Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Are Indians against small family norm? (Post #106)


Only 24 per cent of the married women between 15 and 49 years want a second child. For men, the corresponding proportion is 27 per cent, down from 49% a decade ago.

National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4 (2015-16)

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India

 


Dr. Devendra Kothari[1]
Population and Development Analyst
Forum for Population Action

It was a wet morning at Red Fort as the country awaited the flag hosting ceremony and address to the nation by PM Narendra Modi on its 73rd Independence Day. The nation of 1,350   million people was eagerly   to know what PM Modi thinks about “New India”, which he promised during the General Election. 

Among many issues PM Modi raised from the ramparts of Red Fort, the issue of “Population Explosion” was very critical. He emphasised “small family is good for the society, nation... High time the nation debates this and brings a law if needed...Else we will soon run out of resources”.   It is because virtually all major problems that confront India today relate in some critical way to the galloping population. It leads to a massive diversion of national investable resources to consumption which could otherwise be used for increasing investment and productivity and for improving the quality of public services like education, health, sanitation, provision of safe drinking water, etc.  That could be the reason why PM Modi brought up the issue of Population Explosion. In fact, he is the first prime Minister of India who dwelled at length on this issue from a public platform.

India's demography is mind-boggling. India’s population in 1947 was 330 million and in 2018 it was 1350 million. In last seventy years it has quadrupled.  India now contains about 18% of humanity (i.e. every sixth person in the world is an Indian). China is the only country with a larger population ‑ in the order of 70 million more in 2018 as compared to 300 million   in 1990. The Indian population grew at an annual rate of 1.24% during 2010-15. On the other hand, China registered a much lower annual growth rate of population (0.61%) during the corresponding period.  Based on the analysis of recent data, it is estimated that India will overtake China in the next 3-5 years that is before 2025.[2]

The current population growth in India, however, is mainly caused by unwanted fertility.  Around five in ten live births are unintended/unplanned or simply unwanted by the women who experience them and these births    trigger continued high population growth. Around 26 million children were born in India in 2018, and out of this about 13 million births could be classified as unwanted. Further, based on the National Family Health Surveys (1 to 4), it is estimated that in 2018 around 430 million people out of 1350 million in India were a result of unwanted pregnancies.  With a large number of people resulting from unwanted pregnancies, how can one think about using them for nation building?   The consequences of unwanted pregnancy are being reflected in widespread malnutrition, poor health, low quality of education, and increasing scarcity of basic resources like food, water and space.

While India’s population continues to grow by 16 - 17 million   annually, and while 14 million women, especially in the lower economic strata including Muslims, seek to postpone childbearing, space births, or stop having children; they are not using a modern methods of contraception. This is also known as the ‘unmet need’ for contraception. Often, women with unmet need for family planning services  travel far from their homes to reach a health facility, only to return home ‘empty handed’ due to shortages, stock outs, lack of desired contraception and/or non-availability of doctors and paramedical staff or poor quality of services. When women are thus turned away, they are unable to protect themselves from unwanted/unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. And this type of incomplete control over the reproductive process reduces the prospects for an early decline in the rate of population growth.  [3]

Incidents of unwanted pregnancies can be dramatically reduced, if not eliminated, within a next five years  by simply providing reproductive services as per the needs of clients,   as had been done in Andhra Pradesh during the nineties.  If Andhra, with little outside help, could manage its population growth under relatively low literacy and high poverty (Literacy Rate of AP in 2011 was 67.7% compared to 67.1% in Rajasthan, as per 2011 Census), there is no reason why other states especially Four Large North Indian (FLNI) States of Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and UP, with lesser problems and with increasingly generous support from the Centre, should fail so spectacularly in managing unwanted fertility. 

 

The people of the FLNI states are not against small family norms. While general knowledge about family planning is almost universal, access to modern methods of contraception services and products is a big problem in these states.

