India needs over 8 per cent annual growth to be a developed country by 2047. It is only through a thrust on human capital development, scaling up skills to raise productivity and wages, and a higher rate of public and private investments that generate quality employment that we can hope to be where we want to be. What mid-course changes in approach are needed, based on the evidence, to enable quality outcomes in learning, health care, nutrition, skills, and livelihoods? What specific interventions will really establish that India is not broken and hard to fix?
For transformational change in human wellbeing through better social opportunities to develop their fullest potential for higher productivity, wages, and quality of life, there are some specific social development reforms across all sectors that are needed. This arises from the evidence that human development needs a holistic approach that cannot be tackled by narrow departmentalism. Community connect, technology, resolving last-mile crises through publicly validated data and participatory identification of the deprived are all key wider challenges for a more inclusive India. There are also changes in education, health, nutrition, skills and livelihoods that are specific to that sector, based on the evidence before us.
The following across social development sector reforms are immediately needed:
Funds, functions and functionaries must be transferred to elected local governments for the 29 sectors in rural and the 18 sectors in urban, listed in the Eleventh and the Twelfth Schedules respectively. With the countervailing presence of social-capital rich women’s collectives, primary dairy cooperatives and other community institutions of the poor, we can ensure accountability and outcomes in programmes for human well-being through local governments.
Based on the assessment of core and agency functions currently carried out by local governments, a pro-active, innovative human resource policy needs to be in place to ensure all skill sets needed for accountability and outcomes at local-government level.
Development plans by gram panchayats and urban local bodies (ULB) must reflect the full budgets of central and state governments spent in the local government jurisdiction. The planning process through gram- and basti-level sabhas must have the physical presence of every Line Department functionary of the transferred sectors and final decision of how to use the budgeted resources must lie with the local governments.
Local governments and Women’s collectives of the Rural and Urban Livelihood Mission must mandatorily be made to work together for greater accountability and local level, need based interventions.
‘Communitization’, flexible financing with untied funds to meet last-mile needs, innovations in human resource engagement to ensure skill sets as needed, monitoring against agreed standards, and development of management capability as per need, should be non-negotiable principles for transformation.
All data and monitoring using multiple methods like social audit, geo-tagging, IT/DBT, internal financial audit, evidence-based research, and real-time management information systems must necessarily be in the public domain. It must be Local Government Directory Compliant (LGD) and should be on sharing API to enable complete picture of a Panchayat/ULB.
There must be a grievance redressal system that is community owned with ease of access for registration of complaints.
For separate programmes, the following additional, specific interventions are proposed:
Audio and audio visual material with television in every school to make blended learning a reality. Address equity in blended learning through public last mile gadget support as well.
Non-threatening assessment system for every child that enables need-based learning facilitation.
Every teacher training programme to go over each and every Chapter and its effective teaching, and use of online materials tailored for every Chapter to facilitate learning outcomes for all.
No non-academic duties for teachers that disturb schools and interfere with learning outcomes of children.
Ensure no vacancy of teachers at every school level with flexibility for local volunteers to assist children’s learning.
Panchayat and women SHGs manage midday meals, leaving teachers to teach.
Connect every household to a health facility. Every Indian should know whom to get in touch with in case of a health issue. Enroll all in the National Digital Health Mission and create medical records that respect privacy and are only in the patients’ interest.
Like what Tamil Nadu Medical Services Corporation (TNMSC) has done, set up a computerised system of quality generic drugs that are well tested and available from IT-enabled district warehouses. Every health facility should have a drug pass book. As many as 24 States/UTs already have a TNMSC-like corporation; the last-mile computerisation of warehouses, introduction of drug passbooks, and batch-wise professional testing of generic drugs procured from rigorously pre-qualified manufacturers, is the real challenge.
Health and wellness centres must play the role ofgate-keeping in access to secondary and tertiary hospitalized care under Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY).
Train Health and Wellness Centres Doctors in Family Medicine, promote Life Saving Anaesthetic Skills(LSAS), Emergency Obstetric Care(EmOC), 24- week duration Paediatric/Surgery Course to meet shortfall of needed skill sets.
Increase the number of caregivers as per need and focus on quality of their capacity development programmes. Nursing skill labs and learning with mannequins facilitates better paramedic personnel.
Local governments must take responsibility for measurement, identification and follow up on under-nutrition among adolescent girls, pregnant women and infants.
Flexibility to set up need based Day Care Centres and other interventions to ensure that no felt need is neglected.
Simultaneous coordination and convergence of wider determinants like clean water, sanitation, availability of basic medicines with Community Workers, diversified food intake, ‘nutri’ gardens in schools, access to milk and eggs, oil and green leafy vegetables, is ensured.
Untied funds to local government led community action for need based interventions for provision of care givers, nutrition and support. Care givers of the community like the Community Resource Persons in the Rural Livelihood Mission, or the ASHA model are effective options.
A public website and local data sharing with panchayats for effective follow-up.
Certification of community workers for doing gentamycin injection to save lives from sepsis, pneumonia and acute respiratory infections in neo natal infants
Local communities to prepare a list of youth and their employment aspirations and learning needs.
Matching aspirations with availability of jobs and skill providers.
System of certified skill providers in every Block/District.
Coordination for credit needs of the skilled youth for self-employment.
Women’s collectives as a good credit worthy enterprise development.
Linking skilled youth, enterprise and credit. Provide professional support and Community Resource Persons for Enterprise for guidance.
Mapping of SHG accounts to individual accounts to improve credit scores.
Resolving the challenge of working capital for nano enterprises.
Using Swamitva property card for collateral based higher order lending.
No capital subsidy needed. Focus on professionals and technical partners in rural/urban areas in developing first generation entrepreneurs.
Market linkages for produce.
All suggestions are evidence based and doable at no major additional costs to begin with. The additional resources needed can be mobilised by reforming open-ended subsidies to a very large number of households under food grain and fertilisers, or under PLI schemes that does not take off. If we want an Inclusive India that grows at 8 per cent plus annually, this is the route to take.
Human capital is the pathway to a shared growth; it is also the pathway to the 8-per cent plus growth that Developed India 2047 needs.