Nowhere to go….

“As If I was tasting life for the first time, the magical side of it”

The year 2020 has turned out to be the worst year in recent times. There is so much sorrow in the world these days that I can’t remember the last time things were normal. A celebrated actor Irfan Khan died today and It left me heartbroken. I felt like losing someone from my family. I couldn’t concentrate on anything for the whole day. He was an actor par excellence. His acting was effortless. I will always remember him for his magic created on celluloid. May he rest in peace.

People are dying because of the dreaded Coronavirus disease. Migrants are walking for thousands of kilometers to reach their homes. Some died due to hunger and exhaustion. Many people are stuck in different cities away from their parents and family members. Some want to visit their loved ones but they can’t, because of the severe lockdown imposed in our country. People are depressed and lonely these days.

This crisis has turned people’s lives upside down. I am sure many people have lost everything because of this crisis. We might be able to build our economy but we will not be able to bring back this lost time and people’s lives. If you listen to experts, things are not going to be normal so soon. This epidemic is going to be a long haul. Physical distancing/Social distancing is going to be the “new normal”. The world is not going to be the same again.

When people say time heals everything, I feel they say it to console others. We never forget our loved ones who lost their lives. That pain never goes. Just that we don’t want to show it to the world and we want to look strong. We remember the person at every moment of our life without making any sound as if everything is going on smoothly. We don’t even want to tell ourselves that something is broken inside us. Sometimes we are angry with the person who left us in this cruel world to survive. We try to find out his/her mistakes so that we can say that this person was not good enough to deserve our love just to console ourselves.

But nothing really stops in this world. As someone said, ‘no matter how bad your heart is broken, the world does not stop for your grief.’ We have to move on hiding that pain in the darkest and smallest corner of our heart so that no one else can see. Death is the truth. It reminds us almost every time not to forget that this life is ephemeral. We should live this life fully and we should move on and be hopeful in life. I will end this with Imran Khan’s dialogue:

“I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye”

Irfan Khan(Life of Pi)

Book Review of Capital

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics”.

Plutarch
Migrants returning to their home walking hundreds of km due to lock down declared by the government due to corona virus crisis.

The present migrant crisis in India is a stark reminder of the economic inequities existing in our society. When rich and middle-class people are spending their time in the comfort of their homes doing various activities, poor and marginalized migrants are walking for a hundred thousand kilometres to reach their homes. Some also died on the way because of hunger and exhaustion. In this context, I thought to write a short review of the book, “The Capital” by Thomas Piketty. How income inequalities are going to hurt us in the longer-term unless some concrete steps are not taken by the State and its people.

I never read the whole book but managed to give a paper presentation on it in my final year of public policy course. Whatever critics say, this book has brought the issue of income inequality at the forefront. Income inequality is not only an issue based on some statistics but also it’s a moral issue that will always pinch the conscience of the people. This book became popular since it got published. Piketty also hailed as “the Modern Marx” by “The Economist” magazine. He is a French economist who also taught at MIT for two years. His major work is a compilation of historical data about economic inequality. He is critical of economics discipline.

“To put it bluntly, the discipline of economics has yet to get over its childish passion for mathematics and for purely theoretical and often highly ideological speculation at the expense of historical research and collaboration with the other social sciences.”

Thomas Piketty-The Capital in 21st Century

The core concern of the book is to put the issue of inequality in its broader historical context. The author’s main argument is that in an economy where the rate of return on capital outstrips the rate of growth, inherited wealth will always grow faster than earned wealth. He also adds that the concentration of wealth at one level is incompatible to democracy and social justice.

The history of the distribution of wealth has always been deeply political, and it cannot be reduced to purely economic mechanisms.

Thomas Piketty-The Capital in 21st Century

He rejects the Simon Kuznets hypothesis which says that though societies become more unequal in the first stages of industrialization, inequality reduces as they achieve maturity. However, Piketty does not think like that. According to him, demography, low taxation and weak labor organizations will fundamentally lead to greater inequality.

The author feels that unless we do something, ‘free-market economy’ will become a ‘patrimonial system’ with an entrenched hereditary upper class and the rest of the population. He is highly critical of higher compensation paid to senior executives of MNCs that is responsible for extreme inequality in the wake of 2008 financial crisis. To save the world from this ‘doomsday scenario’, the author proposes various measures namely a global tax on inherited wealth, changes in income taxes, use of inflation to redistribute wealth downwards and also enforced transparency of banks.

His paper -,“Indian income inequality, 1922-2014: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj”? co-authored with Lucas Chancel argues that income inequality was highest in India in 2014 since the creation of Indian Income -tax in 1922. They concluded that the top 1 percent earners in 2014 earned 22% of India’s national income. Though there are various counter- arguments to it. Jagdish Bhagwati & Arvind Pangariya refuted this argument in their book, ‘Why growth matters’. Swaminath Aiyar also disapproved of his idea of stark inequality in India in one of his articles on the grounds of statistics and his failure to distinguish between different kinds of inequality.

Thomas Piketty’s hypothesis criticized by many economists. According to them, his approach to economics is anti-mathematical. As per the paper, “Income Inequality, Catastrophe Predictions, Thomas Piketty, How income and economic unit are defined can create significant differences in the data produced and in the interpretation of the data? For instance, Stephen Rose and Thomas Piketty reached different conclusions about the status of the middle class based on the definition of income and economic unit. Generally, there is no correlation between increasing income inequality and general welfare. His use of tax records to approximate income is convenient and allows easy comparison across different countries and at different times and he also not considered the social security payments as part of his data.

Though income inequality is a complicated issue, Piketty’s biggest contribution is to elevate the income inequality issue to the forefront of both public and scholarly attention. Whatever is the reason behind stark inequality existing in society, the issue of inequality will always be debated as a moral issue.


Why Money Heist (La casa de Papel) is so popular ?

“This is about Resistance and love”

I always enjoyed watching crime shows because it allowed me to see the evil side of human beings. One of my friends suggested me to watch Money heist. This quarantine period gave me enough time to binge-watch this series in 3-4 days. It was so addictive that I don’t even remember anything doing except watching this series. Now my phone ringtone is the intro song( I don’t care at all) of this series. And for Bella ciao theme song, I have no words. Despite not knowing the meaning of the song, I am not able to get over this song. I listen to this song everyday and possibly listened it more than 100 times till now, researched about it, found out its meaning and what has been the history behind this song. What was the purpose behind using this song in the La casa de Papel. This song needs a separate blog post altogether.

La casa de Papel aka Money Heist has achieved many milestones. It is the most-watched non-English series of the Netflix and 3rd most popular show on IMDB . There is also a documentary on Netflix exploring the phenomenon of Money Heist. I did a lot of research to understand why it has become so popular in the world? Many protests around the world are influenced by this series where people used Dali masks and protested against their governments. For instance- students protested against new financial reform in the year 2018 in Italy.