India must ensure that every child is a wanted one. So government    must provide client-centred reproductive health services with special reference to poor performing states.  It will help in meeting women’s needs for family planning and that would help in avoiding numerous reproductive health-related issues. Women who are able to delay or stop childbearing when they wish to are more likely to meet their children’s educational goals, earn a living and support their families, and manage changes in their environment and natural resources. Reducing incidence of unwanted pregnancies will help in achieving the national goal of population stabilization at the earliest.[4] 

The need of the hour, thus, is to create confidence among policy makers and programme managers especially in the poor performing states that a breakthrough is possible. There is no need to implement coercive measures like one-child norm or to provide incentives and disincentives. The real need is to provide services in un-served and underserved areas by realigning the capacity of health system to deliver quality care to suit the needs of clients.

A failure to stabilize India’s population will have significant implications for the future of India’s economy, that was the concern, one can see on the face of PM Modi while he was talking about this issue from the rampant of Lal Qila.




[2] Calculated by the author using data obtained from the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India and National Family Health Surveys.   

[3] Kothari, Devendra. 2014. “Managing Unwanted Fertility in India: Way Forward”, --   in Suresh Sharma and William Joe.   (eds.):   National Rural Health Mission: An Unfinished Agenda, Bookwell, New Delhi.

[4] For details, see:  Kothari, Devendra. 2019. Nurturing Human Development: A Strategy for New India, New Delhi: Paragoan International Publishers. A copy of the publication could be obtained by contacting author at dkothari42@gmail.com.



Monday, 1 July 2019

Nurturing Human Development and Rotary


Devendra Kothari Ph.D. [1]
District Chairman,
Human Resources Development,
RID 3054 (2019-20)

“On factors holding India back, my biggest disappointment is the low level of human development”.
Bill Gates
Co-Chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


The post explores role of the Rotary in the post PolioPlus era.

There is no secret that India's growth is much skewed and its benefits go disproportionately to few people as gets manifested by Oxfam’s Wealth Report (2018) which points out that the nine richest Indians own as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of the population. Further, the income inequality is rising much faster than expected.  The top one percent richest individuals in India appropriated six percent of total income in the early 1980s, and now, this figure has gone up to twenty two percent, as per the French Economist Thomas Piketty.[2] This suggests that wealth is not trickling down to the poor and India is turning into a ‘republic of inequality’.

Inequality is a roadblock to progress when it deprives people of opportunity, and subjects many to conditions of extreme poverty. As a result, it is sharply diminishing living conditions of millions of people in India, a country that is already home to some of the world’s poorest and hungriest people. More than half of India’s population (around 700 million in 2019) is still living under ‘multi-dimensional poverty’ compared to 5.2 per cent in China.

The article is an attempt to understand what should be done in the next 5 to 10 years to reduce the level of inequality?  Most importantly, how can the Rotary contribute in this effort?

Why high level of inequality? The main reason behind the high level of inequality is the low productivity of labor. India became the fifth largest economy in the world in terms of GDP in 2018 but still it has a very-very low per capita GDP, as per IMF. It is placed at 122nd position among 187 countries. Hence, there needs to be a concurrent increase in productivity.

With the World Bank ranking India at 115th out of 157 countries on the Human Capital Index in 2018, India cannot avoid the issue of empowering people.  HCI seeks to measure the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by the age of 18. According to its parameters, a child born in India today will only be 44 percent as productive as she could have been if she had enjoyed quality education and full health as well as quality of living environment including water and sanitation.  In other words, there are grave deficiencies in India’s human development inputs that are preventing children from reaching their full potential.

Let us consider some facts. India has done well over the past decade or so to get most of its children into school. It has done less well at getting them to learn substantially or meaningfully. Analysts are, therefore, already worrying that India’s demographic dividend — its vast pool of young people — will become (has already become) a curse: Without jobs, all those young people could drag down the country instead of pushing it towards upper-middle income status. The problem is that they are desperately short of preparation for both the old economy and the new. India has taken education in isolation. We cannot improve the quality of education without harmonizing it with other items like WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and primary health, not only in schools but also in homes of students.

In addition, the population growth is a worrying factor.  The current population growth in India is mainly caused by unwanted fertility.  Around five in ten live births are unintended/unplanned or simply unwanted by the women who experience them which    trigger continued high population growth. Around 26 million children were born in India in 2018, and out of this, about 13 million births could be classified as unwanted. Further, based on the National Family Health Surveys, it is estimated that in 2018 around 445 million people out of 1,350 million in India were a result of unwanted pregnancies.  With a large number of people resulting from unwanted pregnancies, how can one think about using them for nation building? 

