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Inclusive Growth As A Unifying Factor For India

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By Ashutosh Singh:

Political democracy is an edifice without base in the absence of economic and social democracy. Founding fathers of our Constitution were aware of this fact which can be explained by their laying too much emphasis on removing inequalities which was, and continues to be rampantly existent in out society. Yet, the difference between intent and implementation that was the hallmark of socialist policies followed by India till 1991 turned out to be the vehicle of inequity aggravation. It was during these years that we witnessed abject poverty increasing many folds despite having governments that were committed wholeheartedly to the slogan of “Gareebi Hatao”. It was, in 1991, that we came to realize that the roots of the problem lay in the economic philosophy that we were following and it was high time for us to break the shackles of stagnation. The subsequent decade took us to the path of some of the best things to have happened to India since independence such as the I.T. boom, high growth rate for many years. All these things gave way to a new kind of optimism that created a self-perpetuating and self-justifying universe which, we felt, contained all our questions and answers. This universe was broken into pieces by those people for whom India was as dark as it was shining for some section. The year was 2003 and the person crowned as Prime Minister, who, incidentally, had initiated us into the era of liberalization, was to devise a new term for growth.

26% of the Indian population lives in abject poverty. This population is untouched with any kind of growth sweeping across the nation. Consistent with this conjecture is the dismal condition of women who continues to be at the bottom of all the charts of developmental parameters. One gets reminded of Gandhi in such times who had asked us to gauge the development of a society through the prism of women’s condition. Growth that doesn’t leave these women, tribals, dalits and poor behind falls under the definition of inclusive growth. This definition becomes all the more comprehensive if it involves four attributes that are mentioned below.

1. Opportunity: Is the economy generating more and varied ways for people to earn a living and increase their incomes over time?

2. Capability: Is the economy providing the means for people to create or enhance their capabilities in order to exploit available opportunities?

3. Access: Is the economy providing the means to bring opportunities and capabilities together?

4. Security: Is the economy providing the means for people to protect themselves against a temporary or permanent loss of livelihood?

An economy whose answer is in the affirmative to all the questions each attribute poses can be called truly inclusive. Indian economy is a far cry from that ideal state, for sure. For a country like India which is so very diverse in almost all the senses, be it geography, history or social practices, it becomes all the more important to maintain an equilibrium between various socio-economic-political dimensions and efforts should be made to bridge the gaps existing today. Otherwise, these gaps, if widened beyond a point give way to serious problems that escalate into out-blown proportion. Naxalism is one such problem whose roots lie in continual neglect of tribal population by various governments. Small wonder that huge portion of Maoist army consists of tribals. Point to be taken into regard here is that female participation is huge in the naxalite movement which, as some social scientists suggest, is an outlet to the anger arising out of the oppressive measures taken against them through centuries. Same explanation can be offered for unrest in North-East and Jammu and Kashmir.

It seems as if the government has woken up to the urgency of situation by realizing that growth is not an end in itself but means to an end and growth is necessary but not sufficient. History can teach us a lot about the consequences of living in the utopian world based upon the notion of growth-takes-care-of-everything ideology. Balkan countries were a very prosperous entity before they disintegrated into several pieces giving way to the legendary word more commonly known as balkanization. Same goes for USSR which used to constitute a very powerful block in then existent bipolar world order. If these examples are any indication, then time is ripe for us to take stock of the fact that survival of India lies in catering to the needs of all the sections of the society. Especially the ones who are at the bottom of the pyramid as they are most susceptible to the changes taking place in their surroundings. Ironically, these changes are being caused by factors in which these people have no role to play. They have only brunt to bear.

Thinking of role of state in a radically different manner is inevitable to achieve this inclusive growth. Old concept of all pervasive benevolent government who is always there to help you will only make people handicap. Best way to tackle this issue is to have an enabling government that seeks to create an environment where individual’s entrepreneurial skills get unleashed. Government is expected to play the role of an honest referee. Benefits reaped through this process has to be percolated downwards to the bottom most strata by providing them with basic education and health sector. NREGS (now MANREGS – Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) is the most glaring example of this way of looking at things. Such schemes, if effected efficiently can work wonders for Indian democracy that fats and feeds on inclusiveness.

Two words that define the modern notion of development are inclusiveness and sustainability. No debate about development can be complete without talking of these two factors but for this growth to be sustainable, it has to have a balance between herself and inclusion. Such kind of growth focuses on ex-ante analysis of sources of, and constraints to sustained, high growth and not only one group-the poor. This calls for devising innovative ways to increase the pace of growth through using portion of labor force trapped in low productivity activities or that lives in the island of exclusion from all kind of growth. Sustained, high growth rates and poverty reduction, however, can be realized only when the sources of growth are expanding, and an increasing share of the labor force is included in the growth process in an efficient way. Moreover, we need to keep in mind that asset inequality rather than income inequality may matter for growth outcomes.

This brings us to the question of idea of justice and growth. What moves us, reasonably enough, is not the realization that world falls short of being completely just-which few of expect-but that there are clearly remedial injustices around us which we want to eliminate (Sen,Amartya 2008,The idea of Justice). This injustice is heartrendingly manifested in the eyes of victims of Bhopal gas tragedy, finds enough expression in the cracking voice of inhabitants of Sunderbans who are forced to leave that place because of global warming-a product of merciless growth with no human face. Most important of all human values, compassion can be hardwired into the DNA of an economy by thinking along the planes of growth that cares for all stakeholders and not the chosen few that would mean justice for all and would make this world a far better place.

References

Kujur, Rajat Kumar,(2008),http://www.ipcs.org/article/naxalite-violence/naxal-movement-a-review-of-the-planning-commissions-expert-committee-2599.html

Gokarm, Subir (2007), http://www.rediff.com/money/2007/dec/31guest.htm

Basu, Dr.Kaushik (2008), Ministry of Finance http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2010/02/26/stories/2010022650320900.htm

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz and a student of IIM Kozhikode.

Image source: http://southasia.oneworld.net/todaysheadlines/one-rupee-banking-drives-indias-inclusive-growth

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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