The Way Ahead; Fulfilling the Constitutional Mandates
Human deprivation is the outcome of several factors which include hunger, illiteracy, poor health, bad governance (that results in lack of participation of stake-holders in the decision making), lack of access to information, entrenched social customs, social structures and systems, ineffective use of science and technology, inappropriate expansion of economic opportunities and weak legislations. The true extent of human deprivation in India unfortunately has been a matter of debate and conjecture. Big gaps exist in the social statistics that makes it difficult to assess the full extent of human deprivation in India. There is an inherent tendency in Government reporting to ‘block out’ any embarrassing statistics. Denial in the absence of reliable data is the common way of avoiding the reality of the situation. Several forms of ‘silent deprivations’ indeed remain ignored – and their very existence often denied. These include, for instance, domestic violence against women, child abuse, child trafficking – all of which are reportedly prevalent in India but not taken serious notice of. Similarly, the plight of children in conflict situations – whose rights remain grossly violated – are seldom talked about. No mention is made of the situation of women and children – and families – who suffer during various agitations.
10.1.2 Conditions to end human poverty and to fulfill the Constitutional obligations are undoubtedly favourable in India today. Economic reforms are paving the pace for more rapid economic growth. There is much greater awareness about women's rights and children’s rights. There has been acceleration in the efforts to reduce illiteracy and universalize basic education. The social sectors are beginning to receive attention for policy reforms. The most notable development is the new population policy announced in March 2000 just as the country was approaching the one billion-population mark. Public advocacy is beginning to take strong roots as several issues including HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation, neglect of basic education, child labour, and domestic violence are being raised. The civil society organizations are becoming vibrant and vigilant. Citizens groups are beginning to take a greater interest in public issues. Improved access to information backed by a pro-active role by the media are having a strong influence on public discourse and thinking. It is the time to seize the opportunity and to act so as to fulfil the unfulfilled Constitutional commitments made to the people of India more than 50 years ago and to give them choices and a life of dignity.
10.2 Eliminate Hunger
Over 260 million people living below poverty line in India are chronically hungry. Hunger and poverty forces families to make trade offs. Trade offs between hunger and meeting other basic needs. Trade offs for who goes to school and who doesn’t. And trade offs between who eats and who doesn’t. In such trade offs women and children are often the worst sufferers. Poorly-fed and malnourished pregnant women give birth to stunted and unhealthy babies who are prone to diseases.
q Enable the poor to
accumulate the assets §
Enforce land reform laws effectively §
Ensure easy availability of bank credits to poor §
Ensure minimum wages to every worker §
Provide food security to poor §
Improve the quality of their labour / skills §
Improve the productivity of their farms and enterprises q Adopt policies that lead
to the higher economic growth §
Promote employment intensive development policies q Ensure
equitable distribution of income
and wealth §
Radical re-distribution policies often prove counter-productive
Measures to Alleviate Income
Enhance the productivity of the assets
that the poor possess
q Enable the poor to accumulate the assets
§ Enforce land reform laws effectively
§ Ensure easy availability of bank credits to poor
§ Ensure minimum wages to every worker
§ Provide food security to poor
§ Improve the quality of their labour / skills
§ Improve the productivity of their farms and enterprises
q Adopt policies that lead to the higher economic growth
§ Promote employment intensive development policies
q Ensure equitable distribution of income and wealth
§ Radical re-distribution policies often prove counter-productive
Poverty indeed has a woman face. The Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and backward classes are an easy prey of poverty and hunger and women of these categories are its worst victims.
The country sadly faces a paradoxical situation of surplus unlifted stocks of food grains in godowns of the Food Corporation of India co-existing with hunger and malnutrition. Public Distribution System essentially is the food subsidy programme (making up to about half of the total spending on Anti-poverty programmes by the Central Government) explicitly targeted towards poor. The programme was strengthened, improved and renamed as targeted public distribution system. Even after fine-tuning of the Targeted Public Distribution System, the performance of the fair price shops in some of the States, as revealed by some studies, is dismal. In some States the percentage of fair price shops not opening even once a week is estimated to be 87%. The transfer of income intended by Public Distribution System has, by and large, benefited the urban sectors and the Above Poverty Line sections of the society more than the poor. Investigations also indicate that about one-third of the supplies in the Public Distribution System are diverted. The delivery system, according to widely held public perception, seems to be the only substantial beneficiary. Finance Minister while presenting the budget for the year 2001-2002 stated that while subsidy grew to Rs.12,125 crores the satisfaction level with PDS has gone down and therefore he proposed that Centre instead of providing subsidised food-grains, would provide States with financial assistance. An efficient scheme to provide food security to poor is essential if right to life provided under Constitution is to have any meaning for poor. Introduction of scheme of food coupons or providing cash subsidy or further strengthening of targeted public distribution system itself are amongst some of the options in this regard. Scheme of Food Coupons or cash subsidy can be tried as an experimental measure in areas where public distribution system is not functioning effectively and the scheme, if found successful, can be extended to other parts of the country.
