The United States (US) seems to be getting closer to Uttar Pradesh (UP).
It’s evident from back-to-back visits of two American dignitaries — Melinda Gates and Erin Soto — to the state.
Mission Director, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-India, Erin Soto’s six-day whirlwind tour of rural parts of the state and the state capital ended on Friday. And before her, Gates came representing the private US human development agency Bill & Milenda Gates Foundation, came calling last month.
Both met UP government officials and discussed identical and crucial rural-India issues –– improving mother and child health, containing infant mortality and mother mortality, and eradicating illiteracy.
Soto said: “We (USAID) are revising our strategy in UP where we plan to increase activities. Because UP’s human development index affects the global index.”
Gates in a meeting with UP chief minister Mayawati in March-end committed Rs 250 crore for improving the state’s human development index (which is the worst in India).
Explaining the reason behind USAID’s renewed interest, Soto said: “UP is relatively lower than others on human index. When we combine this with its large population then we understand that it not only impacts India’s statistics but also the global. UP’s index must improve if global index has to improve.”
Soto visited villages in Varanasi, Azamgarh, Ambedkar Nagar, Amethi, Rae Bareli and Lucknow. In villages she met villagers, women, pregnant women, block development officers, chief medical officers, saw community health centres, and women’s hospitals. In Lucknow she met principal secretaries of the education and the health departments and also the principal secretary to the chief minister.
USAID is looking for increased partnership with the government here in the areas of health, education, and agriculture.
She also said that some research in UP was impacting the world positively. She appreciated the experiments going on to introduce ‘franchising private hospitals’ to make pregnant women go in for institutional deliveries instead of delivering babies at home. Franchising private hospital mean that government would provide incentive to pregnant women for going to government-standardized private hospitals.