Rotary initiative to unlock human potential: There is growing consensus that economic growth is not suf´Čücient to reduce inequality unless it is backed by high level of labor productivity. Everyone, therefore, recognizes that harnessing the human potential is the key to reduce inequality.   With this in mind, the top leadership of the Rotary International District 3054 [3] assembled at the Rotary Club, Jaipur on October 28, 2017 and came out with a strategy to empower people. [4] The strategy is being christened as ‘HDPlus’ (Human Development Plus).  It is a dynamic agenda based on a ‘whole child’ concept, that is primary-school-going child and his/her family (that is ‘HDPlus family’). The concept is being described by policies, practices, and relationships that ensure that each child is healthy, educated, engaged, supported and encouraged. For this, integrating the child and his or her family more deeply into the day-to-day life of school and home activities represents an untapped instrument for raising the overall achievements including learning skills and health parameters, and hence improving overall productivity.

To start with, the HDPlus strategy focuses on five interventions in a more closely integrated form in focusing on the HDPlus families to unlock the human potential. These are: 

1.   Ensuring quality elementary  education by improving assessment and accountability systems, which largely translates into improving teacher recruitment and training as well as community participation in the management of  government schools; [5]

2.   Improving physical living conditions    by strengthening access to WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities, electricity and LPG among others;

3.   Enhancing healthy life by focusing on primary health and nutrition;

4.   Promoting gender equality by changing the mindset of young as well as old   through sensitization at the  family level;[6] and 

5.   Stabilizing population by reducing incidence of unwanted fertility and infant mortality by providing services looking to the needs of people as well as advocating that every child should be a wanted one.[7]

How to implement the strategy? To reduce inequality, policies should be universal in principle, paying attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations.  The framework focuses on children from the government elementary schools (primary and upper primary) and their families.  Now question arises why government schools are being selected to start with? The government lays emphasis on elementary education involving children aged 6 to 14 years old. 80 percent schools at the elementary level are government-run or supported, making it the largest provider of education in the country. Further, even if some people have lost hope in government schools, the fact remains that they are catering mainly students coming from the poor families and they are present each and every corner of the country; and as such, they are very important link in our efforts to focus on the deprived population.

In short, the HDPlus strategy is aimed to lay foundation for the human competency that is quality of being adequately or well qualified physically and intellectually. The strategy   ensures that 14 year olds (8th graders) are well prepared to read, write and be efficient in mathematics as well as in the basic digital technology before moving to further education, thus initiating the process of human capital formation.

What can Rotary do? The Rotary is a group of local leaders making progress on a particular issue. The world has already witnessed   how the Rotarians used their intelligence and financial resources and their energy to fight polio. Now the Rotarians must help the deprived and marginalized people by unlocking their potential, thus eradicating poverty. It will also help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of United Nations which is one of the focus areas of the Rotary Foundation.

Here, the PolioPlus could be our guiding strategy in unlocking the human potential.[8] First of all, media should be used extensively to propagate the HDPlus strategy. A number of press conferences could be arranged before contacting the state and central governments as well as    corporate sectors for their involvement and funding. To start with, the framework could be implemented in few RI districts on pilot basis before covering up the entire country like the PolioPlus.  Further, the Rotary clubs should be encouraged to take field projects, based on the HDPlus strategy by joining hands with corporate sector/NGO/government.

In sum, the mission of Rotary is to provide “service” to poor and needy ones, and here the HDPlus strategy provides an opportunity to the Rotarians to help deprived people by unlocking their potential.  I will like to conclude in the words of   Rabindranath Tagore:

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”



[1] After obtaining formal degrees from Harvard and Australian National universities, Dr. Kothari has been working on issues pertaining population and development. He has been nominated as the District Chairman, Human Resources Development Committee of RID 3054 (2019-20). He can be contacted at:  dkothari42@gmail.c9om or 09829119868.   Last year, his comments on “Population and Climate Change” appeared in the New York Times (Sept. 11, 2018).

