saddled with debt by the Rajapaksa regime, it has made no moves to clear that debt while signing up for more.
India made its concerns about the then Prime Minister Oli very clear, and was even accused of helping Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ to replace him in 2016, yet Nepal’s eager embrace of Chinese infrastructure and trade to develop its difficult terrain has not eased.
In Bangladesh too, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has overseen the closest ties with New Delhi over the past decade, has also forged ahead on ties with China. Should her Awami League lose next year’s election, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party will most certainly strengthen the shift towards China.
In Bhutan’s election, also next year, it is necessary that India picks no side, for nothing could be worse than if the Doklam stand-off becomes an India-versus-China China election issue.
A policy of respect:
India must recognise that doing better with its neighbours is not about investing more or undue favours. It is about following a policy of mutual interests and of respect.
Each of India’s neighbours shares more than a geographical context with India. They share history, language, tradition and even cuisine. Indian needs to deal with its neighbors keeping this in mind.
Countering China in South Asia requires much more than currently being done. The above steps can help India secure its affinity and good relation with neighbors and thus should be taken immediately.
Connecting the dots:
The Doklam incident risks Bhutan’s space being occupied by China as the rival power has done in other neighboring countries with Hambantota port in Sri Lanka to transit trade treaty with Nepal. India needs to take immediate measures to secure its affinity with our neighbors. Discuss.