10.2.1.1 Scheme of Food Coupons
In the scheme, food coupons of entitled amount (which can be equal to the amount of subsidy) can be issued fortnightly/monthly from post offices/banks or such other agencies, against ration card or against a Food Security Account opened there in the joint name of the head of the beneficiary family and his/her spouse (no cash transactions are to be made against this account). The value of the coupons to which the beneficiary is entitled to, is to be credited fortnightly/ monthly in his account and beneficiary can obtain the coupons of the amount at his/her credit. The beneficiary would be entitled to open an account in any post office/bank etc. of their choice against a proper authorisation from the concerned food supplies office. A number of private shops dealing exclusively in food-grains are to be authorised to accept these coupons. Beneficiary can purchase food-grains from any of the shops so authorised by paying the amount of food articles purchased minus the value of the coupons exchanged. Authorised shopkeeper can deposit coupons in their bank/post office account like cheques and an amount equal to the value of coupons would get credited to their accounts. Misuse of coupons (like exchanging it for cash or any articles other than food articles) may be made an offence.
10.2.2.3 Elimination of the monopoly of fair price shops owners, elimination of corruption in delivery system and passing the full value of the subsidy to the beneficiary and providing him choices in purchasing food articles from any of the authorised private shops (competition amongst shopkeepers is likely to ensure better services and availability of better quality of food articles at competitive rates) are amongst likely advantages of the suggested scheme over the existing system. This would also save the Government from responsibility of making subsidised food articles available to fair price shops and monitoring such shops.
10.3 Provide Universal And Free Elementary Education
Experience world over shows that investment in basic education yields high returns and Indian experience itself supports it. States in India where rural poverty is declining are mostly in the South where the population is better educated and disparities between men and women in health and education are smaller – in fact, some of these States have already reached close to replacement levels of fertility. Studies confirm that female education has a positive impact on lowering fertility rates. Illiteracy results in far reaching debilitating effects on individual freedom, initiative and skills and lowers the productivity of labour.
10.3.2 Today in the year 2001, more than 350 million Indians are illiterate – unable to read or write despite mandate of Article 45 that required the State to endeavour to provide by the year 1960, free and compulsory education to all children below the age of 14 years. The national policy of education (1986) made a commitment to make primary education free and compulsory upto the fifth standard. Not to provide universal elementary education on the pretext of financial constraints is unwise for it is rightly said “if you find education expensive, try ignorance. It is far more expensive”. Majumdar Committee came to a conclusion that the costs were not the limiting factor in fulfilling this national commitment. In fact, realising a fee from professionals, educated and trained in India but taking jobs abroad is an untapped source of huge revenue that can be used to finance free and compulsory education. Delay in fulfilling this constitutional obligation has already resulted in India being overtaken by many countries including China and Indonesia in respect of literacy rates.
appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to assess financial
requirements for providing elementary education to every child estimated
that by the end of the 10th year, on an average, additional
expenditure to the tune of 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be
needed for the purpose assuming a modest actual growth of 5% per annum in
GDP over the next 10 years. Taking
note of the fact that the current spending on education amounted to about
3.6% of GDP and national commitment is to raise spending on education to
the level of 6% of GDP, the Committee felt that the task did not appear to
be daunting at all. Majumdar Committee estimates
were based on teacher-pupil ratio of 1:30 and it assumed cent percent
additional coverage at Government expense.
Current trends indicate that 15% coverage is by private un-aided
schools. The Department of
Elementary Education and Literacy adopted a cost effective and pragmatic
approach to assess the Government’s expenditure for the purpose. It took into account reduction in
Government expenditure on account of private coverage and by taking a
higher teacher pupil ratio of 1:40, it estimated that by the end of the
tenth year, an additional Rs. 8,000 crores annually would have to be
invested by the Central and State Governments towards recurring cost and an
additional Rs. 6,050 crores would be needed towards capital
investment. Total annual
expenditure of the Central Government alone is over Rs. 300,000
crores. Annual Defence expenditure
is over Rs. 55,000 crores. Over
Rs. 38,000 crores is spent annually on salaries, allowances and travel
expenses of the Central Government employees. And then there are untapped sources of revenue which can be tapped
to finance free and compulsory education.
A fee from professionals, educated and trained in India but taking
jobs abroad, is an untapped source of huge revenue that can be used to
finance free and compuslory education. Is the task of
operationalizing the right to free and compulsory education upto the age of
14 years as a justiciable Fundamental Right unachievable for want of funds?
Are The Costs Prohibitive ?
Majumdar Committee appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to assess financial requirements for providing elementary education to every child estimated that by the end of the 10th year, on an average, additional expenditure to the tune of 0.7% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would be needed for the purpose assuming a modest actual growth of 5% per annum in GDP over the next 10 years. Taking note of the fact that the current spending on education amounted to about 3.6% of GDP and national commitment is to raise spending on education to the level of 6% of GDP, the Committee felt that the task did not appear to be daunting at all.