People can have different interpretations of this series. However, I see this series purely as resistance against the establishment/system which made it extremely popular. As the creator of the series Alex Pina also adds that the idea of rising against the system is ingrained in the series.

“To rise up against the system is reckless and idealistic – [it’s] Don Quixote! -Alex Pina

The conversation between our favourite El Professor, the leader of the band of robbers code-named after major cities and police inspector Raquel Murillo about “printing money” at the Royal Mint of Spain shows the aversion towards the capitalistic system. He tells that they are only printing money and not stealing, which is also done by the governments around the world that is called “liquidity injections”. No one questions the system on what basis they are printing more money? This is so true. Various Central Banks around the world do this in the name of “Quantitative Easing” to increase money supply thereby encouraging lending and investment. And then comes the “robin-hood” role played by these robbers who want to emerge as the messiah to the poor and subalterns by dropping some money from the sky.

Symbols used in the series are real-life symbols used as the ‘symbol of resistance’ at some point in history. Red jumpsuit, Dali mask, and Bella ciao have historical significance. The red color is a symbol of revolution and its also a colour of Marxist ideology. Dali mask was created by a famous Spanish artist Salvador Dali. A lot of his work was emerged during Zurich’s Dada movement that was about rejecting the modern capitalist system. Masks have been used around the world to show solidarity with others. As per Aidan Mac Garry, political scientist, “the masks have become anti-establishment trope wielded by ordinary people to register their dissatisfaction with the ideas and policies of the political elite”.

Bella ciao(Goodbye Beautiful) is an Italian folk song that was used as an anthem against fascist resistance during the second world war. But the beautiful thing about this song is that it has been used by migrants while crossing Mediterranean and protesters against the capitalistic governments. Recently Italians started singing Bella Ciao to show solidarity with corona warriors fighting to save the lives of the people in this deadliest pandemic.

According to me, the most important reason for this series’ popularity is the feeling of love among its flawed characters. Either it was love between Tokyo and Rio or between El Professor and Inspector Raquel (later renamed as Lisbon when she joins the band) or Nairobi and Helsinki or Denver and Monica or Palmero and Berlin. As Nairobi says, to love you need courage,the attachment between Nairobi and Helsinki was very touching as it was not a physical but psychological bonding. In a way it was courageous as Helsinki plays a gay character. That moment, when Helsinki plays the mouth organ when Nairobi’s coffin is moving out of the Royal Bank of Spain, breaks my heart.

All the characters are strong and powerful. They have so many good qualities but they are also flawed which is the one thing audiences like, as people see themselves in different characters whenever they watch any series. It’s very difficult to talk about all the characters in one blog as there is so much there to understand why any character of the series is behaving in a way and what point the creator of the series wants to make through that particular character? That’s why I decided to write about my favorite characters from this series. I liked the El Professor, Inspector Alicia Sierra and Nairobi. Though Tokyo was the narrator of the series, I never liked her because she is too reckless.

I liked El Professor because he is intelligent which makes me a sapiophile . He is weird and quite manipulative. But he also falls in love which was not in his plan and that was the sweetest part which made him flawed character. His meticulous planning of the heist, understanding the core competencies of each robber, displaying emotion and fraternity with all his band members, making origami to keep himself calm and immense knowledge about each and everything made everyone to fall in love with him. Nairobi is a flawed character but somewhere I felt that she is a strong feminist. When she takes charge from Berlin during the heist and says this dialogue, “matriarchy begins”, then she wins my heart. Since she dies in season 4 so we can say Bella ciao to this beautiful and strong lady. Inspector Alicia Sierra is a fierce lady and I want to be like her. While working as a police officer- she is fearless, ruthless, strong, confident, truthful and ready to go to any extent to find the culprits. Even though she is pregnant, she is seen as the most powerful official in the tent, who has the same acumen and capability as El Professor has.

I feel like going back and watching some conversations again as it gives you those lessons of life, about politics, ideology, protest, ethics, morality, love, emotions, everyday living, carpe diem and right or wrong. Carpe diem is so important currently since the whole world is struggling because of coronavirus pandemic and how our life has become unpredictable and having very little value as we all are confined to our homes. Though Berlin’s character is too controversial, he is the one after Professor and Tokyo, who delivers some of the best dialogues of the series and he is also one of the most liked characters of the series. I will end my blog with one of his dialogues: “Love can’t be timed, it has to be lived”. So, this is the moment to realize and start living your life as if there will be no tomorrow.

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This quarantine period, find your Ikigai

Image Credit: Clicked by me

ONLY STAYING ACTIVE WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO LIVE A HUNDRED YEARS-

Japanese Proverb

I read this book a few months back but thought to write this review now because this quarantine period is the best time to find your ‘Ikigai’. Today is the 18th day of the lockdown and it is expected that lockdown will get extended for two more weeks until April 30. Though a lot of good things are happening due to this unprecedented lockdown, people are also feeling bored and frustrated. This lockdown can be used as a ‘reflection time’ to find out what is that one thing which anyone can do with full happiness, love, and satisfaction.

Ikigai is a Japanese concept which means ‘reason for being’. What is the purpose of your life or what gives you the utmost satisfaction? As per the centenarians from Okinawa, Ikigai is the reason we get up in the morning. When you are so engrossed in your work that nothing around you matters, it means you have found your Ikigai. But it does not apply to any Netflix series 😉 It means that you have immersed yourself into the work that you are doing. You forget about your surroundings. For instance- it can be writing, painting, gardening, photography, dancing, singing, decorating, coding, etc.

Image Source: Forbes article

This diagram sums the whole concept of Ikigai. What you love doing is your Ikigai. If your job is your Ikigai, you will not think of it as work. You will love doing it. That’s the most important thing. Some just don’t enjoy their jobs because they have no interest in it or they are just not good at it. That is why the whole problem of stress which consumes our body and mind from inside. As per the American Institute of Stress, most health problems are caused by stress.

I liked the way the authors of this book explained how stress functions. Modern humans are alert most of the time, stuck in the epidemic of multi-tasking, sitting in front of their laptop, having junk food, and waiting for notifications from their mobile phones 24 hours a day. The human brain equates the ping of a cell phone or an email notification with threat of a predator which has huge health implications on the body leading to adrenal fatigue, cardiovascular diseases, insomnia, anxiety, and high blood pressure.

Though a little stress is good for you, you need to be mindful of reducing stress by having a stoic attitude. A high degree of emotional awareness and ultimately finding meaning of your life and going with the flow is required to reduce the stress level. When we achieve flow in our work, we have full concentration without any distractions.

The flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.

