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Eleventh Plan 2007-12:APPROACH PAPER MARKS A MILESTONE, by T.D. Jagadesan, 2 April 2007 Print E-mail

Events And Issues

New Delhi, 2 April 2007

Eleventh Plan 2007-12


By T.D. Jagadesan

India’s Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2007-12) marks a milestone in the country’s planning history. While highlighting the Plan approach Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the National Development Council (NDC) last month: “There are major constraints we have to confront, many of which require difficult policy changes by the Centre and the State Governments.”

The Prime Minister has lauded the performance of the economy during the just-concluded Tenth Plan, when the growth during the last four years is about eight per cent. This has taken India firmly among front rank of fast growing developing countries. The PM asserted: “The world has a very favourable assessment of our prospects and this is reflected in the fact that the FDI flows are buoyant.”  

Initially after the Planning Commission was set up in 1950, years and plans flew past without a serious pursuit of the national health policy, while the health status of the masses of the people languished. Then came a new initiative.  The Indian Councils of Social Sciences and Medical Research jointly provided a holistic concept of health as well as medical services. Their report: Health for All, an Alternative Strategy, 1981, defined health as a component of overall socio-economic development. The report was widely hailed. But it too soon went off the official screen.

However, it remained a serious challenge for the non-official agencies, especially the Foundation for Research in Community Health (FRCH), which set about testing the core of the above approach; the village community could take care of 70 per cent of its health needs with training of some local women (dais).

Why then do the agonizing disparities persist in health status? The Mid-Term Appraisal (MTA) 2005 had pointed out that corrective steps were not being enforced. The Tenth Plan had envisaged reorganizing and restructuring public health care systems at all levels, developing responsibilities and funds to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). “However, the devolution of responsibilities and funds to the PRIs has not happened”, the Tenth Plan targets and goals relating to infant, under-five, and maternal mortality are likely to be missed, and the proportion of chronically under-nourished children in India remains high.

Concludes the MTA: With some exceptions, the vast infrastructure for health care meant to provide preventive health cover to poor households is either dysfunctional or inaccessible to many.  There is a view that the failure of the Government’s PHC health programmes for rural areas is due in large measures to the reluctance of doctors and nurses trained in urban colleges to live in and serve rural communities. The challenge ahead is to reach health to all, in the shortest possible time.

Backward areas are not dead. The people there are living and eking a livelihood, though at subsistence levels, due to constraints beyond their resources though they are highly resourceful as evidenced by their survival against odds. And herein lies the clue for the administrators of this national programme.  Through rapid surveys and studies to capture what the people are doing, what constraints they face and what are their ideas on how they can go forward and all this exercise should be done through the Gram Sabhas.

This exercise should actively involve all available institutional resources in the given areas---be it educational, economic or social and cultural, and list well-regarded community leaders who have contributed to the well-being of the people in the area. This would help in identifying the strengths and constraints, as also available institutional resources and eschew the New Delhi prescribed agenda of building “infrastructure”.

Starting in 2006-07, a Backward Regions Grant fund of Rs.5,000 crore has been entrusted to the Union Ministry of Panchayati Raj for removal of regional disparities and inequalities in 250 backward districts. The key word is “catalyzing” development in these areas. It has two options: “one, to do more of the same as has been done in the past with similar programmes, i.e. conceived and executed by the administration and produce 50 crore worth of benefits from Rs.5,000 crore or to deploy an imaginative approach and put every rupee to do a duty worth three rupees thus raise the productive value of the sum in hand to Rs.15,000 crore.

Take children first. More than half of our children of the tender age of 1.5 years are malnourished. The cruelty is that we do have the foodgrains, but they are stocked not in the stomachs of our infants but in official godowns. If that be so, and it is so; what then is development all about?

Has the gravity of this situation been fully grasped? A year ago the Finance Minister told Parliament that 47 per cent of our children in the age group of 0-3 are underfed while according to the Planning Commission the corresponding figure is 50 per cent of the rural children in the age group 0-5 years and he raised the budgetary allocation for the integrated child development ser ices programmes which feeds such infants, to Rs.3,000 crore in 2005-06, and in the budget 2006-07 raised it further to Rs.4,000 crore.

However, there is no indication of the absolute number of children in this category, nor what proportion of them will be covered by the enhanced financial allocation and the size of the morsel of food they will be served. This challenge requires more thought and emotion than it has received so far.

Under the state aegis, planning is done in the sectoral mode. The format of plan documents, the demand for plan funds, their allocation and distribution, all follow a sectoral approach. The implementing structures such as departments, technical bodies, field cadres, monitoring systems, are also designed along sectoral divisions.

Planning for women, on the other hand, needs “integrative strategies”.  This has been a never-ending search within the state systems, one that has yielded little good result. “Nodal agencies” or “national machinery” have been designed or set up to give chase to this ideal, why they have faced difficulties, which are of the nature of organizational barriers. In other words, the milieu of planning is not women-friendly.

Both the secondary data and information obtained by field investigations are not sufficiently extensive or accurate to establish casual links or the precise measures of change over time in the condition of women in Karnataka. However, they indicate certain organizational or attitudinal elements which merit attention if the benefits of plan schemes are to reach women in under-privileged sections if plan schemes are to reach women in under-privileged sections of the community more effectively.

The Government machinery has proliferated and spread out to villages in many forms, but this has not been reflected in any corresponding increase in its reach of the poor, more especially of poor women.

As in the Indian Constitution, it is necessary to recognize explicitly that women, equally with men, have a right to be recognized as individual participants in economic or social activities, and not just as anonymous members of a household.  This will impel change in a whole lot of attitudes and ideas, from fact gathering to policy formulation. ---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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