Majumdar Committee estimates were based on teacher-pupil ratio of 1:30 and it assumed cent percent additional coverage at Government expense. Current trends indicate that 15% coverage is by private un-aided schools. The Department of Elementary Education and Literacy adopted a cost effective and pragmatic approach to assess the Government’s expenditure for the purpose. It took into account reduction in Government expenditure on account of private coverage and by taking a higher teacher pupil ratio of 1:40, it estimated that by the end of the tenth year, an additional Rs. 8,000 crores annually would have to be invested by the Central and State Governments towards recurring cost and an additional Rs. 6,050 crores would be needed towards capital investment. Total annual expenditure of the Central Government alone is over Rs. 300,000 crores. Annual Defence expenditure is over Rs. 55,000 crores. Over Rs. 38,000 crores is spent annually on salaries, allowances and travel expenses of the Central Government employees. And then there are untapped sources of revenue which can be tapped to finance free and compulsory education. A fee from professionals, educated and trained in India but taking jobs abroad, is an untapped source of huge revenue that can be used to finance free and compuslory education. Is the task of operationalizing the right to free and compulsory education upto the age of 14 years as a justiciable Fundamental Right unachievable for want of funds?
10.3.3 The Constitution (Eighty-third Amendment) Bill, 1997 as introduced in Rajya Sabha on 28th July, 1997 seeks interalia to insert a new Article 21A in the Constitution so as to provide the right to education as a Fundamental Right. Clause (1) of the said Article provides that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all citizens of the age of six to fourteen years. Clause (2) provides that the aforesaid right shall be enforced in such manner as the State may, by law, determine. Clause (3) provides that the State shall not make any law, for free and compulsory education under Clause (2), in relation to the educational institutions not maintained by the State or not receiving aid out of State funds. In the case of Unnikrishnan1 Vs State of Andhra Pradesh, the Supreme Court held that elementary education is a fundamental right.
10.3.4 Universal and free elementary education to all children however still remains an unfulfilled constitutional promise. It is the time to fulfil that promise.
10.3.2 Achieve Excellence In Education
Universal and free elementary education would achieve little if its quality is poor. The official data claim that 95% of the population has access to a primary school within walking distance of a kilometre. This is perhaps true, but it is not a reason to become complacent. It is not the location of the school that matters alone, but what really matters is the state of the school and the quality of education imparted therein. Studies have repeatedly shown that even where schools exist, the classrooms are inadequate, roofs leaking, and the facilities deplorable.
10.3.2.2 The studies also show that the quality of education imparted in schools in public sector is generally poor. A PROBE Team found that despite the government’s claim (and promise) that single-teacher schools are abolished, 12% of all primary schools in the PROBE villages had a single teacher appointed. Another 21% had a single teacher present at the time of the survey. Thus, almost one-third of the primary schools surveyed were de-facto single teacher schools. The PROBE survey also revealed that 33% of head teachers were absent, and only 25% were engaged in any teaching activity. In 72% of primary schools, Village Education Committees had been formed, but only 51% of these were functional. The PROBE team further found several irregularities in the implementation of the mid-day meal scheme in primary schools. None of this however is new knowledge to anyone and particularly to the officials in the education Departments.
“If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems, which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.”
“History is not kind to idlers. The time is long past when America’s destiny was assured simply by an abundance of natural resources and inexhaustible human enthusiasm, and by our relative isolation from the malignant problems of older civilizations. The world is indeed one global village. We live among determined, well-educated, and strongly motivated competitors. We compete with them for international standing and markets, not only with products but also with the ideas of our laboratories and neighbourhood workshops. America’s position in the world may once have been reasonably secure with only a few exceptionally well-trained men and women. It is no longer.”
10.3.2.4 Increasing enrolment and ensuring retention is only one part of the problem, more challenging part of it is to improve the quality of education and achieve excellence in education.
10.3.3 Secure Civil Society Participation in Provision And Management of Elementary Education
Management of education through remote control by officialdom in these fifty years has failed to deliver the desired results. In the State of Himanchal Pradesh@ one of the reasons identified for rapid decline in illliteracy, is civic cooperation. Civil Society participation in the planning, monitoring, financing, overseeing of elementary education can facilitate greater availability of better quality of the elementary education in a short span of time. Civil society participation can also be used for removing problems faced by the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and backward classes. An appropriate policy framework needs to be evolved to secure effective and meaningful participation of stakeholders, voluntary organisations and the other institutions of the civil society in provision and management of education.
10.4 Improve Quality Of Basic Health Care
Public spendings on health estimated at 1.2 per cent of GDP are low but overall spending estimated at 6% of GDP are high because of private spendings. There are large variations in private financing and provision between the States. For example, the lowest proportion of private hospital care is in rural Orissa and West Bengal (9 per cent and 18 per cent of hospitalizations respectively) which compares adversely to over 75 per cent in rural Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Public health care network has grown extensively reaching almost every nook and corner of the country. Ninth Plan indeed, identifies health as one of the priority areas. Supreme Court has, in the case of Consumer Education & Research Centre and Others Vs. Union of India (AIR 1995, SC 922), held that the Right to Health is a fundamental right. National Human Rights Commission has also recommended that health being a basic human right, be declared as a fundamental right. Yet, infrastructural facilities provided in most of primary health care centres and quality of health care delivered remains poor. There exists wide variation in the health care facilities across the States and even between different regions in a State. Women, children, poor and deprived and the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Backward Classes are badly hit due to non-availability of quality health care at reasonable cost. They are often forced to take treatments from unqualified practitioners at enormous risk to their health and well being. Improving the quality health care in public sector and to make it responsive to the needs of poor and deprived, is the pressing need of the day.