Csikszentmihalyi (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience)

The book also provides some useful suggestions to achieve the state of flow:

  • No screen time for the first hour after waking up and the last hour before going to bed
  • Switch off the phone before you achieve flow
  • Do technological fasting for one day of the week
  • Check and respond to your email once or twice per day
  • Start your work with something you enjoy
  • Find a less distracting place to work
  • Divide your work into small activities

These days, we all are doing mundane tasks of cleaning, washing utensils, doing the laundry, etc, and the question is how to make these mundane tasks enjoyable. Turning routine tasks into moments of flow is key to our happiness. This is called the micro-flow. Even Bill Gates enjoys washing his dishes every night as it helps him relax and clear his mind. I don’t how others do it but I generally play some nice songs while cleaning my house.

This book is for those who want to find their Ikigai and also want to know the secret of a long and happy life. Just to provide an easy list for everyone, it provides the ten rules of Ikigai:

  1. Whatever you do, don’t retire
  2. Take it slow and you will go far
  3. Don’t fill your stomach. Fill your belly to 80%
  4. Surround yourself with good friends and stay away from toxic people
  5. Connect with communities
  6. Walk a lot and do Yoga
  7. Reconnect with nature
  8. Do mental work out
  9. Be grateful for things you have
  10. Live in the moment (Carpe Diem)
  11. Have a purpose(Ikigai) in life

“Simple Living and High Thinking” has always been the motto of our country’s ancient traditions and also reiterated by inspiring personalities like Swami Vivekanand, Gautam Budhha, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa. So now when the whole world is slowing down during this quarantine period, find your Ikigai and make your life more meaningful and happy.

How COVID-19 is affecting the higher-ed students in India: Need for corrective action

COVID-19 pandemic is impacting all sections of society. However, the impact on higher-ed students is the least discussed so far. Unlike schools, where students come from nearby localities, university students come from afar. They travel across their districts, their states, and the country to realize their dreams. Thus you will find the greatest amount of diversity in these students of higher-ed institutions – rural and urban, poor, middle-class and rich, from different religions, castes, and backgrounds. During this crisis and lockdown, when classes can not be conducted on the university premises, institutions are adopting digital tools for delivering lectures to students now back in their homes.

Many instructors and universities have leveraged ICT and tools like Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype and Microsoft teams to impart live classes to the students. Universities have already started conducting exams and taking assignment submissions online. This is a great way to make education more accessible during these tough times. However, this access is not going to be uniform across all the students belonging to different sections of society.

The poor students are going to be affected the most during this period. Their access to appropriate devices like laptops and computers is going to be very difficult during this period. According to the India Internet 2019 Report, 99% of users in the country access the internet through mobiles, not laptops or computers. Laptops and desktops usage is only 2% and 1% respectively in rural areas and 6% and 4% respectively in urban areas of the country. Further, internet penetration is still very poor and stands at a mere 27% in rural India. Under the Bharat Net program of the Government of India, more than 40% of the villages are yet to be connected to the internet grid.

Thus, lack of access to the internet and proper devices is going to negatively impact students in leveraging online platforms. Many such students will not be able to attend online classes and participate in assignments and exams that are conducted online. In such a scenario, the rural students are in a disadvantageous position and the urban and rural poor students will be highly disadvantaged.

Recognizing this challenging situation during COVID-19, many universities such as MIT and Harvard have announced that they will either provide every student with a Pass or A/A- grades during this semester. Steps like this ensure fairness and empathize with students facing difficulties due to their prevailing circumstances.

In India, however, no debate or discussion is going on this pressing matter yet. It is an important issue affecting the future of the students who are the future of the country. UGC and deemed universities must provide suitable guidelines to ensure students are promoted to the next level fairly. It is a tough situation concerning the poor and the marginalized students and it must be dealt with utmost empathy. Keeping in mind the “digital divide” all further exams and assignments during the rest of the semester must be made voluntary. All students must be promoted to the next level. Alternatively, institutions can use the tests conducted so far as the basis for final assessments in a fair manner.

Unless such corrective measures are taken urgently, COVID-19 and the after-effects are going to deepen the divide across the poor and the rich students, rural and urban students for generations to come.

This blog is authored by Chaitanya Prakash Namburi. The author has a Masters in Public Policy and Computer Science and currently works for Google India. All views expressed are personal.

Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity for India

This is 4th day of the lock down. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared 21 days lock down amidst corona virus pandemic all over the country starting from March 24th, 2020. The situation is quite grim. People are panic buying and many migrant workers are stranded in different parts of the country due to the unprecedented shutdown of transportation mediums.

When I sat on my desk to write this blog, India already had more than 900 cases. I have no idea, by the time, I finish this blog, how many corona virus cases will be detected in India. As per one article, India can see 30,000 Covid-19 deaths by May 2020 and there will not be any hospital beds left by June 2020.

Health has never been a priority for a diverse, heterogeneous and poor country like India. It can be ascertained with the fact that the first National Health Policy for India came in the year 1983 after 35 years of the existence of the Indian republic. Till now, we have only three National Health Policies in place released in the year 1983, 2002 and 2017.

India spends less than 2 % of GDP on health when it has 18% of the world’s population. Not only the whole country gave health a low priority but also other stakeholders. For instance- National political parties relegated the health as a non-issue when it comes to policy priorities for the development of the country.

India has a very low HDI index and high HDI rankings over the years. India was ranked 129 out of 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index rankings. Health(Life-expectancy at Birth) is one of the three dimensions to decide HDI rankings. HDI ranking has stagnated in recent years despite India being the fastest growing economy of the world.

The primary health care infrastructure of the country is in shambles due to lack of financing and acute shortage of medical personnel. 65% of health expenditure is out of pocket and some 57 million people are sent to poverty every year due to this expenditure. India has a severe shortage of trained medical professionals. As per the Economic Survey 2019-20, the doctor-population ratio is 1:1456 against the WHO recommendation of 1:1000. India has the largest number of malnutrition children.

The substandard performance of India’s healthcare system is out in the public amidst the corona virus outbreak. However, this crisis is an opportunity for India to make India’s healthcare system best in the world. Systematic overhauling of health infrastructure is the need of the hour. Heath as an issue needs to be prioritized. It needs to become a matter of great importance politically, economically and socially.

Politically, ‘right to health’ needs to be recognized as the fundamental right through an act of parliament. Some of India’s states have better healthcare indicators. Heath is a state subject under the Constitution of India. Best practices from different states need to be replicated across India. Panchayati Raj Institutions can play a major role in providing leadership to deal with any health crisis.

Economically, health expenditure to India’s GDP should reflect the proportion of the population living in India. The current expenditure is inadequate. The government of India must increase its expenditure at least by 5 % of its GDP from this year itself. Other measures like public-private partnership, increasing health insurance penetration etc should go on simultaneously.

Socially, awareness towards cleanliness and sanitation needs to increase in our country. Maintaining hygiene should be declared as an ‘issue of national importance’. People should also vote for those representatives who give importance to the issues of education, health, employment, etc.

This is a high time to realize the value of health as we can see, how corona virus outbreak has affected every aspect of human lives. Health is one of the most important ingredients in ‘human development approach’ Healthy human beings can only bring overall development and growth in the world.

