Dr. Devendra Kothari PhD
Population and Development Analyst
Forum for population Action
On factors holding India back, my biggest disappointment is the low level of human development.
Co-Chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Times of India, November, 2017
The post explore the role of Rotary movement in India in the post Plus-Polio era.
In recent years, income inequality has become a serious issue in the socioeconomic development of the country. India is second most unequal country in the world and it has increased over time, as noted by the Nobel Laureate Thomas Piketty in his recent paper. The average income of an adult in the top 1% is about 70 times the average of the bottom half and 35 times that of the middle 40%.  Also, the Human Development Report 2016 does not speak very high about India’s achievement in enlarging people’s opportunities and improving their well-being. India ranks 131 among 188 countries when it comes to the Human Development Index. The HDI combines a country’s average achievements in health, education and income.
One of the most important features of inequality is 'low level of human development’, a factor that causes low productivity. Productivity, a measure of the efficiency of the human capital, can be measured by per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP). India has become the seventh largest economy in the world in terms of GDP in 2016, as per IMF but still has a very-very low per capita GDP. The country placed at the 123rd position among the 186 countries. This is perhaps the most visible challenge. On the other hand China’s GDP per capita value in 2016 was more than two and half times that of India. Now question arises, what Rotary can do in unlocking the human potential? Last time Rotarians played a catalytic role in eradicating the physical disability caused to children under age 05 by the disease of polio.  Now they have to take care of the school going children of 6-14 years inflicted by the “disability” of poverty, inequality and incompetence. This “disability” can be addressed by focusing on Human Development.
Central to Human Development approach is the concept of capabilities. Basic capabilities valued by virtually everyone include: good health, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living. Other capabilities central to a fulfilling life could include the ability to participate in the decisions that affect one’s life, and to have control over one’s living environment. HD is, therefore, about the real freedom ordinary people have to decide who to be, what to do, and how to live. HD based strategies have been used as a weapon to empower people in many developing countries; these have proven to be quite effective, as has been seen in East Asian Tiger economies and lately in China.
The definition of HD as “enlarging people's choices'' is very broad encompassing many issues. One has to narrow it down. To start with, the process of human development in India must focus on improving the quality of school education; strengthening WASH factors (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), enhancing primary health; reducing gender gap; and most importantly stabilizing the population by reducing incidence of unwanted child bearing and infant mortality.
This calls on policy makers to promote a ‘whole child’ approach - that is child and his /her family to human development interventions. We, therefore, propose a framework – HDPlus - to unlock the human potential. The focus will be on all government school-going-children aged 6-14 and their families. They will be provided all the selected human development inputs, if needed. Additional inputs could be added looking to the needs of the people/area so this framework is being titled as “HDPlus”. It will be implemented by the government agencies in collaboration with other civil organizations like PulsePolio campaign in the 1990s and 2000s.  Further, the focus of the various government schemes like Swachh Bharat, Skill India, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Ujjwala Yojana, Saubhagya Yojna, etc. will be on the families of Government-school- going- children.
The framework focuses on children from the government elementary schools (primary and upper primary). Now question arises why government schools are being selected to start with? The Indian government lays emphasis on elementary education involving children aged 6 to 14 years old. 80% of all recognized 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 unlock human potential.
Though private schools are surging ahead if we see recent record books, the excellence of government schools over the years cannot be overlooked. The sudden fall of a section of these schools is a cause of worry, as they are the only hope for a large chunk of poor students who cannot afford to go to private schools. In leading private schools, while the primary focus is being laid on inculcating reading and writing habits, with weight age on co-curricular activities, many government schools are yet to take up these key areas earnestly. Along with academics, the prospect of all-round development is something which attracts parents, in this era where only smart kids are perceived to stand apart.
Here, the Rotary movement has a very crucial role to play as catalyst to motivate policy makers and public at large as how to forge ahead on HD agenda as it did in case of polio eradication. And the PulsPolio could be our guiding strategy to unlock the human potential.
With a population of 1320 million, destined to overtake China before 2020, India has become a noisy, crowded nursery in a graying world. Around 70 percent (that is about 900 million) of its population is under the age of thirty-five. The main concern today, therefore, is the impairment of human potential, which is not allowing India to reap its rich demographic dividend. In their recent paper Bill Gates and Ratan Tata noted that “Human capital is one of India’s greatest assets. Yet, the world’s fastest growing economy hasn’t touched millions of Indian citizens at the bottom of the economic pyramid”. It means India must invest in the Human Development.
To start with, the proposed framework could be implemented in few RI districts on pilot basis before covering up the entire country like PulsePolio. Media must be used extensively to propagate the HDPlus framework. A number of press conferences could be arranged before contacting the state and central governments as well as corporate sectors.
Rotary clubs must be encouraged to take field projects, based on the Rotary HDPlus framework, to provide HD services in the field on pilot basis by joining hands with corporate sector/NGO/government.
Since this will be a long-term project, a high level committee could be constituted to manage the project at the India level as well as to work out the details of interventions and modes operandi.
If the “Rotary HDPlus” project gets success like PolioPlus, then it would a great achievement for the human cause and in turn for the world too. 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.
The post was shared with the District Governor, Maullin Patel, Rotary International District 3054 and other senior Rotarians on October 28, 2017 at the Rotary Bhawan, Jaipur. The author is RID 3054 District Chairman, Human Resources Development
 Lucas Chancel and Thomas Pikett. 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.
 Pulse Polio was an immunization campaign initiated by the Rotary International and carried out by the Government of India to eliminate polio in India by vaccinating all children under the age of five years against the polio virus.
 PulsePolio” was an immunization campaign initiated by the Rotary International and carried out by the Government of India to eliminate polio in India by vaccinating all children under the age of five years against the polio virus.
 Kothari, Devendra. 2017. “Managing school education in India”, in Administrative Change, Vol. XLIV No. 2, pages 78-89. Also see: Kothari, Devendra. 2016. School Education in India needs intensive care, not a quick fix – Working Paper, Rajasthan Adult Education Association, Jaipur