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Why India, Despite Its Economic Growth, Fares Poorly On Human Development

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Human development, coined by economist Mahbub ul Haq, refers to a process which demonstrates how we as humans—from what we are to what we were—have evolved over a certain period. It aims at setting new standards as soon as the previous ones are achieved, raising the bar for themselves in terms of the standard of living, thinking, achieving financial means, and any area where there is a scope for improvement.

It focuses on scaling up resources to help humans lead a sustainable life, have opportunities to grow economically, socially and morally. Human development has different meanings and goals for each nation. Roughly speaking, the goals can be divided in two ways: for a developing country and a developed country.

Developing countries like India, struggling to provide the basic needs for a healthy living in equal proportion to its people, aim to fulfill these fundamental aspirations of their people by distributing opportunities judicially, whereas developed countries like Japan, having attained a certain standard of living for their people, look forward to setting higher standards for themselves to arrive at.

The Human Development Index (HDI), the Human Poverty Index (HPI) and the Human Development Index (MPI) are some measures of human development.

India ranks 130 out of 189 countries on the 2018 Human Development Index released by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The country’s index for 2017 was 0.640. The reports suggest between 1990 and 2017, India’s HDI value has gone up from 0.427 to 0.640, marking a commendable increase of nearly 50%. In another report, published by the UN’s latest Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), it was claimed India had lifted 271 million people out of poverty line, from 2005-06 to 2015-16, over the period of ten years.

These statistics clearly show that we have come a long way and made remarkable headway; yet far more needs to be achieved to catch up with highly developed countries like Norway, Switzerland, Australia and Ireland in terms of HDI. The fundamental blocks for human development are equity, sustainability, productivity, empowerment, cooperation and security. To live up to people’s expectations on given areas for development, India, in my opinion, should work on the following key areas:

1. Education

Education has been one of the major concerning areas in India since independence. According to a report, published in “Jansatta”, a Hindi newspaper, there are more or less 1 million out of 6 million posts for teachers lying vacant in government schools. What adds to the misery is that 0.9 million of those lying vacant are at the primary level, which deems to lay the foundation for the future of children. The plight at government schools of the country is visible to all. Unified District Information System of Education (UDISI) in 2016-17 revealed there were 92,275 schools running on a solitary teacher at both elementary and secondary level.

With the quality of education deteriorating at every level in government schools, parents are opting for private schools—most of which charge a hefty amount of money, not affordable to many—for their children. Lakhs of crores have been spent on Sarva Shikha Abhiyan, a movement by the government to spread education, but corruption and ignorance at every level have turned it into an uphill task to transfer benefits to the rightful completely. Around 94k crores have been allotted to the education sector in the 2018–19 budget, about 10% more of the previous budget, but it sums up to only 3.4% of the total budget, down from 3.74% the previous year.

The experts suggest that the education budget should sum at least 5 to 7% of the total for better and accepted standards. The continuous underspending of whatever allotted by successive governments at the centre has been another major concern (17% in 2014-15). How can we—with this education standard—even dream of becoming a global leader? Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement claiming India will provide teachers across the globe seems hilarious considering the scarcity of quality teachers, and must be applied in India first if we really wish to become “Vishwa Guru”.

2. Health Services

A total amount of  ₹64,559 crore has been allocated to the health ministry by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman, making it 2.32% of the total budget. This allocation seems to neglect the crisis of acceptable health services in the country. According to World Health Organization(WHO), there should be 50 beds and 25 doctors for every ten thousand people, while in India, 7 and 9 could be provided, failing miserably to match the accepted standard. A report, launched by the central health ministry, National Health Profile 2015, claimed there was a single hospital for every 61 thousand, and one bed for every 1833 people. The plight at government hospitals has grown so severe that people fear going there due to the negligence of staff. With the population increasing rapidly, the government needs to take major steps to ensure acceptable health services.

3. Unemployment

The statistics ministry disclosed that the unemployment rate has surged up to 6.1%, the highest in the last 45 years. Unemployment gives birth to many threatening elements in the society like increasing crime rate. When unemployed, common men are bound to suffer excessive pressure, anxiety, depression and other mental ailments. Governments should pay heed to the generation of employment at a satisfactory level. Citizens with sufficient financial resources to look after their family and themselves can play a considerable role in the overall growth of the nation—knowingly or unknowingly.

4. Population Explosion

The world is facing an acute crisis of population explosion. According to a report, launched by United Nations in June 2019, the world population is expected to increase by 2 billion, making it 9.7 billion, while India’s population is expected to surpass China’s by 2027. This has become a central impediment to high growth in the country, taking into account the fact that we have failed miserably as a country to distribute equal resources to our people. The gap between the rich and the poor is beyond control. In consideration of the current situation, our failure to stop population growth may lead to unwanted consequences.

The dream of being a successful nation in terms of human satisfaction requires full participation from us. We are required to realize the responsibilities we are entrusted upon to take our nation ahead in every possible aspect. All the government institutions meant for the well-being of people will be bound to function far better—provided we become aware and put aside personal benefits we may receive by not abiding by the law.

This post has originally been published at TheOpinionExpress

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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