This corona virus pandemic is an opportunity for India to create a world- class health infrastructure, strengthen public institutions, adopt best practices from other countries, increase public health expenditure by 5 % of its GDP, and declare “right to health” as a fundamental right for the people of India.

This blog has been republished by Social Development for Communities Foundation. Please find the link here.

#Be yourself this quarantine

Image Source: Clicked by me from my rented house in Bangalore and we didn’t choose the house,house chose us. There is a story behind it. Will tell later 😉

This post is for all those people who sometimes feel a bit low because one of their friends is having a great time with her partner/spouse/best friend, cleared a top-level competition, got a high-paying job, having a great love-life or got selected to some Ivy League University or having a great time in their life. It seems that they always look good and they are quite fit or they are visiting exotic destinations(though not these days because of corona epidemic and lock down).

Almost everyone has a story to tell. Everyone feels incomplete in their own way. Everyone has some painful moments in their life. But you know what I feel, people feel more comfortable in sharing their happiness than their pain/sorrow or painful moments or their problems. You need a lot of courage to share your pain, your guilt and your problems to the world. I also don’t dare to share my pains but I can easily share my happiness.

So don’t worry. Don’t overthink. No one is perfect. No one is completely happy. As Oscar Wild said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”. Accept your flaws because they are beautiful. It makes you a soul. Lastly, have a lot of courage and strength to say what you think, to express what you feel, to do what you love and to become what you want as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment”.

Short poems @ quarantine time

Image Credit: Clicked by me; Location: Ferrao Castle, Cline Road, Bengaluru

कभी थैर भी जाओ, कुछ देर बैठो तो,
सूरज को डुबते देखो
चिड़ियों को घर लौटते देखो
सुनो तो कभी ये पेड़ कुछ कहता है तुमसे
इन छोटी छोटी बातों में ही
सारा संसार देखो तो सही

Image Credit: Clicked by me, Location: Bengaluru (Lockdown days)

Wo har chehre pe mask
Wo Logono ki akhono me daar
Wo hum sabke beech itni dooriyan
Wo sooni galiyana
Wo band dookane
Wo ajeeb si khomoshi
Ye kahana aa Gaye hum
ye Kahan aa Gaye hum

Source: Twitter Handle @FilmHistoryPic

Mai ladki hoon
Mujhe ye roj yaad dilaya jata hai
Kabhi mera parivar yaad dilata hai
Kabhi ye samaj yaad dilata hai
Mujhe ye roj yaad dilaya jata hai
Ki Mai ladki hoon
Kabhi kapde ko lekar
Kabhi chalne ko lekar
Kabhi hasne ko lekar
Kabhi sajne ko lekar
Mujhe ye roj yaad dilaya jata hai
Ki Mai ladki hoon
Shadi ke baad bhi yaad dilaya jata hai
Ki Mai ladki hoon
Kabhi khana banane ko lekar
Kabhi pati ka khyal rakhne ko lekar
Kabhi bachhe ko lekar
Kabhi humare mayeke ko lekar
Mujhe ye roj yaad dilaya jata ha
Ki Mai ladki hoon
Har paal yaad dilaya jata hai
ki Mai ladki hoon
Kabhi humare charitra ko lekar
Kabhi humare rishton ke lekar
Kabhi humare mahatavkanchaowon ko lekar
Kabhi humare career options ko lekar
Mujhe ye roj yaad dilaya jata hai
Ki Mai ladki hoon……………………………………………………………..

A Reply to this poem received from my friend Minaxi:

मैं, लड़की हूं..
हां, बिलकुल सही,
वही, जिसको
आप और समाज
(बेटी, बहन, पत्नी, बहू, मां, दोस्त, दादी, नानी, बुआ, मौसी, चाची, सास, और)
ना, जाने… कितने
पैमानों, पर तौलती है,
कितने, मापदंड बनती है,
कितनी, अग्निपरीक्षाएं लेती है,
कितने, सवाल उठाती है,
ख़ैर,
जो समझो तुम,
मुझको, अपने स्तर से
मर्ज़ी तुम्हारी है,
क्योंकि, मुझे अब…
सफाई देना, सुनना
मुनासिब नहीं लगता,
मुझे, किरदारों में
बंधना अच्छा नहीं लगता,
मुझे, याद दिलाना छोड़ दो
मेरे हिस्से के सब काम,
क्योंकि, अब मैंने भी
ले लिया है,
शहर में अपना मकान,
मुझे अब शोर की
आदत नहीं है
किसी को, कम समझने की
रीवायत नहीं है …
हां, और जाते जाते
एक और बात…..
“जो लोग मुझे नहीं समझते,
उन्हें पूरा हक है,
मुझे ग़लत समझने का,
और, जो लोग मुझे समझते है,
उन्हें, हक नहीं,
मुझे परखने का.”
🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸
हां, हूं मैं एक लड़की,
जो खूबसूरत है, और
उसको, ख़ुद पर यकीन है…

Analysis of the National Medical Commission Bill 2019

Source: Pexels.com

Good health for people of the country is the necessity for the overall development and growth of the country. Our constitution under Article 47 of Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) thrust the responsibility to the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health”. India has also committed to Sustainable Development Goals and SDG III aims to achieve “Good health and well-being” for everyone.

Developing an effective healthcare system and ensuring a universal healthcare system depends on the nature and quality of the medical manpower of the country. India has one doctor per one thousand seventeen hundred population, which is less than the international standards of one doctor per thousand. This ratio is even lesser in rural areas of the country. India’s medical manpower is not up to the mark due to various reasons as medical education and profession are unregulated, iniquitous and corrupt. The Parliamentary Standing Committee Report of March 2016 noted that medical education and profession in the country was at its ‘lowest ebb’ and suffering from ‘total system failure’ due to corruption and decay within MCI.

In light of this, National Medical Commission Bill was envisaged to overhaul and restructure the regulatory system for medical education and the medical profession thereby creating an institutional mechanism for the overall development of the healthcare sector in the country. The Bill was passed by parliament in 2019 replacing the archaic Indian Medical Council Act 1956. It also replaced Medical Council of India (MCI).

SALIENT FEATURES OF THE BILL [v]:

  • NMC with 25 members will regulate medical education and practice.
  • It will establish four autonomous boards to focus on undergraduate and postgraduate medical education, assessment, rating and ethical conduct.
  • Setting up of Medical Advisory Council by the Centre to act as a channel through which the States/Union Territories can convey their concerns and views to NMC.
  • Uniform NEET test for admission to undergraduate medical education in all medical institutions.
  • NEXT (National Exit Test), a common final year undergraduate examination for students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the license for the practice.
  • Fees of 50% of seats of private and deemed universities will be regulated.
  • Limited license to community healthcare providers connected with the modern medical profession to practice medicine.