[2] Chancel, Lucas and Thomas Piketty. 2017.  “Indian income inequality, 1922-2014: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj?”  WID, World Working Paper Series No. 2017/11, World Inequality Lab, Paris School of Economics. 

[3] The discussion was chaired by then DG Maulin Patel of RID 3054 (2017-18). In addition, then DGE Neeraj Sogani and DGN Bina Desai as well PDG Ratnesh Kashyap, PDG Ashish Desai among others attended the discussion.  Rtn. Devendra Kothari, District Chairman, Human Resources Development Committee, RID 3054 (2017-18) initiated the discussion.

[4] For details, see:  Kothari, Devendra. 2019. Nurturing Human Development: A Strategy for New India, New Delhi: Paragoan International Publishers.

[5] Kothari, Devendra. 2017. “Managing school education in India”, in Administrative Change, Vol. XLIV (2): 78-89.

[6] Kothari, Devendra. 2014. “Empowering women in India: Need for a Feminist Agenda”, Journal of Health Management, 16 (2): 233-43.

[7] Kothari, Devendra. 2014. “Managing Unwanted Fertility in India: Way Forward”, --   in Suresh Sharma and William Joe.   (eds.):   National Rural Health Mission: An Unfinished Agenda, Bookwell, New Delhi.

[8] Rotary's involvement in polio eradication began in 1979 with a five-year commitment to provide and help deliver polio vaccine to six million children of Philippines. Following similar commitments in other countries, in the early 80's Rotary started planning for the most ambitious program in its history — to immunize all of world's children, less than five years of age, against polio, and in 1985 PolioPlus program was born. Since then, Rotary’s dedication to the global eradication of polio has remained constant. 2018 marked the 33rd anniversary of and challenges the program has faced.  But through the efforts of Rotary, 99 percent of the world’s population lives in regions certified polio-free. The goal of eradication is closer than ever. Same can be done to alleviate poverty by promoting HDPlus strategy.


Friday, 31 May 2019

PM Modi’s resounding victory and voters’ expectations


Dr. Devendra Kothari
Population and Development Analyst
Forum for Population Action

"Congratulations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a decisive election victory. These next five years of Prime Minister Modi's leadership will lay the groundwork for the next 25 years in terms of economic growth and prosperity for the country."
                                                                      Padma Bhusan John Chambers,
Chairman of the Board of Director
 at US-India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF).



Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to a super-sized victory in the recently held Lok Sabha elections for a second consecutive term in office, winning a whopping majority. The BJP has crossed the 300-seat mark in the 543-member Lok Sabha. "Such profound mandate will baffle the world," PM Modi rightly said in his victory speech.

What is this massive victory really about? What does it say about the politics of the day or expectations of people in the light of unexpectedness of victory’s sheer scale and sweep? What are the voters looking for which they have found in Narendra Modi? Potentially, there are many explanations; some of them are thinly veiled, which are difficult to understand.   This Paper aims to analyse some of these questions.

To have a right perspective, let us interpret the state of economy or development in which people have voted for Modi. During his election campaign in 2013-14, Modi raised expectations of a great economic revival, high growth and tens of millions of new jobs for the ever-growing workforce. The new government hit the ground running and the first two years were action-packed with new programmes and plans.  But, at the end of his five-year term, “there are many hits as well as major misses.” [1]

The economic slowdown is visible even through the fog of official statistics. Exports, barring a modest recent pickup, have been stagnant for the last five years, creating pressure on the economy, and reflecting growing lack of global competitiveness. Manufacturing is sluggish. Banking and the power sectors require urgent reform. As a result, the state of economy is sharply diminishing living conditions of millions of people in India, a country that is already home to some of the world’s poorest and hungriest people. More than half of India’s population (around 700 million) is still living under multi-dimensional poverty compared to 5.2 per cent in China.[2] Further, there are much more deprived/poor people in the eight states of India (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal) than in the rest of country. But, overwhelming voters from these states have voted for Modi.  

