Highlighting the social sector’s tainted past of high expenditure and poor outcome, the economic survey has sought revamp of Centre’s flagship programmes for providing jobs, health and educational security to ensure better delivery and effective utilisation of funds.
The survey calls for an overhaul at the time when the government is considering changes in several social sector schemes, including Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), amid growing clamour to rejig the programmes for better productivity. Poised on the edge of a cliff
India since 2008-09 — except in 2011-12 — has allocated nearly one-fourth of the public money for social sector services (Rs 12, 00,000 crore), but still finds itself at the lower ebb of the global human development index. As a result, leading economists question its aim for high growth without adequate trickle-down effect for the poor.
The country’s ranking as per the United Nation’s latest human development report was 134 among the 187 countries in 2012, even lower than countries like South Africa, Indonesia and Sri Lanka which witnessed lesser economic growth than India.
“The existing gap in health and education indicators in India as compared to several developed and developing countries highlights the need for development of basic health and education at a much faster pace,” the survey said. In both health and education, the survey has sought major changes.
It wants the provision of having a school within a kilometre of a habitation in the Right to Education (RTE) Act to be revisited saying it has led to mushrooming of schools with infrastructure in the form of building getting wasted.
“A single and bigger school for nearby places could serve the purpose better,” the survey said, while asking the government to introduce “outcome-based assessment of teachers”. RTE is being implemented through Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
The survey also argued for a Public Private Partnership with “careful regulatory oversight” to ensure affordable health for rural India. A major flaw cited in the government’s National Rural Health Mission was under-utilisation of well-built infrastructure primarily because of inadequate health personnel.
But, the biggest overhaul the survey wants is in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, as more than `2, 00,000 crore have been spent since its implementation in 2006.
Saying many of its provisions were not realistic, the survey pointed out that the need for community projects has saturated as they have been completed with other public funds, low wages were not attracting productive labour and emphasis has shifted to building assets on land of beneficiaries rather than community.
“There was an urgent need to revamp MGNREGA to prevent its misuse and make it a development-oriented programme creating tangible and meaningful assets and infrastructure including tourism,” the survey said.
On the broad aim for the revamp, the survey said: “A mere mark-up each year in the budget for existing programmes or starting new programmes will not suffice. What is needed is a ‘zero-budgeting approach’ with a revamp, reorganisation and convergence of social sector schemes with a minimum size prescribed for the schemes.”