ANALYSIS OF THE BILL:

The enactment of this bill is a much-needed reform to usher into a new era in the healthcare system. It will help in creating a cadre of qualified medical professionals to deal with India’s healthcare challenges. Creating a uniform standard of admission, training and regulation will help in establishing a robust framework for medical education and profession in the country. The bill will also curb the phenomenon of commercialization in medical education by regulating the fees charged by private medical colleges. Medical Advisory Council will create a platform for states to share their best practices as well as concerns to the NMC.

Criticism against the provision of Section 32 of the bill which allows 2.5 lakh Community Health Providers (CHP) in the villages to prescribe drugs to patients is not fair as there are various examples of community health providers playing the role of game-changer in improving the healthcare indicators in rural areas. In fact, various studies have shown that poor largely seek health services from informal service providers. For instance- ASHA[vi] workers under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) played an important role in improving maternal mortality rate and neo-natal mortality rate and similar experiences in the state of Chhattisgarh and Assam have improved the quality of healthcare in the rural areas of these States. Many developed and developing countries have adopted the concept of community healthcare providers (CHPs) and mid-level healthcare providers. In fact, India needs community healthcare providers and mid-level healthcare providers in several forms to bridge the gaps of access and quality of healthcare services in our country.

Conclusion:

Despite bringing a structural change in the form of overhauling the medical education system of the country through this bill, addressing the complex and multiple healthcare challenges of the country will be insurmountable in recent times due to various reasons. The public expenditure on health is still abysmally low. As per the National Health Profile[vii] 2019, India’s public expenditure on health as a percentage of GDP is far lower than Lower-Income Countries of the world. The healthcare system is poorly regulated and accessible to those who have better income level. Urban-rural imbalance in healthcare services had failed those people living in rural areas. There is a huge reliance on private sector with the help of insurance model after the launch of Ayushman Bharat[viii] to provide healthcare services and the problem is that these private players are not regulated properly. Therefore, along with the institutional reform in terms of establishing National Medical Commission, there is need to adopt a holistic approach to create a conducive climate to achieve the goal of “right to health” for the people of the country.


[v] https://prsindia.org/billtrack/national-medical-commission-bill-2019

[vi] http://planningcommission.nic.in/reports/sereport/ser/stdy_immm.pdf

[vii] https://www.cbhidghs.nic.in/index1.php?lang=1&level=1&sublinkid=75&lid=1135

[viii] http://ayushmanbharat.co.in/ayushman-bharat-yojana-registration-online/

Ten years of RTE Act 2009

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. – Nelson Mandela
Source of Pic: i pleaders blog

Providing free and compulsory education to children has been one of the important responsibilities of the Indian government since independence. To fulfill the responsibility of providing universal education, the government of India had taken various policy actions. Right to education became a fundamental right under Article 21A in 2002 when the Constitution was amended through the 86th Amendment Act .Consequent to this amendment, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education 2009 was enacted which came into force on April 1st, 2010. This Act has set an obligation on the State to provide free and compulsory education to children under the age-group of 6-14 in a neighborhood school. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the flagship program to achieve the goal of universal education. SSA is the scheme through which the RTE Act 2009 is implemented.


IMPORTANT FEATURES OF THE ACT
• Section 12(1)(c) of the RTE Act mandates unaided and non-minority schools to reserve 25% seats for underprivileged children of society through a random selection process. The fees of these students would be reimbursed by the Government.


•Section 16 of the RTE Act mandates, “No child can be held back, expelled and required to pass the board examination till the completion of elementary education”. This ‘no-detention policy’ was implemented to retain the children in the schools. However, this policy was recently abolished after the enactment of Right to Free and Compulsory Education Amendment Act 2019.


•The Sections 19 of the RTE Act lays down the norms and standards of Pupil Teacher Ratios (PTRs) of 1:30, buildings and infrastructure, school working days, teacher working hours, ramps for students with disabilities, provision of drinking water and availability of playground, etc. The Act also provides the appointment of appropriately trained teachers. Norms and standards of teacher qualification and training are clearly laid down in the Act.


•The Act prohibits deployment of teachers for non-educational work, other than decennial census, elections to the local authority, state legislatures and parliament, and disaster relief.


•There is provision for the establishment of commissions to supervise the implementation of the act. All schools except private unaided schools are to be managed by School Management Committees(SMC) with 75% of parents and guardians as members.


•The Act specifies the duties and responsibilities of appropriate Governments, local authority in providing free and compulsory education, and sharing of financial and other responsibilities between the Central and State Governments.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE ACT:

The RTE Act brought improvement in the enrollment rate for the students in primary and upper primary schools. As per the ASER report 2016, enrollment reached to 96%. Enrollment for the age-group 15-16 for both boys and girls has reached to 84.7% in 2016. Enrollment trends also suggest that the gap in enrollment rate between boys and girls are consistently reducing. However, the actual data showcases the discrepancies among the states. For instance- the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan have seen an increase in the enrolment rate for upper primary section, but Madhya Pradesh, Assam, and West Bengal saw a significant decrease in the same time period.

Despite improvements in enrolment rates, the quality of education is dismal. As per the ASER reports released every year by Pratham, it was found that the learning outcomes of the students are poor. The quality of education is a cause of concern. For example-More than 50 % of Std V students can’t read Std II textbook or solve a basic mathematical problem. The real cause of concern is that learning deficits seen in elementary school in previous years seem to carry forward as young people move from being adolescents to young adults. This finding was reflected in the ASER 2018 report as in this study it surveyed students in the age-group of 14-18 years, unlike the last 12 years when it focused on students in elementary schools.

Not only this, drop-out rates are still very high. Almost one million children in the age group of 6-14 drop out every year. 75 % of them are from SC, ST and Muslim communities. As per the Brookings Institute Report on primary education in India, 29 percent of children drop out before completing five years of primary school and 43% before finishing upper primary school. As indicated by the report, there is also a huge difference between urban and rural education.

There has been a consistent improvement in the basic infrastructure facilities in schools. As per the report, 98% of the habitations have a primary school within one km and 92% have an upper primary school. The facilities of basic sanitation, drinking water, separate toilets for boys and girls have improved since the enactment of the Act. However, as per the District Information System of Education , only 13 percent of all schools in India have achieved full compliance with these RTE norms.

School Management Committees (SMC) are set up only on paper in various schools of the country. However, the quality of their engagement with schools is minimal, the amount of funding they receive is not enough and they are not empowered enough to exercise their duties and responsibilities.

As per the Economic Survey 2017-18, only 79% of teachers are professionally qualified to teach in schools. There is a huge dearth of trained teachers in the country. There are various issues related to teachers in schools like low accountability, poor quality of the teacher education manual, deployment of teachers for non-educational purposes and large vacancies. As per the data provided by District Information System, around 5.68 lakh positions are vacant. There has also been a major issue of teacher absenteeism. As per the World Bank Study 2010, a teacher in Indian schools is absent every four days.