In addition, the BJP’s big support from rural and young voters   may indicate that the talk of agrarian and job crises   are misleading.  But, these are the real problems faced by the country, as shown by the latest data on employment released by the Government of India after the election results were declared. India's unemployment rate hit 6.1 per cent in the fiscal year ending 2018; reportedly the country's highest in over four decades. An estimated 12 million young Indians join the workforce every year, and the country needs to grow much faster in order to provide jobs for all of them.

Another set of figures released by the government on a day when new ministers of the Narendra Modi cabinet took charge, showed that gross domestic product expanded 5.8 per cent in the quarter ending March, 2019. That's a sharp decline from 6.6 per cent growth in the previous quarter and the weakest rate in two years. It also means India has surrendered the title of world's fastest-growing major economy to China, which grew at 6.4 per cent  in the same period. Yet growth has eroded over the past three quarters after hitting 8 per cent in the middle of 2018. But, Modi, who first swept to power in 2014 on promises to revive India's economy and boost growth and job market, w9on election again by an bigger margin.

Then, why did the people repose faith in him?  Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?

What accounts for the shift from anti-incumbency in 2014 to pro-incumbency in 2019?  Many theories and hypothesis could be advanced to explain this inconceivable outcome.  On the positive side there were no serious corruption charges against the government and inflation was managed well during the first term (but faces upward pressure now). On the negative side employment appears to have grown more acute, as noted earlier. Further, one could attribute BJP’s success to better administration of welfare schemes/projects like Ujjwala, SKILL India, Make in India, Smart City, etc. and the Balakot strikes just before the election which retaliated against Pakistan’s sponsorship of terror groups and pushed   the spirit of nationalism. While all these factors may have played a role they do not, even in combination, satisfactorily or convincingly account for the magnitude of BJP’s sweeping victory in the frustrating job market and skidding economy.

Also, the election result does not even support the thinking of so-called liberals. They painted a gloomy picture of the nation under his leadership.  Despite being dubbed “Great Divider” by TIME, Modi succeeded in unifying people across caste, religious and regional lines to reelect him with a larger mandate this time. What may have worked for BJP is that it succeeded to a large extent in turning this election into a referendum on PM Narendra Modi. Opposition parties appear to have helped in this process as their campaigns have primarily been about ousting Modi, rather than offering positive alternative visions of what they will do if elected to power. As the opposition was fragmented and offered no obvious PM candidate, this cemented the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor in favour of Modi. The outcome of this election, therefore, was decided by the Modi factor tipping the balance against anti-incumbency.

But that is not the only reason behind his whopping success.  It’s possible some deep structural shifts are taking place in the Indian polity and Modi was smart enough to comprehend these in his favour. It is said of India that it is the country of the future and will remain so. [3]  Indians, especially the young ones, are in a hurry to move away from ‘Third World’ space it currently occupies. And, they sensed that Modi can do it. India could be second ‘China’ under his leadership!  The BJP’s 'Sankalp Patra' or election manifesto, which was released just three days before the general election, aims to make India a ‘developed’ nation by 2047, on completion of 100 years of Independence. "Our aim (is) to change India from a developing country to a developed country. We want to fight poverty rather than sit inside air conditioned rooms. Nationalism is our inspiration and inclusion and good governance is our mantra", Modi raised his voice while releasing the BJP election manifesto.

On the eve of India’s Independence, towards midnight on 14 August 1947, "Tryst with Destiny" speech delivered by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India. It stated: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”  It is considered to be one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and to be a landmark oration that captures the essence of the triumphant culmination of the Indian Independence struggle against the British rule in India and hoped to make a prosperous India.  

 

However, aspiration for a ‘developed country’ status was not backed by much-needed grass root reforms by successive governments for achieving it.  The 2019 election result and its size indicate that the common people are confident that India’s ‘tryst with destiny’ could be achieved under Modi’s leadership.


Therefore, the most probable hypothesis behind the unexpected massive victory could be that Modi’s image as a ‘doer’ is now recognised by most Indians. Many India observers across the world have been  amazed with India's pace of taking decisions,  whether right or wrong,  and implementing them under his leadership. He has demonstrated during “the last five years indefatigability by literally working round-the-clock”, as noted by one of his closest colleagues, the former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Seeking to encash Modi’s image of a ‘doer’, BJP has therefore chosen the slogan of ''Modi Hai to Mumkin Hai'' ('Modi makes it possible) for the just concluded general elections.