10.4.2 Maternal Mortality And Infant Mortality
Excess of males over females (sex-ratio is 933 females per 1000 males) reflecting existence of gender bias, high maternal mortality rate (407 per lakh live births) and high percentage of anaemia (52%) amongst pregnant women show the neglected state of women health in the country and call for urgent measures to improve the reproductive health care in the country. High rates of mal-nutrition among children (53%) calls for urgent and targeted measures to improve nutritional intake of children especially of those belonging to poor and weaker sections of the society. Under-nutrition, studies have shown, has a greater impact on poor children’s cognitive development than on development of children who are not poor. Protein energy malnutrition, temporary hunger and micronutrient deprivation adversely affect learning achievements of a child. Economic losses due to malnutrition are estimated to cost the country at least $10 billions every year. Preventive & basic health care facilities for children need to be improved qualitatively.
10.4.3 Secure Civil Society Participation In Healthcare
Health# is described as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely absence of disease and infirmity’. Health depends upon several factors such as nutrition, personal hygiene, family life, collective living, environmental conditions and access to social services including health and medical care. Need for public involvement in health care become self evident when the holistic view of health as defined by WHO is taken into account. In recent past, there has been growing recognition in many countries of the importance and benefits of having public participation in health care.
10.4.3.2 There are many advantages in securing public participation in the health care including policy and planning.
q Public participation improves communication, provides information, and builds constituency support. Better information leads to informed decisions and better policies.
q Providing services, which are inappropriate or inaccessible drains away scarce resources from more imaginative and responsive services. Public participation helps in greater awareness of user views and in provision of more efficient and appropriate services. Through their own involvement, communities can exert greater influence over health policies and allocation of resources. They can press for and achieve improved services, or new services, which more appropriately meet their needs. Public participation also puts pressure on providers to provide services in a more user-friendly way. Public participation can force providers to make the desired changes in policy and delivery of health services which due to vested interests of providers may otherwise be difficult to make. Clear messages from users about what they want and what is wrong with existing services are difficult to ignore for a long time and users wishes may ultimately have to be respected.
q Health services have largely been unsuccessful in meeting the needs of the most disadvantaged. Smithies and Webster1 state that ‘community involvement assists the targeting of disadvantaged or isolated groups, allowing a shift in focus from traditional priorities’. They further state that ‘community involvement work is often prioritised with deprived and disadvantaged groups and communities, be they geographical or communities of interest. Community development approach, which underpins community involvement, works to counter prejudices and discrimination through creating equal opportunities and positive action’.
q Once the public ‘becomes empowered and accustomed to having a voice on health issues, they begin to look for ways in which they can influence the decisions of those organisations which have a major effect on their lives and their health’. At present, major resources are being used on curative modern medical system despite the fact that the major improvements in modern health have not come primarily from curative medicine but from the other sources. This is also the position in advanced countries. In U.S.A. relatively few resources are allocated to health promotion, disease prevention, health education, nutrition, and alternative health movements. Public participation may expose vested interests and may lead to better utilisation of resources. Smithies and Webster# state that ‘involving community in health could lead to a shift in the balance of resources with gradually more proportionately being spent on prevention of ill health and a lower proportion on illness and care’. Salmon and Berliner* state that ‘health practitioners, health planners, and consumers can be of substantial aid in the integration of contributions from alternative health movements into the mainstream medical care system’.
q Public participation ‘promotes better access for people to health information and resources, greater awareness of an individual’s own health needs and those of their community, and of the factors that influence health. It helps people to make realistic and informed decisions about their health’.
q Serious problems of public health including prevention of infections like Malaria, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis, HIV/AIDS etc. cannot be tackled without active public participation and cooperation.
10.4.3.3 The public participation also has certain disadvantages.
q It may result in delayed decisions and add to the cost of decision making.
q It might bring to the forefront many unmet needs which may result in greater demands being made that can possibly be met within the available resources.
q Legitimacy of representation is difficult to ensure.
q Consumers often lack sufficient knowledge of health care issues and planning and this coupled with emphasis on technical planning and specialised knowledge of providers in health care is a big impediment in the effective public participation.
q Public participation is often perceived by providers and planners as a threat to their professional autonomy and credibility and hence there is resistance to public participation from them.
