After winning a huge victory in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, the NDA government is set to take the reins to govern India once again. Reports say that prime minister Modi, whose second term has been dubbed Modi 2.0, has already begun working on a 1000-day plan aimed at rolling out social welfare schemes and scientific & technological advancement.
The team at Swaniti has focused on three sectors that we believe the government needs to urgently overhaul. We therefore came up with policy recommendations that the government should include in its 1000-Day plan, keeping in mind the situation on ground and contrasting current scenarios with ideal policies that can have a great impact.
I. Sustainable Livelihood
India is currently missing out on tapping into an extra 235 million workers who can boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 27 per cent. Counting both the formal and informal economy, women employment has tumbled from an already-low 35 per cent in 2005 to just 26 per cent now according to a 2018 World Bank report. In that time the economy has more than doubled in size and the number of working-age women has grown by a quarter, to 470 million.
Yet nearly 10m fewer women are in jobs. A rise in female employment rates to the male level would provide India with an extra 235m workers, more than the European Union (EU) has of either gender, and more than enough to fill all the factories in the rest of Asia. Further, according to The International Monetary Fund, raising women’s participation in the labour force to the same level as men can boost India’s GDP by 27 per cent
What can the government do?
1. Expand on Beti-Bachao: Through an extension of the Beti-Bachao campaign. Edutainment to move ahead the beti-bachao campaign may encourage citizens to also send their daughters to use their knowledge and join the formal workforce.
2. Equip women with business skills: Establishing training centres for women SHGs that impart business and strategy practise to help them grow sustainably yet exponentially.
An ongoing study at IFMR used a randomized control trial approach to analyze the impact of self-help group program on a broad set of socio-economic indicators and yielded some encouraging results. Carried out in 315 Panchayats in 3 districts of southern Tamil Nadu, results indicated that a holistic SHG program comprising not just of group formation and loan disbursement, but of business and skills training, makes group members more likely to start and expand businesses.
It also helps make them more likely to reinvest their profits, thereby promoting self-employment and opportunities to diversify their income, and increasing their welfare overall. Further, women in self-help groups also scored 6% more on average on the empowerment index primarily compelled by the propensity of women in self-help groups to engage with government officials or community leaders to bring up issues and directly campaign for solutions.
3. Increase digital capabilities: A McKinsey & Company report titled, ‘The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in India’ highlights the impact of getting more women online. Results such that if we can get more women using internet-enabled cell phones in more ways—to watch training videos, form social networks, leverage tools like WhatsApp, and perform research, for example—then even more women could not only get jobs, but also stick with them.
A trained population that is still unemployed
Out of total 19.8 lakh trained candidates under Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), 2.62 lakh candidates have been provided with the placement offers, according to Mr. Anantkumar Hegde, Minister Of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, in his response to Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam’s questions about the scheme’s (PMKVY) implementation.
This clearly highlights two issues, i) Even though training centers have been set up, trained candidates still do not have access to job opportunities, and ii) There still exists a disparity between the skills taught and the skills the job market demands.
Here’s how the government can tackle this:
1. Creation of nation-wide Vocational Education and Training (VET) standards to build integrated on-site apprenticeship training. A report by the Committee for Rationalization & Optimization of the Functioning of the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs), issued April 25, 2017, highlights how various stakeholders in the process state that the targets allocated to them were very high and without regards to any sectoral requirement. Further, standards vary from administration to administration creating confusion.
Therefore, nation-wide VET standards can lay out guidelines to set up training centers that impart job specific technical skills based on the areas around the center. Inclusion of an extensive and multi-dimensional technical and vocational education and training—which can last anywhere from six months to three years— can give young people, especially women, the skills to compete for better paying jobs
2. The report also highlights how key ministries responsible for sizeable employment generation such as human resources development, textiles, commerce and industry, and tourism have not been allocated the work of skill development. Thus, setting up paid internships for those under 26 years to work as support staff in government departments in field or staff positions on district levels can not only help generate employment but also effectively ensure candidates have a greater grasp at skill development opportunities. Furthermore, heavily burdened district administrators too can have a keen helping hand. Programs should be predefined and aimed at specific areas ; performance on these could be an eligibility requirement for applying to government jobs.
3. Introduction of Reimbursable Industry Contribution wherein a set amount of industry’s annual wage bill can be collected to create the corpus for a National Skill Development Fund. Currently the issue also needs to address responsibility. The private sector places the onus on the government, treating it as a welfare responsibility, while the government looks to the private sector since it is the end consumer of skills. The result is that only 36% of India’s organised sector firms conduct in-firm training. To standardise this practise, small, medium, large public and private enterprises employing 10 or more workers contribute to promote in-firm training as per industry’s own requirement. The employers manage this fund through the corpus, with their costs reimbursed depending on their annual training plans and performance.