Despite many problems, people, in general, see in him a ray of hope.  They consider him as a ‘messiah’ or expected deliverer of achieving the goal of developed and prosperous India.  Here, the media played a very active and vital role in promoting that image. In fact, Modi is in virtual reality due to digital excesses. Possibly, voters might have thought that Modi would do wonders in his second term.  We have to remember that Indians generally have hope when the situation appears to be hopeless. One may call it hoping against hope situation but people decidedly believed that he would deliver. And, five years later in 2019, India has again placed high hopes in Narendra Modi. Whether will he deliver?

How to forge ahead: In 2014, Modi asked the Indian people to give him 10 years to transform India. Well, here is his chance. So what should PM Modi do? His first term was spent on political consolidation, which has been achieved by now.[4] Confronting tough economic challenges, the Modi government must demonstrate the boldness and vision and avoid ‘controversial’ actions and decisions like three- language policy in the draft of National Education Policy among others, which divert unnecessary attention from the real issues. I do hope that we will see Modi in a new ‘avatar’. While addressing the newly elected Lok Sabha members of NDA in the central hall of Parliament, Modi said: "We have worked for sabka saath, sabka vikas, now we have to strive for sabka vishwas (trust of all)." The new slogan is meant to signal to Muslims   that  their future is not in danger, and he and his government will work hard to their trust. Further, his conciliatory victory speech, in which he said: “We are now building a new India… From here on there will only be two ‘castes’ - one caste is poor and the other caste is of those who will contribute in every way possible to help those who need to be brought out of poverty.” India must take him at his word. But, this needs to be backed by an action agenda.

The next five years, therefore, are crucial in the laying foundation of a developed India.   For this, Modi needs a pragmatic doable action plan in    putting the Indian economy in a different orbit, away from the ‘Third World’ space it currently occupies. Here, India can learn a lot from the Chinese experience. We all learn from each other and it is alright to make mistake, as long as we pick overselves up and ready to learn others to solve our problems. China adopted Buddhism, an Indian system of thought, to resolve their internal turmoil as early as the first century A.D.

China was far behind India during the seventies in most of the development indicators, including per capita income.  But today she is far-far ahead of India by simply focusing on a development agenda when the country decided to become a developed nation in a generation under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, a paramount leader of the People's Republic of China from 1978 until his retirement in 1989. Deng led China through far-reaching market-economy reforms by focusing on the basic ingredients of human development to push the formation of human capital, namely: quality of primary education, primary health including WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) factors, and no doubt on population control.   Unfortunately, “Small is Beautiful”– an economic idea [5]that has sadly been forgotten by India during its journey of development, whereas China adopted it during the initial stage of its development. Right from    independence, however, India strongly believed in: Bigger is better. 

In the face of big economic challenges, is ‘a business as usual’ approach of the new government bound to flop? Incremental or piecemeal changes will not lift sentiments. Something must be done to ignite animal spirits in the economy, which India hasn’t seen for close to a decade.[6] The Modi government must demonstrate the vision and courage to break free from the statist dogma which has held India down.

During the last five years, the Modi  government has embarked on ambitious structural reforms to enhance human capabilities through initiatives such as Swachh Bharat (Clean India to strengthen sanitation and hygiene), Skill India, Jan Dhan Yojana (People Money Scheme to ensure access to financial services ), Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana (to address gender issues  and girl education),  Ujjwala Yojana (to make  cooking gas available to poor   households to empower women and protect their health as well as   reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking, etc.), Saubhagya Yojana (to provide free electricity connection to poor families), and  Ayushman Bharat Yojana (to provide free health insurance to 500 million poor people) and many others,   for facilitating financial inclusion and also for empowering the people. These schemes give new wings to aspirations of the poor.  However, it appears that these schemes could not serve the purpose as desired since most of these are being implemented on a piecemeal basis and in isolation from the wider process of holistic and inclusive development. Actually, what India needs is a comprehensive policy package in place of incremental approaches to expedite the process of development.