10.4.3.4 Increasing inequalities, poor quality, uneven access, paternalism, lack of responsiveness, disease orientation and growing costs of treatment have resulted in growing disenchantment with provider dominated health systems. The growing shift to holistic view of health has further increased interest in self-help, preventive health practices and alternative forms of treatment and focus is shifting from professionals to people in many developed and developing countries of the world. The trend has further strengthened with the greater acceptance of democratic values and practices in most nations of the world especially after the collapse of command and control economies led by former Soviet Union.
10.4.3.5 To enhance participatory democracy and to improve health planning, a number of countries have enacted statutory provisions to provide for public participation in health care. In the U.K., Section 9 of the National Services Reorganisation Act, 1973 gave community health councils their statutory existence with a duty cast on these councils to represent interests in health services of the public in its district. In U.S.A. P.L. 93-641, the National Health Planning and Resource Development Act of 1974 created a network of health planning agencies at the foundation of which was the local community. WHO-UNICEF report (1978)* mentions attempts by Governments in certain developing countries to involve community participation in health care.
10.4.3.6 A number of International agencies have lent support to public participation in the health care. World Health Organisation Alma-Ata Declaration (1978)* clearly states that ‘the people have the right and duty to participate individually and collectively in the planning and implementation of their health care’. According to the World Development Report, 1997@ reforming the health system is an area where public and private interests coincide to such an extent that some level of public – private deliberation is not just desirable but in fact critical to success. Community participation is the key element of the international action plan, known as Agenda 21 designed to bring about sustainable development for the twenty-first century. This plan has been endorsed by over 150 nations at the Earth Summit in 1992. 4th International Conference on Health Promotion held in 1997 in Jakarta reaffirmed the importance of community participation as key element of Health for All.
10.4.3.7 Participatory management of civil society such as Rogi Kalyan Samiti of Madhya Pradesh (see box in section 8.1.2) has reportedly resulted in improvement in the functioning of public hospitals in the Madhya Pradesh. Greater participation of public can perhaps achieve much more. Time has come when a serious consideration needs to be given towards taking effective measures to secure civil society participation in health care in the country.
10.5 Provide Good Governance
Good governance, as studies reveal, is essential for sustainable development and poverty reduction. Good governance alone can ensure sustainable human development. Good governance is the urgent need of the hour. The provisions of the Constitution are still valid but many remain commitments on paper that the State has failed to fulfil. Only a stronger system of democracy, public vigilance and debate and discourse backed by effective rule of law can see that the basic economic and social rights of citizens are fulfilled.
10.5.2 Failure of various schemes launched by the Government for people’s welfare are an indicator of inherent weaknesses in the governance of the country. The manner in which those in government responsible for implementation turn a blind eye to rampant abuse of various schemes is indeed shocking. The hijacking of poverty programmes by the rich and better-off is quite well-known. Textbooks meant for poor children never reach them. Equally worse are the various incentive schemes that government introduces periodically. The family planning incentive schemes proved a disaster. The scheme to pay Rs.2 per day for every girl child who goes to school reached nowhere in Karnataka. The mid-day meal scheme for school children – soon converted into the sukha ration (dry ration) scheme – is full of deficiencies, mysteries and inefficiencies in most States where it is being implemented.
10.5.3 The various strands of good governance have been indicated in Section 8.1 (see box). All these strands needs to be strengthened individually and collectively in order to secure good governance. The public cooperation and participation from decision making to implementation needs to be secured in all important national endeavours for beneficial interaction between the government and the institutions of civil society. The State has to take lead in creating an enabling atmosphere in which other actors of the civil society can effectively participate and contribute towards sustainable human development.
10.5.2 Changing Mind-Sets And Attitudes
The colonial hangover of the notion of the ‘Rulers’ and the ‘Ruled’, ‘Governors’ and the ‘Governed’, Government’ and People – the ‘us’ and ‘they’ divide and even more ancient hangover of the notion of the superior and the inferior, the upper caste and the lower caste, ‘Bhadra lok’ and ‘Chotto lok’ etc. are the major stumbling blocks in ensuring social justice. A survey of 109 Indian judges in 1996 conducted by SAKSHI, a feminist legal resource group found that :
· 48% of respondents believed that it was justifiable for a husband to slap his wife on certain occasions.
· 74% of respondents believed that preserving the reputation of the family ought to be a woman’s primary concern even if she encountered violence.
· 50% of the respondents believed that child abuse is not common.
· 66% believed that wearing provocative clothes is an invitation to sexual assault.
10.5.2.2 The attitudes of the most of the lawyers and judges as revealed by the said study may in themselves be a serious impediment to the administration of gender justice. The attitude of the people in these and other decision-making and decision-influencing, decision-enforcing/implementing positions towards the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and backward classes is a stumbling block in achieving social justice*. Attitude of people who are in the decision making positions needs to be tuned with the scheme and philosophy of the Constitution and the interaction between the administrators and the citizens must become that of between a free and self-governing people on the one hand and their agents chosen to serve them on the other.
10.5.3 Transparency And Openness In Governance
Asymmetry of information and lack of people’s reach to information is a major reason why the poor and ignorant get misled and exploited. Worse is the situation where even the educated have no easy access to information and recourse to grievance redressal systems. For instance:
· It is well known that private contractors often pay less-than-minimum wages to rural workers. This perpetuates as in many instances, the workers do not even know what they are entitled and ought to be paid. For them finding out what their minimum wages are, is not easy.