The seats for disadvantaged students reserved in schools also are not filled completely. There is a huge gap among states in filling the seats for disadvantaged students. For instance- Where the State of Delhi was able to fill 92% of the seats allocated, Andhra Pradesh was able to fill only 0.2% and UP filled only 3 % seats.

The Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) is used for the evaluation of students under the RTE Act. However, it was found that it has not been implemented properly. Only 58.46% of the schools of the country have implemented this provision. However, the no-detention policy was removed in January 2019 after the RTE (Second Amendment) Act 2019. CCE is a pedagogical tool which does not mean the absence of evaluation but a process of continuous evaluation different from the traditional examination system.

There is a need to have systemic and structural reforms to revamp the education system in the country. The Committee on Draft National Education Policy chaired by K. Kasturirangan provided reforms proposals for RTE Act 2009 to make it more effective. India still spends less than 3 % of its GDP on education which is very low as compared to other nations. Though the goal of universal enrolment seems achievable now, there is need to focus on quality of education in the schools at primary and upper primary level. As these children are going to join the workforce and become part of demographic dividend in the near future, there is need to focus on early childhood care and education (ECCE) within the ambit of RTE Act 2009 as proposed under the Draft National Education Policy.

Rani ki Kahani…..

“What matters most is not ‘what’ you are but ‘who’ you are”-Stokes
Pic: Me writing the story

A very unusual incident happened to me this Friday(9th August 2019). As an everyday routine, I booked the uber for home but the driver canceled it twice. I got irritated more as I already had a bad mood due to some other reason. Later I realized, sometimes things happen for good. Then I booked the cab again and it was showing a longer duration so this time I canceled it. Finally, I started asking auto-wallas for a ride. One auto stopped and agreed to go towards Sohna Road as many others refused because of huge traffic on Sohna Road.

It was a normal auto ride. I have the habit of talking to auto/cab drivers. I was talking to this auto driver also addressing him “bhaiya” again and again. When we are almost about to reach my society and there was huge traffic from all sides and so much was going into mind, suddenly the auto driver tells me something. I couldn’t understand what he is saying. I asked him again. He was trying to tell me that he belongs to those people who come to everyone’s home whenever a new baby is born in a family. Suddenly I realized what this person is trying to say. This moment was so different. I forgot everything whatever I was thinking. I realized that this person is trying to tell me their identity. I started noticing his expression and I realized that though he was totally dressed up as a man, he was actually different. This person was transgender. Her name was Rani. She started telling me about her family. Then I told her sorry that I addressed him ‘bhaiya’ as I didn’t realize because of her attire. She said, she dresses like a man as other auto drivers trouble her because of her identity. She also does not drive late in the night as she is a little scared. I told her to take care and gave her the fare. I wanted to take her picture but I could not gather courage to ask her. I saw her leaving society gate.

Since Friday, this incident did not leave my mind. I was constantly thinking about it. Then I thought let me put it down and share it with the world. It taught me so many things. We are so engaged in our life that we never think about the people around us. What are they thinking? What are they feeling? What problems are they going through? How relevant is one’s own identity? How does it impact everyday interactions with others? It makes me realize that even after SC’s declaring section 377 unconstitutional, how much of it is still left?

Health Challenges for the Modi 2.0

“Will the ‘New Government’ be able to achieve the goal of “Health for All”?

The incumbent government led by Narendra Modi got a huge mandate for his second consecutive term in the recent Lok Sabha elections 2019. The government does not have any coalition compulsions and can take any complex decisions. The compositions of the Council of Ministers (COM) and the allocations of the portfolio also reflect the focus of the government on talent and good governance. The huge mandate given to the incumbents also creates tremendous expectations.  “Health will be a topmost priority of the government”, said Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister in his first official statement. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned in his speech that this victory is for those poor people who wait for years to save money and also to seek treatment. Now the poor people are covered under Ayushman Bharat. In fact, now health is going to dominate the discourse of public policy in the country as it is one of the most important components in Human Capital approach. If India has to take advantage of its huge ‘demographic dividend’, it has to bring about structural transformation in the health sector to achieve the goal of Health for All”.

During the elections, two narratives were going on with respect to achieving the goal of universal healthcare. One narrative was to make the ‘right to healthcare’ as a legal and justiciable right proposed by Indian National Congress (INC) in its manifesto and supported by various civil society organisations. Another narrative was created by the incumbent government to achieve the goal of universal health coverage via the route of insurance schemes like Ayushman Bharat. The winning of the incumbent government led by the Narendra Modi shows that the goal of achieving universal healthcare will be led through the insurance-based model.  However, many health experts have criticized the insurance-based model. The argument here is that when the proper infrastructure related to healthcare facilities and personnel will not be available, how can the Auyushman Bharat scheme be able to provide quality services? The role of the private sector in the scheme is also criticized. Providing basic services like health which is indispensable for the survival of poor people should not be left to the private sector.

In the last five years, the Narendra Modi government has launched two important schemes namely Swachh Bharat Mission and National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) also known as Ayushman Bharat to bring about substantive changes in the health sector.  Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) aims to make India ‘open defecation free’ by 2nd October 2019 which in turn will help in preventive healthcare of the country. The government also launched Ayushman Bharat on Sept 23, 2018, as the world’s largest publicly-funded health insurance scheme as a tool to achieve universal health coverage in the country. It aims to provide a Rs 5-lakh medical insurance cover to 50-crore low-income citizens. Annually, Rs 10,000 crore is the budget estimate of the scheme being touted as the biggest universal medical care program in the world. The scheme also aims to establish 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness centers to upgrade the primary healthcare infrastructure of the country. This scheme is going to solve the problem of out-of-pocket expenditure of the people. In fact, as per one report, 65 % of health expenditure is out of pocket and some 57 million people are sent to poverty every year due to this expenditure   This government launched National Health Policy 2017 (NHP 2017) in its tenure. This health policy was launched after 15 years since the last policy launched. NHP 2017 aims at increasing the public health expenditure as 2.5% of the GDP gradually.