Two issues need urgent attention: agrarian unrest and job crisis. Any durable solution to agrarian crises requires non-farm jobs. When a sector with less than 15 per cent of GDP supports a population three times its size, we have a convergence of rural and urban hopes: jobs. One cannot lift rural incomes without absorbing at least two-thirds of those dependent on the farm in non-farm jobs. So, generating jobs is the biggest issue.  Employment generation, however, has remained weak. “India has struggled to convert high rates of economic growth into jobs”, as per the State of Working India report (2018).[7] In addition to weak employment generation, low wages are another big issue.   “On average, 82% of male and 92% of female workers currently earn less than Rs. 10,000 ($137) a month”, the report revealed. This suggests that a large majority of Indians are not being paid what may be termed a ‘living wage’, and that explains the intense craze for government jobs including reservations.

Hence, India has to recognize that the export-oriented, low-skill, large-scale manufacturing jobs that developing economies have relied upon (and that was the key to much of China’s success) are on the wane around the world. Automation is reducing the amount of low-skill work that the manufacturing sector requires and is adversely affecting the job market.  Thus, there are many reforms that India is required to carry out to attain competitive strength in manufacturing and reducing the level of unemployment and underemployment. These would require changes in labour and land laws, cutting corporate and general taxes to the level of East Asian countries, and improving basic infrastructure especially uninterrupted cheap power supply. But most importantly, unlocking the human potential is a must and it should be India’s priority, since India’s USP is its people.

With the World Bank ranking India at 115th out of 157 countries on the Human Capital Index in 2018, India cannot avoid the issue of empowering people.  HCI seeks to measure the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by the age of 18. According to its parameters a child born in India today will only be 44 per cent as productive as she could have been if she had enjoyed quality education and full health as well as quality of living environment including water and sanitation.  In other words, there are grave deficiencies in India’s human development inputs that are preventing children from reaching their full potential. As a result, the productivity, measured as per capita GDP,   is very low. India became the fifth largest economy in the world in terms of GDP in 2018 but still it has a very-very low per capita GDP, as per IMF. It is placed at 122nd position among 187 countries.

As a result, the current pool of India’s manpower has very low employability mainly due to poor quality of human capital, i.e. abilities and skills of human resources.  The country produces more than five million graduates every year. The National Employability Report    reveals that a significant proportion of these graduates, nearly 47 percent, are unemployable, given their poor linguistic and cognitive/analytical skills.

So what India should be doing: Too many of us in India seem to believe that the future is inevitably ours — that a few more highways and a few tax concessions or freebies will be sufficient for India to replicate China’s path to power and affluence.  India cannot get a break through unless   it empowers its people. 

Let us consider some facts. India has done well over the past decade or so to get most of its children into school. It has done less well at getting them to learn anything. Analysts are, therefore, already worrying that India’s demographic dividend — its vast pool of young people — will become a curse: Without jobs, all those young people could drag down the country instead of pushing it towards upper-middle income status. The problem is that they are desperately short of preparation for both the old economy and the new. [8] In addition, high population growth is adding salt to the wounds. The current population growth in India is mainly caused by unwanted fertility.  Around five in ten live births are unintended/unplanned or simply unwanted by the women who experience them  which    trigger continued high population growth. Around 26 million children were born in India in 2018, and out of this about 13 million births could be classified as unwanted. Further, based on the National Family Health Surveys (1 to 4), it is estimated that in 2018 around 445 million people out of 1,350 million in India were a result of unwanted pregnancies. [9] With a large number of people resulting from unwanted pregnancies, how can one think about using them for nation building?   The consequences of unwanted pregnancy are being reflected in widespread malnutrition, poor health, low quality of education, and increasing scarcity of basic resources like food, water and space. [10]

