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Before Celebrating India’s GDP Growth, Here’s What We Need To Worry About

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By Jaykris Gurucharan:

The new GDP figures have added to every Indian’s pride. Aspirations run high as young men and women look up at these numbers in anticipation of a bright future. Indians have every right to cheer, seeing their economy growing at a staggering rate. India recorded a whopping 7.6% growth in GDP for the year 2015-16, the highest in the last five years. The figure of 7.9% for the March quarter nearing the magical number eight was all the more impressive and has definitely reaffirmed India’s position as one of the fastest growing economies in the world. To be overly happy and cheerful is one thing but examining in greater detail what these figures mean is quite another and is definitely of paramount importance.

There are definitely some things to cheer about. One thing that stands out is the fact that the growth in GDP has not come at the cost of fiscal deficit. The fiscal deficit is currently around 3.9% of GDP which is far more favourable than the 4.1% and 4.7% in 2014-15 and 2013-14 respectively. These numbers to a great degree speak for the fiscal prudence of the government. One might ask what’s so great about a lower fiscal deficit. In fact, fiscal deficits acutely affect a country’s economic growth. Fiscal deficit broadly stands for the excess of expenditure over the revenues the government earns. An unhealthy deficit will, in turn, lead to borrowings which is the only viable alternative to finance this gap. And, as a result, excess borrowings would, in turn, have a cascading effect on interest rates, undermining the competency of business firms in the economy which would in turn stagnate growth in the production capacity of our economy which is measured in terms of GDP.

Trends also show that some key infrastructure sector grew about 8.5% in April 2016. Sources reveal that this upswing has been the highest in the last 17 months. Furthermore, the core sector growth was fueled by a 17.9% rise in refinery output, 14.7% increase in electricity generation, 7.8% rise in fertiliser production and most importantly positive trends in the steel and cement sector. All these developments are largely welcome because undoubtedly a solid infrastructural base would be the driving force behind our economy.

NEW DELHI, INDIA - APRIL 8: Prime Minister Narendra Modi address the gathering during the launch of the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA (Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency) Yojana at Vigyan Bhawan on April 8, 2015 in New Delhi, India. In his Budget Speech for Financial Year 2015-16, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had proposed the creation of the bank, with a corpus of Rs. 20,000 crore, and credit guarantee corpus of Rs. 3,000 crore. The bank will extend credit of up to Rs.10 lakh to small businesses and regulate micro-finance institutions, to promote their growth, add to the country's output and create jobs. (Photo by Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Narendra Modi. Image credit: Arvind Yadav/Hindustan Times via Getty Images.

Attempts by Honourable Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi to revive maritime routes are definitely welcome. This aspect becomes all the more important to strike a balance with China given the speed with which China is currently expanding its infrastructure in an attempt to revive its grand One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. One belt One Road undertaken by China is an attempt to integrate itself in the global production network by constructing roads, sea ports, etc. with an attempt to facilitate easy movement of Chinese goods across the globe. If India really has to balance China, it should also compete with China and give tough competition by rapidly scaling up its transnational infrastructural projects to facilitate easy movement of Indian goods and services.

The larger question that still remains unanswered is whether India is, in fact, growing as these numbers suggest. While it’s quite impossible to refute that we are one of the fastest growing economies in the world, a worthwhile exercise would be to look beyond these numbers in greater detail. Examining the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), it can be observed that the eight core sector industries which showed 8.5% growth rate in April comprise only about 38%. There has also been a contraction in export for many consecutive months. Though the global slowdown would be a good excuse, this shouldn’t really deter us from taking up cutting edge initiatives to boost our declining exports.

The data available on the agricultural sector doesn’t throw enough light on droughts across the country. The deficient rainfall for the past two consecutive years has definitely left a scar despite forecasts of a better monsoon in the year to come. An excellent monsoon can be a huge relief but its unpredictability is definitely going to haunt the agricultural sector, which employs the majority of our citizens. A good monsoon can elevate hopes of a recovery by raising domestic income and demand but its absence by any chance would hurt a country like ours where farming is largely dependent on the monsoons. Figures of farmers‘ suicides are also extremely depressing. National Crime Records Bureau claims that nearly 46 farmers commit suicide every day in India.

Furthermore, Indian banks are going through an extremely rough patch with bad loans soaring high. Reckless lending to ineffective and irresponsible businesses has hurt our banks severely. It’s difficult to figure out how the government’s inclination to maintain a healthy fiscal deficit would facilitate recapitalisation of banks which is of paramount importance.

The short-term benefits of low oil prices in the form of contracting current account deficit and drop in inflation rates would not necessarily favour us if oil prices soar again. India is a net importer of oil and the worst possible thing that anyone would desire is inflation caused by an increase in the cost of production once oil prices increase.

From the above, it can be inferred that there are definitely some good signs but the contrary is also true. There are still some grey areas which ought to be addressed to maintain a sustainable growth trajectory. Though the government’s efforts are largely appreciated, the NDA government has definitely got its task cut out in the years to come. The government should also work on tackling droughts across the country and looking for avenues for modernisation of agriculture in a non-irrigation intensive manner. While hopes remain high, a lot needs to happen in the years to come if we are to boast about India being one of the genuinely fastest growing economies in the world.

Also read: $700 Billion: The Amount India Can Add To Its GDP If More Women Work.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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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