Challenges for the New government in achieving Universal Health Coverage:

As health is one of the most important priorities, the government of India has to face many challenges in the coming five years to achieve the goals set in the National Health Policy 2017. Some of the challenges are mentioned below:

  • The most important challenge is to change the perception of the health sector. The investment in health sector needs to be seen in a positive manner as it will play an important role in building a healthy population. This healthy population will be contributing to the overall development of the country as a working population in the future. The health expenditure as a percentage of GDP is less than 2%.
  • As per the National Family Health Survey-4 2015-16, less than 10% of children receive adequate nutrition in the country. The lack of proper micro and macro nutrients to children is reflected in the high incidences of malnutrition and under nutrition in the country. As per the Global Nutrition Report (GNR) of 2018, India accounts for 23.8% of the global burden of malnourished and 30% of stunted children under 5.  
  • India has a severe shortage of medical professionals, especially in rural areas. India has only 0.62 doctors per 1000 population as opposed to the World Health Organization (WHO) standard of 1 doctor per 1000 population. 74% of all sanctioned specialist doctor positions are lying vacant in community health centers across the country, including surgeons, gynecologists, physicians and pediatricians as per the Rural Health Statistics 2018.
  • There is also a need for institutional and regulatory reforms in the pharmaceutical and medical devices sectors as there is no exclusive ministry governing both the sectors. The pharma sector is partly governed by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers as well as Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Medical Devices are still governed under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Though the government has implemented Medical Device Rules 2017, there is still a need to enact a separate law for effective governance of medical devices industries.
  • There is also a lot of policy anomalies in terms of promotion of generic drugs, price control policies on drugs and medical devices, issues related to fixed drugs combinations (FDC), shortage of medical professionals and treatment of Ayush doctors with respect to the medical fraternity, etc.
  • The second component of Ayushman Bharat (Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana) in terms of opening 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres needs to be implemented in letter and spirit. It will give the real boost to primary healthcare infrastructure which needs to be strengthened to make the goal of “Health for All” a reality.
  • The government has also kept its momentum in making the country open defecation free to emphasize the role of preventive healthcare in the overall improvement of health indicators.

The challenges mentioned above should guide the policy actions of the government in the health sector. The government got a huge mandate to bring about change in the lives of the people. This term of the government will be very significant as India is at the cusp of change due to the high youth population, technological advancements, and most importantly, the country will be celebrating its 75 year of its existence in the year 2022. Not only this, the Government of India is obligated to achieve Goal 3(Good Health and wellbeing for all at all ages) of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs). On the face of it, the government of India has a great window of opportunity to bring about policy changes with respect to the health sector to achieve the goal of “Health for All”.

Lets’s come together to achieve the goal of “Health for All”

Be fluid and follow your passion

Pic Credit:
http://www.ashishjaiswal.com/

Be formless, shapeless like water. When you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now the water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend-

BRUCE LEE, The Lost Interview, 1971

This is the season of results. I am not talking about election results but the results of high school and intermediate students in the country. On one side marks of the students are skyrocketing touching 90 to 99 percent and on the other side, around 22 students of Telangana Board of Intermediate Education (TBIE) has committed suicide because they were failed or did not get expected marks due to some goof-ups in giving marks by the board. Recently, one Delhi woman’s Facebook post became viral as she was feeling proud when her son scored 60% marks in high school examination of CBSE board. Not only this, as per the recent ASER report 2018, 75% of the Std III students of the government schools across the country can not read and perform basic calculations. It shows the grim picture of the Indian education system. In fact, this is the key idea of this book written by Ashish Jaiswal, a scholar from the University of Oxford. He is a humble and down to earth human being.

The title of the book is so intriguing that I had not thought in my wildest dream that the author is going to discuss the education system of India. How the Indian education system is creating rote learners, unemployable and unskilled graduates? There is one more peculiarity how the so-called best education system provided by IIT-IIM and foreign degrees creating money minting machines. These people have no concern and responsibility for the “Lok Kalyan” means public welfare the term used by the author to answer the question- ‘what should be the ultimate purpose of our life’? The sad example of this rat race is suicide of Sarveshresthra Gupta, graduate from one of the Ivy League colleges. He ended his life due to stress and work pressure.

Why India despite being the oldest civilization in the world is still behind its counterparts at various fronts? Why no Indian university has achieved the feat of the best rankings in the world ? Why there is a massive “brain drain” from India to western countries? Why we are still talking about poverty elimination in our country even after seven decades of Independence? Why our education system are not able to produce more number of people like Amartya Sen, Rabindranath Tagore & E Sreedharan and producing mediocre engineers, doctors and social scientists. Why do we Indians still feel inferior to western people in culture, language and heritage of our country?  There might be a number of reasons behind these questions. But I am confident that the way Indian education system evolved over the years is one of the most important reasons which drags India behind. Why this is so?

This book tries to answers these questions. Being fluid means be more than what you are taught to be. As per the author, you become fluid specialist when you explore the universe in integrative form, learn from your surroundings and take the inter-disciplinary approach to create knowledge and wisdom. Anti-fluidity in terms of compartmentalization of the streams in different subjects taught in the school has made us unimaginative. We are told to choose our specialization after our high school exam when we are hardly aware of the world around us. Everyone hear this conversation. Choose science and mathematics and your life will be set. Go for engineering or medical or commerce, you will earn good money. Go abroad and earn in US dollars. Nobody tells us, “follow your passion and do something for the greater good”. Not only this, when you want to explore the world or you want to take a gap in your studies, this decision is looked down upon by the society in general and family in particular. The author mentioned about Rene Descartes, father of modern Western philosophy who once left his education for the sake of travel. He is the one who wrote- ‘I think, therefore I am’.

In fact, the author has shown how the whole theory of right-brain and left-brain is complete non-sense. The author quoted Neil deGrasse Tyson, american astrophysicist who completely rejected this theory saying that these fake divisions between science and art is taking our civilization away from true learning. Charles Percy Snow, British scientist and novelist in his book, ” The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution” highlighted the huge gap between those studying sciences and arts and concluded that lack of exposure to other academic circles led to hostile and distorted image of each other.The sheer categorization of subjects into STEM and non-STEM shows the stereotype mindset towards social sciences subjects.

This book tells us to be fluid in our approach towards the process of learning. Spontaneous learning is the most beautiful thing. It not only makes you a better person but also gives you various perspectives to understand the world. The author of the book mentioned many learned people like Charles Darwin, Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, Goethe, Amartya Sen, C V Raman, Peter Geddes, Frank Lloyd Wright, Edwin Land, Steve Jobs, etc who did not follow a set path and explored the universe.They exposed themselves to diverse fields of education. The fluid approach which was depicted in the form of charkha(wheel) by the author appreciates the ‘integrative nature of the universe’. In the era of digital technology and artificial intelligence, when there will be more monotony and job losses, the people who are fluid in their approach will have more chances to survive because of their exploratory nature and never-ending desire to challenge the defined boundaries.

One of the most important findings of Jaiswal is that India should get credit for Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man. The undiscovered Hans Purush from Vishnudharmottaram Puranam mentioned by Rishi Markendeya was one of the perfect men discussed in the Purana. In fact, the author wants to stress the point that human knowledge is circulatory. The world has been benefited not by one single country or race but by the combined intelligence of all spread over the thousands of years. For instance- architectures around the world are the best example of combined intelligence and cultures of humanity. The best example mentioned by the author is our India Gate which not only incorporated western architectural influences but also the elements of Indian architecture in terms of the dome on the top and canopy structure in front. Indians should not feel inferior of their history, culture, language, etc because we have a lot more to offer to the world not only with respect to new knowledge but also we gave the idea of spiritualism and simplicity to the world.