So India urgently needs a doable human development strategy. My policy monograph - Nurturing Human Development: A Strategy for New India [11] - proposes a strategy for human development and it is christened as “HDPlus” (Human Development Plus).  It is a dynamic agenda based on a ‘whole child’ concept, that is school-going child and his/her family (that is HDPlus family) should be the fulcrum of human development efforts. The concept is being described by policies, practices, and relationships which ensure that each child is healthy, educated, engaged, supported and encouraged. For this, integrating the child and his or her family more deeply into the day-to-day life of school and home activities represents an untapped instrument for raising the overall achievements including learning skills and health parameters, and hence improving overall productivity. In other words, creating an enabling environment at family and school levels is a way to empower people.  To start with, the proposed HDPlus strategy focuses on five interventions in a more closely integrated form. They are: 

  •    Improving the quality of elementary education,
  • ·   Facilitating  WASH factors (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene),
  •     Enhancing primary health,
  •     Reducing gender gap, and
  •     Stabilizing the population.


In addition, we must recognize that shifting of excess labour from agriculture to non-farm sectors and managing climate change including the quality of air and water are important inputs in the process of human development. The main features of HDPlus strategy therefore, are:

  •    To start with, the focus of action tol be on government-school-going children, aged 6 to 14 (that is I-VIII standards), and their families (HDPlus families);
  • ·   The focal point of various governments’ pro-poor schemes along with HD interventions to be HDPlus families to create enabling environment; and
  • ·  To be implemented by government agencies with the help of grassroots workers in collaboration with civil societies.  


In conclusion, what the country does in the next five years will determine not only the destiny of the country but also of PM Modi. A person like Modi knows about it that the people elected him with intense hope. The hope that they too will have better living conditions tomorrow under his leadership.    A top American corporate leader and a well-wisher of Modi, Padma Bhusan John Chambers,  has asserted, while   congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his election victory that “in the next five years, PM Modi will lay the groundwork for India's economic growth and prosperity for the next quarter century.”  And, there is no reason to doubt his observations.

Investments in education, health, living environment and its determinants – the social sector – therefore, should be made a priority in the next five years to lay the foundation for a developed India by 100th birth anniversary of India. Time is the essence here. So stop wasting time. Make it happen today! It is, therefore, time to shift gears, up the momentum, and be more incisive in securing the interest of the deprived people who have overwhelmingly voted for PM Modi, since they believe ‘‘Modi Hai to Mumkin Hai''.  






[1] Raghotham, S et al. 2019. Modi’s 5 years: A report card.  Read more at: https://www.deccanherald.com/specials/sunday-spotlight/modi-s-5-years-a-report-card-726064.html

[2] https://www.indianeconomy.net/splclassroom/what-is-multidimensional-poverty-index/

 [3] Ninan, T.N.. 2015. The Turn of the Tortoise: The Challenge and Promises of India’s Future. Penguin Books.

[5] EF Schumacher's Small is Beautiful was the first book on political economy I read as a student at the Harvard University in the early seventies. It is a dense mixture of philosophy, environmentalism and economics; I can't think what I could possibly have understood of its deeper meaning at that time. 

Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered is a collection of essays by German born British economist Schmacher. The phrase "Small Is Beautiful" came from a phrase by his teacher Leopold Kohr. It is often used to champion small, appropriate policy interventions and technologies that are believed to empower people more, in contrast with phrases such as "bigger is better".

 [6] Mehra, Puja. 2019. The Lost Decade: 2008-18. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.

[7] Centre for Sustainable Employment. 2018. State of Working India, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru. Download from: https://cse.azimpremjiuniversity.edu.in/state-ofworking-india/

[8] Refer Bloomberg Opinion article: India isn't going to become China just by magic by Mahesh Sharma at: https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/india-isnt-going-to-become-china-just-by-magic-728128.html  

[9] Calculated by the author using data obtained from the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India and National Family Health Surveys.   

[10] Kothari, Devendra. 2014. “Managing Unwanted Fertility in India: Way Forward”, --   in Suresh Sharma and William Joe.   (eds.):   National Rural Health Mission: An Unfinished Agenda, Bookwell, New Delhi.

[11] For details, see:  Kothari, Devendra. 2019. Nurturing Human Development: A Strategy for New India, New Delhi: Paragon International Publishers. A copy of the publication could be obtained by contacting author.