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5 Problems That India Is Facing That Need Immediate Attention In 2016

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By IndiaSpend.com

1. With growth rate of 0.2% and 600 million Indians depending on it, agriculture remains in crisis

A farmer removes dried plants from his parched paddy field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, September 8, 2015. India has just suffered back-to-back drought years for only the fourth time in over a century, summer crops are wilting and reservoir water levels are at their lowest in at least a decade for the time of year. Yet Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has not held a high-level meeting to discuss drought relief for farmers since June, when its weather office forecast - correctly as it turned out - that this year's monsoon rains would fall short. Fifteen months since winning power, in part on his record in boosting agriculture as chief minister of Gujarat, Modi faces growing criticism for failing to shield Indian farmers from deepening hardship. To match INDIA-DROUGHT/      Picture taken September 8, 2015.  REUTERS/Amit Dave  - RTS8C5
Image source: REUTERS/Amit Dave

The year 2015 began with unseasonal rainfall that damaged crops across 18 million hectares of farmland— about 30% of the rabi (winter) crop—according to a government estimate.

Farmer suicides in Bundelkhand region in southeastern Uttar Pradesh grabbed the country’s attention, as India reported an agricultural growth rate of 0.2% in the last financial year.

Agriculture, which supports 600 million Indians, faces significant distress. Over the past 20 years, the farm sector has experienced negative growth during five years; three of those were drought years.

While India struggles with food insecurity and malnourishment, big bang reforms are needed for the agriculture sector.

“The government had a unique opportunity afforded by the Bali package of the WTO (World Trade Organisation)—to reform the PDS (Public Distribution System) and domestic food subsidy regime—but it has shelved those plans and ignored the Shanta Kumar Committee report on reforming the Food Corporation of India. And no efforts are underway to set right the distorted fertiliser subsidy,” wrote economist Ajay Chibber in a recent column in The Indian Express.

2. Drought-like conditions in 302 of 640 districts; is India’s climate changing?

Nine of India’s 29 states–Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Odisha and West Bengal–declared a drought, seeking as much as Rs 20,000 crore in central aid.

As many as 302 of India’s 640 districts are living with drought-like conditions.

There are strong links to climate change. Extreme rainfall events in central India–the core of the monsoon system–are increasing and moderate rainfall is decreasing–as a part of complex changes in local and world weather–according to a clutch of Indian and global studies reviewed by IndiaSpend in April.

In 2014-15 alone, 92,180 cattle were lost, 725,390 houses damaged and 2.7 million hectares of crop area were affected.

By 2020, yields of major crops, such as maize and wheat, could decline 18% and 6%, respectively, according to this report by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

3. 40 million Indian children are stunted, more than any other country

With 40 million, India still had the world’s largest number of stunted children (lesser than average height for the age), despite improvements; about 38.7% of all children.

Nutrition disparities among the worse-off and better-off states were quite marked, according to government data. For example, in Jharkhand, 47% of children under five are stunted while the figure for Kerala is only 19%.

As many as 42.1% children in Jharkhand are underweight, which is equivalent to Timor Leste (East Timor) with 45.3%. This shows that Jharkhand is worse off than countries like Yemen with 35.5% and Niger with 37.9%, according to World Health Organization data.

 

The worse-off states are classified under ‘high focused states’, which receive special funds from the Centre to reduce malnutrition.

Among the better-off states, Manipur has the fewest underweight children (14%), close to countries like Bhutan (12%) and Mauritius (13%).

While more children have been immunised than before, the results of the Rapid Survey on Children, released in July, showed wide disparities between states.

For example, immunisation data revealed that 56% of children were immunised in Gujarat, far below the national average (65.3%), and behind states typically described as “backward”, such as Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

4. 282 million Indians illiterate, more than Indonesia’s entire population

India is home to 282 million illiterate people, as IndiaSpend reported earlier this year.

The 2015-16 budget reduced spending on education by 16%. The allocation for the Ministry of Human Resource Development was 4.6% of the total expenditure in 2014-15–it was reduced to 3.9% in the 2015-16 union budget.

The devolution reforms have increased the states’ share of divisible pool of tax revenue to 42% from 32%, but social sector allocations were cut. IndiaSpend reported how health and education sectors may be affected by such cuts.

Average public spending on education across the world was 4.9% of GDP in 2010, while India spent only 3.3%, according to World Bank data.

Nearly 18% of children who went to school were not able to complete secondary level of education, a fundamental right under the Constitution, data on dropout rates reveal.

Note: GER, or Gross Enrolment Ratio, is the total enrolment, expressed as a percentage of eligible school-going age population for the level of education. The dropout rate is calculated by subtracting the sum of promotion and repetition from 100 in every grade.

While the government has succeeded in ensuring full enrolment for children at entry level, 18% drop out before completing secondary level.

Teachers are sub-standard and often absent, even as 80% of the school expenditure is on teachers’ salaries. Earlier this year, in Maharashtra, 99% of primary school teachers failed annual evaluation exams; as Indiaspend reported, less than one in five teachers is adequately trained, despite spending $94 billion on training over the last decade.

5. Trade and growth forecasts drop, prices should too but do not

The bad news: Trade has dropped. The good news: Wholesale inflation is down; bad news again–it isn’t getting passed on to Indian consumers, which means prices have not come down.

While India is on track to remain the world’s fastest-growing economy, growth forecasts have been slashed and there are significant worries, such as inflation, caused primarily by a surge in the prices of a food staple, lentils, which, as IndiaSpend reported, will remain.

The consumer price index (CPI) and the wholesale price index (WPI) are the two indices that determine the magnitude of inflation in the economy.

The wholesale price index (WPI)–an indicator of prices of production and in which petroleum, iron and steel are major factors–dropped below zero, meaning deflation, in January 2015 and has remained negative at the year end.

Falling prices of raw material and weak global commodity prices have driven down the WPI, which means India has been receiving raw material from the global market at lesser and lesser prices every month in 2015.

A positive CPI, on the other hand, shows that the benefits of falling prices (indicated by the WPI) are not being passed on to consumers, Pronab Sen, chairman, National Statistical Commission, wrote in a column in The Indian Express.

“Supply inefficiencies are worsening in India due to poor investment in infrastructure and rising transport and logistics costs–both for farm produce and industrial goods. This could have increased the gap between CPI and WPI,” observed R Jagannathan in this Firstpost column.

While the falling WPI has been conducive for Indian products to be competitive in global market, Indian exports have fallen by more than 10% in April-November 2015 compared to same period last year, as shown in the following chart.

Global economic slowdown coupled with weak demand in the international market has led to reduction in both imports and exports by more than 10% at the end of second quarter in 2015-16.

This article was originally published on IndiaSpend.com, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.

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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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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