This book is a culmination of out-of-the-box thinking. The author tried to challenge the stereotypes and boundaries built by society. He wants readers to be a learner who explores the universe, gets inspired by the surroundings and creates a melting pot of intelligence to work for the public welfare. Most importantly, as a public policy student, I always look for solutions keeping in mind that world is full of complex problems. I agree with the author that there are many issues plaguing the Indian education system but what are the solutions. How can we inspire everyone to be fluid in their approach?

Please find the author’s Comment on this review:

Dear Ritambhara, The review reads absolutely fantastic. It does summarises ‘fluid’ brilliantly. I also do understand the importance of your last line – the question. Our mind is an amazing construct. My learning journey has taught me that every dimension of knowledge for mind is locked inside a web just held together by a loose knot. A idea/thought/reflection/event/experience , if powerful enough, causes that knot to open. This is the beginning but most crucial step in acquiring any wisdom. Fluid is that first step in acquiring wisdom over multi-dimensionality. Once, you realise there is something like fluidity in specialisation , you will never go back to walking on a uni-dimensional path 🙂

Trends in India’s HDI Rankings

Human Development Index was created by the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and Amartya Sen in 1990. It is a composite index of three dimensions and four indicators -Health (Life-expectancy at birth), Education (Mean years of schooling and Expected years of schooling) and living standards (Gross National Income per capita). Countries are ranked into four tiers-Very High, High, Medium, Low and Data Unavailable. The Human Development Report 1995 of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) describes human development as a process of enlarging people’s choices. It “must enable all individuals to enlarge their human capabilities to the fullest and to put those capabilities to the best use in all fields- economic, social, cultural and political”.

India has been ranked 130[i] out of 189 countries in the HDR 2018. India’s HDI value for 2017 is 0.640 which put the country in the “medium human development category”. Between 1990 and 2017, India’s HDI value increased from 0.427 to 0.640 an increase of nearly 50% and an indicator of the country’s remarkable achievement in lifting millions out of poverty. Between 1990 and 2017, India’s life expectancy at birth also increased by nearly 11 years. GNI per capita increased by 266.6% between 1990 and 2017 and India’s school-age children can expect to stay in school for 4.7 years longer than in 1990. However, despite huge improvement, India still lags behind all other BRICS[ii] nations on the HDI. The UNDP report also showed that when inequality is factored in, India loses nearly 26.8% of its HDI values and falls to 0.468. It means that outcomes of human development vary substantially with respect to caste, class, and gender. For instance-HDI for men is higher than HDI for women. Historically disadvantaged groups such as Dalits and Adivasis in India, also have lower human development indexes.

The ranking of India is marginally higher than its South Asian neighbors but the country has fallen behind its neighbors on key health and quality of life indicators. India’s 2017 HDI 0.640 is also lower than average of 0.645 for countries in the medium human development category.

India has a GII (Gender Inequality Index), introduced in 2014, the value of 0.524, ranking it 127 out of 160 countries in the 2017 index. The GII can be interpreted as a loss of human development due to inequality between male and female achievements in three GII dimensions of reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity. In India, only 11% seats of parliament are held by women. Only 39% of women have reached the secondary level of education as compared to 63.5 % of their male counterparts. Female participation in the labor market is also very low (27%) as compared to men (78.8%).

Trends in India’s HDI Rankings:

india-in-hdi-4-638

The UNDP HDR 2013 report[i] was themed as “The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World” which concluded that sustained progress in human development has led to the rise of the south in unprecedented speed and scale. For the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies -Brazil, China and India- is equal to the combined GDP of the longstanding industrial powers of the north like Canada, France, Germany, Italy, UK & USA, thus demonstrating a gradual convergence across the world. It also projects that by 2050, Brazil, China and India will together account for 40% of global output.

The unprecedented achievement by India in human development was recognized and praised by UNDP reports. These are the initiatives who helped India to climb the ladder of human development:

  • Affirmative Action policy- Even though it has not remedied caste-based exclusions, it has had substantial positive effects. It pointed out that in 1965 for example, Dalits held fewer than 2% of senior civil service positions, but the share has grown to 11% by 2001.
  • Right to Education Act, 2009- It helped in universalizing the primary education in India and increasing the enrolment rate almost 90%-99%.
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) as a prime example of combining social protection with appreciative employment strategies.
  • National Food Security Act
  • Skill India,
  • Digital India
  • Make in India
  • JAM trinity-Jan Dhan, Aadhar and Mobile
  • Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao-To improve child sex ratio in 100 gender critical districts of across all states and UTs.
  • Stand-Up India Campaign 2016 to provide loans to women borrowers for setting up a greenfield enterprise.
  • Maternity Benefit Act[ii], 2017 has extended the period of paid maternity benefit from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.

India’s HDI has been increasing over the years but in recent years despite India being the fastest growing country in the world, the HDI has stagnated. There is also a caveat that there have been various changes in the methodology and continuously tweaking of indicators to measure human development. That is why many experts say that it is misleading to compare the rankings of any country over the years.  There is still a long way to go to reach an adequate level of human development in the country. UNDP report also suggested various measures to improve India’s HDI.

  • To stop the subsidies going to the richest 20% of India’s population. It consists of six commodities and services in cooking gas, railways, power, aviation fuel, gold, kerosene and EEE tax treatment under the PPF.
  • There is a need to create universal access to health care. Ayushman Bharat[iii] is a path-breaking initiative of the current government. However, there is a long way to go improve the status of our primary health centers which are the backbone the whole health infrastructure. National Health Policy[iv] 2017 is also a step in the right direction.
  • There is a need to improve the quality of education and make the coming generation skilled enough to take advantage of ‘demographic dividend’ [v]of the country.
  • The gender inequality, discrimination, and violence are still rampant in our country which needs to be tackled by challenging the root of the problem-patriarchal system by changing the mindset of the people through awareness generation, sensitization of children towards gender issues since childhood by including under the school curriculum.

In fact, as per the UNDP HDR 2013, countries that have improved their HDI standing did so on account of three principal drivers: ‘a proactive developmental stage’, ‘tapping of global markets’, and ‘determined social policy and innovation’. On the face of it, Government of India should embark on a journey of the collective effort of setting developmental priorities led by inclusive development, capability approach through redistribution, social security measures and massive investment in health and education.

[i] http://hdr.undp.org/en/2013-report

[ii] https://ritambharachaitanya.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/maternity-benefit-bill-a-historic-achievement-for-india/

[iii] https://www.pmjay.gov.in/

[iv] http://cdsco.nic.in/writereaddata/National-Health-Policy.pdf

[v] https://ritambharachaitanya.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/demographic-dividend-or-demographic-disaster/

[i] https://www.livemint.com/Politics/NcyY1Zr768TEl02yaRSh4M/India-ranks-131-on-global-Human-Development-Index-Norway-No.html

[ii] http://brics2016.gov.in/content/