· Again, most people know that it is necessary to obtain a birth certificate for every child born. Few, however, know where and how to get one without having to pay a bribe or incur an unreasonable expense.
· Only a few know what remedy is available if a police officer refuses to register FIR of a crime.
· It is not mandated that government officials dealing with the public should identify themselves by wearing a name badge – be they income tax inspectors, electricity meter readers, telephone linesmen, or customs or police officials. This results in people even not knowing the identity of the person whom they are dealing with.
· The situation with respect to public projects is even worse. Funds are released for construction of schools and other public utilities but these do not get built. People who were to benefit never know when and how much money was released – or who was responsible for building it.
10.5.3.2 Unless people have easy access to a whole range of information, the question of accountability and performance will remain elusive. Information Technology has tremendous potential for providing greater and easy access to information to the citizens and in providing more user-friendly services to them. This technology can beneficially be used in ensuring ‘a single window’ service to the citizens. Easy access to information is now becoming possible through internet portals that have been launched or are in the process of being launched by various Departments/ Organisations of the Government – both Union and States. Effective use of this technology in Railway and Airlines reservation have greatly changed the way booking and reservation are done and has greatly reduced the difficulties of consumers. Similar operational systems need to be evolved in other areas of Government – public interface. Once software are developed on the basis of pre-determined rules, information technology can ensure equal treatment to all persons in a transparent manner in delivery of services. India has the core competence in information technology and communication and, therefore, chances of success in bringing greater transparency in administration through use of information technology are bright. It is time to make use of information technology on a large scale to bring about transparency and openness in administration.
10.5.4 Citizens Friendly And Responsive Public Services :
Article 350 of the Constitution recognises the rights of every person to submit a representation for the redress of his grievances. The said Article even permits such representation being made in any of the languages used in the Union or States. Common citizen today finds it very difficult even to know what services he is entitled to receive from government organisations and what public-grievance-redressal-mechanisms are available to him in case of denial of services. An effective mechanism needs to be set up in order to ensure that the citizens receive as a matter of right, efficient, responsive, timely, purposeful and user-friendly services from the service providing agencies of the State and for the purpose citizens charters have been mooted. These Citizens Charters would list the entitlement of the citizenry to public goods and services along with time schedule within which he is entitled to expect to the services from such government organisations and from each functionary at various levels. The Citizens Charter would not prove to be an effective instrument for improving services and making them responsive and user-friendly, unless a person who fails to receive the public goods or the services in the manner and to the extent laid out in such charters, is able to secure promised services enforced easily and effectively. The enforcement of charters through consumers dispute redressal forums* established under Consumer Protection Act, 1986 or through institutions of Ombudsman at national and regional level are amongst the options in this regard. In suitable cases, monetary compensation could be granted by these bodies and in cases where monetary compensation is granted, concerned Department may be required to fix responsibilities on individuals responsible for lapse and take appropriate action against them.
10.5.5 Public Funding Of Institutions Of Civil Soceity
Massive financial grants are being released by various departments of the Government for aiding and promoting civil society initiatives in the country. The administration of these grants has been reported to be subjective and is said to be lacking in objectivity. The performance-appraisals are not professional. While genuine civil society initiatives need to be strengthened and promoted and supported partially by public funds, measures are necessary to secure the value of the public money. An urgent need exists to streamline distribution and administration of grants and for securing an independent and objective performance appraisal of work of organisations receiving public grants in order to decide entitlement of the claim at various stages of release of public funds.
10.6 Make Effective Use Of Science & Technology
“Today’s world” says an American professor1 “is divided not by ideology but by technology. This demands bold new thinking on development”. He maintains that a small portion of the globe, accounting for some 15% population of the Earth, provides nearly all of world’s technological innovations. A second part involving, perhaps, half the world’s population, is able to adopt these technologies in production and consumption. The remaining part covering around one-third of the world population, he says, is technologically-disconnected neither innovative at home nor adopting foreign technologies. He includes the ‘Ganges valley States’ of India amongst the technologically excluded regions and observes that ‘many of the technologically excluded regions, especially in the tropics are caught in a poverty trap. Among their greatest problems are tropical infectious disease, low agricultural productivity and environmental degradation – all requiring technological solutions beyond their means”. In the “New map of world” a line west to east from the north of Gujarat to the south of Orissa indicates the divide between the northern technologically disconnected areas and the southern ‘technological adopters’. According to him there are no technology innovative regions in India.
10.6.2 A World Bank Study2 on India observes as under:
10.6.3 As industrial technologies of the developed countries become more and more sophisticated, the developing countries increasingly find their industrial infrastructure obsolete and non-competitive. This leads to a vicious chain. Lack of competitive and quality production itself impairs economic capacity for cutting edge technological research and the lack of modern technologies impedes economic growth. Developing countries are caught in this vicious circle. At the heart of the problem is the need to develop cutting-edge research standards in science and technology.