II. Water Conservation
Everyone concerned agrees that India is facing unprecedented and worsening water crisis. Some of the key aspects of water sector challenges include: Lack of reliable water information, need for restructuring of institutions, groundwater lifeline in distress, the need for attention to maintenance of massive water infrastructure, the increasing footprint of Urban water sector, State of our rivers in general and Ganga in particular, water management for agriculture, governance and changing climate, among others. According to World Bank reports, India is looking at a potential 6 per cent loss to GDP due to water scarcity with millions being affected.
What can the government do?
1. Back to basics, let’s focus on drip irrigation: India’s traditional irrigation method involves more water consumption. A strategy paper by the consulting firm Grant Thornton highlights how bringing back drip irrigation which is already in practice in India, can efficiently reduce the water usage in agriculture. Adopting the method has shown to have had an effective reduction of 31.9 percent in overall irrigation. Further, it has also shown to help increase soil moisture levels leading to increasing crop production and bringing down electricity usage.
2. Punish those who pollute: Water quality has to be a very important aspect of water policy. The best way to ensure water quality is the prevention of pollution of water bodies and introduction of the “polluter pays principle”. The policy has seen water pollution levels go down dramatically in countries like France, Brazil, Germany and Korea, further showcasing its effectiveness. In addition, improvements in existing strategies and the innovation of new techniques resting on a strong science and technology base will be needed to eliminate the pollution of surface and ground water resources, to improve water quality and to step up the recycling and re-use of water.
3. Data to the rescue: Creation of a national information system that builds itself on micro-watershed level databases and integrates with the state and national levels is required. A case study on participatory scientific watershed management in Gujarat showcased that even with only 15% participatory irrigation, the state managed 100% access to all urban and semi-urban areas. This database should contain information on rainfall, ground water, surface water availability and also water use for different purposes along with its quality. Encourage successful community action for water conservation and use as well through constantly upgrading details of traditional water conservation and use systems and create a citizen centric work progress tracking mechanism
4. A policy upgrade: Creation of a National Urban Water Policy that will provide guidance for various departments of the government to help them redistribute resources better and also include definition of a water smart city. At present, it is the central and state governments that play the key role in the management of water resources. However, there is a need to involve all the people at the level of the local communities so that they can conserve, develop and manage the water resource at the local level itself. For this purpose the present organisational structure would have to be suitably restructured.
III. Public Health
India currently does not meet the minimum WHO recommendations for healthcare workforce and bed density. A large segment of the population resides in rural areas, where the numbers are even worse. In particular, the low-income group lacks access to quality healthcare.
What can the government do?
1. Better training programs for AWCs and ASHA workers: A Niti Aayog report states that 99% of AWCs provide mothers counselling on child healthcare and 68.6% of AWCs intervene on children’s malnutrition. However, they currently do have skills training sessions for them. Therefore, it is vital to expand the public health outreach efforts to Anganwadi workers and certified NGOs who have the required reach to transmit public health interventions around immunization, exercise, testing through:
- Developing a certification program for these practitioners.
- Developing a series of training interventions
- Developing a set of cell-phone based checklist for treatment protocols for these practitioners to use in the field.
- Organising public health campaigns, particularly in the form of edutainment, to raise awareness around non-communicable diseases, immunization and the dangers of over-medication.
2. Inform Inform Inform: Creation of purposeful community focused public information boards or seasonal alerts or advisories or community health information to be circulated among doctors in both private practice and in public sector along with the general public. Timely communication of information to health care providers during a public health event can improve overall response to such events. However, current methods for sending information to providers are inefficient and costly. Local health departments have traditionally used labor-intensive, mail-based processes to send public health alerts to the provider community. A report by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) identified the usefulness of a novel approach for delivering public health alerts to providers by leveraging an electronic clinical messaging system within the context of a health information exchange.
3. Use phones for greater impact: Establishing telehealth centers throughout the country in every district can potentially help save many lives and create a stronger network between healthcare workers and doctors in different parts of the country. Successful examples of telehealth centers have already been seen in places like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. A study published by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) further elaborates on how pilot projects on Telemedicine in Karnataka has already provided more than 10,000 teleconsultations. Building it under a PPP model, all expenditure – capital and operational – can be taken care of by the state and the private player would be responsible for the setting up and functioning of the centres.
Yashasvini Mathur is an Associate at Swaniti.