10.6.4 India no doubt has made significant progress in the areas of atomic energy, space, defence, agriculture, industry and certain Indian institutions are well-known for academic excellence but the country is far from realising its full potential of Science and Technology. A look at the systems put in place for promoting scientific and technological research and the nature of funding for its promotion and development seem to provide an answer as to what is constraining realisation of full potential of science and technology.
10.6.5 Seven Departments of Government of India viz. Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space, Department of Defence Research and Development, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Industrial Research, Department of Biotechnology and Department of Ocean Development, are major Science and Technology Departments.
10.6.6 Department of Space and Department of Atomic Energy each have a management structure of a Commission viz. Space Commission and Atomic Energy Commission and have enormous delegated powers and report to the Prime Minister. The Department of Defence Research and Development has Defence Research and Development Council with Defence Minister as its Chairman. It also has its Defence Research Council chaired by Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister and is having large delegated powers.
10.6.7 The Indian Council of Agricultural Research is governed by the Ministry of Agriculture, whereas the Indian Council of Medical Research is governed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The other socio-economic Ministries/ Departments have a number of R&D agencies under them. The Office of Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India has recently been formed with PSA having Cabinet Minister rank. His office has three high level Committees/ Groups. The PSA is the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet, Consultative Group of Eminent Senior Scientists and Consultative Group of Government Department/ Agencies on Science and Technology. They are serviced by a full time Secretariat headed by a Secretary level Scientist. Ministries like Ministry of Information Technology, Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources are headed by Civil Servants as Secretaries and the Ministers at the helm. IITs, engineering colleges and science education institutes come under Ministry of Human Resource Development. Some States also have S&T Groups/ Councils to promote use of science and technology for development. Private sector has also recently become active in research and development and is contributing to national research and development expenditure.
10.6.8 With higher science and technology work being spread over various Ministries with multiple management structures, the question that necessarily arises is: Are our organisational structures, managerial systems and procedures such as to facilitate and promote the high standards of research initiative and achievements? Or are they with their wonted bureaucratic mould, not equal to the urgency with which advance research in Science and Technology should be promoted and nurtured? The answers seem uncomfortable. There is urgent need to look at the systems, structures, procedures and organizational roadblocks in promoting scientific talent and research efforts in high-speed, competitive world of technological advances. Apart from global competitiveness new technologies are necessary to handle many of the internal problems of education, health, hygiene, communication, information-handling and to make Indian products including produce of traditional producers globally competitive and marketable. What is required is an integrated and co-ordinated approach in higher scientific and technological research in the country free from bureaucratic bottlenecks.
10.6.9 It is time that Government sets up an umbrella organisation in the form of a “National Science and Technology Commission” for bringing greater co-ordination and integration in planning, promotion, policy making and funding of higher scientific and technological research and for securing greater co-ordination in financial, organisational, managerial and administrative aspects of it so that while various commissions and bodies engaged in specialised research have full autonomy and freedom in their respective area of work, their work is not hindered by bureaucratic and administrative problems and the scientific and technological higher research is carried out in the country in a co-ordinated and integrated manner in consonance with the present needs of the country. In particular, the Commission may be responsible for the following functions:
(i) Evolution of Science and Technology Policy for the country
The fast growth on S&T, depends on the quality of education system from the primary to the higher-level education and research institutions. The S&T policy has to integrate the activities of science and technology with education and research based on the demands of industry, service, agricultural sector and other societal requirements. The first Scientific Policy Resolution was enunciated in 1958. The first Technology Policy Statement was made in 1983. Attempts to revise it have not succeeded, so far. The Science & Technology policy needs to be updated in consultation with Scientists, Technocrats, Academicians, Industrialists and Administrators and is to be based on the national vision of transforming the country from a developing nation to a developed nation in the shortest possible time. The Commission should be entrusted with revision of policy and it should also undertake periodical review of the policy.
(ii) Evolution of appropriate Managerial Structure in Scientific Departments/ Organisations
The Commission should be responsible for providing leadership to the scientific community and for evolving appropriate organisational structures, managerial systems, procedures and standards for scientific Departments/ Organisations so as to create the facilitating environment in which the scientists and technocrats are able to work freely in a open environment and are accountable. It should also provide integrated Mission orientation to scientific Departments/ Organisations.
(iii) Responsibility for Allocation of Funds
The total outlay of various Central Government Departments in the year 2001-2002 put together amount to around Rs. 10,000 crores. Higher allocations are necessary for giving an impetus to higher research and technology. At present, normally 5% of the total Defence budget is being allocated for defence research. The system of funding adopted for defence research commend serious consideration. It is timely and appropriate to consider whether all the Ministries (other than scientific departments) should allocate 5% of their total budget for scientific and technological research or alternatively whether it should be ensured that investment of 2.5 to 3% of GNP is exclusively made in scientific and technological research and development. The Commission should be responsible for allocating these funds to different organisations engaged in scientific and technological research.
10.7 Give Voice To The People
Sustainable human development requires that all sections of the society including disadvantaged and deprived ones have an effective voice that is heard and taken into considerations in the decision-making processes. In this country, unfortunately, the vast majority of people – the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, women, farmers, unorganised labour, bonded labour, child labour, victims of prostitution and such other deprived and disadvantaged sections of the people have virtually no say in the decisions that affect them. Constitutional mandates of social, economic and political justice and equality of status and opportunity have little meaning to them.
10.7.2 The issues relating to the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes have been dealt with in the preceding chapter. Article 15(3) of the Constitution permits the State to make special provisions for women and children. Article 39 enjoins the State to provide an adequate means of livelihood to men and women and secure equal pay for equal work for both men and women. Article 51A(e) makes it a duty of every citizen to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women. Despite these provisions, the various social indicator - sex ratio, literacy level, maternal mortality, high percentage of anaemic women in reproductive age group etc. (see Chapter 5) indicate the continued existence of gender biases against women. Women indeed continue to be denied full freedom to work and equal opportunities in the workplace. Most of them cannot even exercise independent choice in their personal matters (Table 5.16). Dowry sadly continues to remain a cause of pre-marital humiliation and post-marital domestic mental torture and even physical violence for many women particularly those belonging to middle classes despite its abolition by an Act of the Parliament long time back. The representation of women in Lok Sabha (Table 5.10), Union Council of Ministers (Table 5.12), High Courts (Table 5.14) and in civil services (para 184.108.40.206)) remains low. Their economic participation is a mere fraction of that of men. Women indeed remain far behind men in enjoying basic human rights, not to talk of equal share with men in educational institutions, the job market or in Government. Empowerment of women and giving them an effective say in decision making is essential in order to eliminate gender biases and inequality and to give them their rightful place in the society.
10.7.3 Bonded labour and child labour are prohibited by law, yet they do exist and are rather rampant. Active involvement and cooperation of civil society institutions is necessary to eliminate these evils completely. Effective implementation of the provisions prohibiting child labour and bonded labour need to be ensured and effective rehabilitation schemes for bonded labours and child labours need to be evolved so as to prevent them from falling again in the same conditions.
10.7.4 250 million workers out of a total workforce of 286 million workers are in the unorganised sector. These workers are exploited in diverse ways and targeted measures are necessary to put to an end of their exploitation. Efforts to reduce their sufferings and exploitation often are met with resistance from vested interests and often get subverted. A Central legislation formulated almost two decades back to regulate the employment and condition of service of agricultural workers, to ensure payment of prescribed wages and to provide for certain welfare measures for them did not see the light of the day. Many other instances can be quoted to show how efforts aimed at securing welfare of unorganised workers often get thwarted.
10.7.5 Marginal farmers and landless agricultural workers often fall in the grip of moneylenders and poverty due to failure of crops or other natural calamities. Farmers like industrialists need to be made entitled to the various benefits of government policy on industry so as to provide sufficient safeguards to them against losses due to natural calamities, etc. Better management of water resources in the country is needed so as to avoid situations of devastating floods in one area and paucity of water in other area of the country.
10.8 Making Legislation Work
Laws exist but many of them are poorly implemented. Some of them need review. There is a long way to go in terms of ensuring effective enforcement of the law as also to ensure reasonableness of many of them. For instance, there are State laws wherein the District Collector can postpone Panchayat elections or remove an elected Chairperson from office. Inherent biases against women and children exist in many laws and these biases need to be removed. Effective enforcement of laws also requires priority attention and measures should be evolved to secure their effective implementation.
1 AIR 1993 SC 2178
@ A scheme in Himachal Pradesh of payment of Rs.25 to Rs.30 per month as compensation towards opportunity cost to the families of SC and ST girl child attending class VI to X has reportedly helped in substantially improving retention rate in these classes.
# The World Health Organisation Constitution (1948)
1 Smithies Jan and Webster Georgina (1998), Community Involvement in Health, Ashgate, Aldershot.
# Smithies Jan and Webster Georgina (1998), Community Involvement in Health, Ashgate, Aldershot.
* Salmon Warren J. and Berliner Howard S. (1981), Alternative Health Movements: Challenges to Health Planning in Checkoway Barray (ed.), Citizens and Health Care, Pergamon Press, New York.
* World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, Primary Health Care – international conference on primary health care, Alma Ata, USSR, Geneva, WHO and UNICEF, 1978.
@ World Development Report, 1997, World Bank, Oxford University Press, Oxford
* Social justice was declared as a fundamental right in the case of Consumer Education & Research Centre and Others Vs. Union of India (AIR 1995, SC 922)
* In respect of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, the Backward Classes and the Women, institutions like the National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the National Commission for Backward Classes and the National Commission for Women can also be empowered to look into the complaints of non-enforcement of charters in respect of members of these classes.
1 Jeffrey Sachs, 1A new map of the World, Economist, June 22, 2000
2 A World Bank Country Study : INDIA, Reducing Poverty, Accelerating Development (2000), Oxford University Press, New Delhi