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Structural reforms have changed the social sector

One of India’s biggest challenges has been, and continues to be, the state of our social capital.

analysis Updated: Apr 22, 2019 09:23 IST
Amitabh Kant
Amitabh Kant
social sector,health sector,health care in india
Providing high quality education remains a mammoth task. An Ernst & Young(PRASHANT WAYDANDE)

As the world’s largest democracy goes through its multiphased election process, it’s important take a step back to maintain a clear line of vision on what eventually is of key importance: the ease of living and access to satisfaction of our citizens. A series of structural reforms have transformed India’s social sector. One of India’s biggest challenges has been, and continues to be, the state of our social capital. The systematic modus operandi has been to move away from a macro policy, and, instead, to address the grassroots needs, leveraging massive advances in e-governance and ICT tools.

Nutrition has traditionally been left ignored despite the daunting challenges we face. According to a National Family Health Survey (NFHS4), nearly one in every three children is stunted and every other woman is anaemic. Taking into account the multiple determinants of malnutrition, the recently launched POSHAN Abhiyaan is an overarching umbrella scheme that brings together a comprehensive package of intervention and services focused on the vital 1,000 days of a child’s life delivered by multiple ministries through an appropriate governance structure that fosters sectoral convergence. POSHAN Abhiyaan further ideates a Jan Andolan through involvement of local communities to push for a Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC), since focusing merely on the supply side without convincing families of the need to avail of the required services would understandably yield diminishing returns to government investments. The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana is a conditional cash transfer scheme for pregnant mothers and lactating women that would reinforce the SBCC strategy. The beneficiary cost norms of the supplementary nutrition programme under the Integrated Child Development Services has been revised substantially upwards, and indexed to inflation so that the entitlement in real terms remains impactful. Mission Indradhanush has ensured that in the lowest quintile 201 districts, full immunisation coverage rates have increased by well over 10 times.

The landmark Ayushman Bharat scheme has transformed India’s health care. In just 200 days, 20 lakh patients have received insurance treatment worth more than Rs 2,600 crore, with more than three crore e-cards having been generated. These are staggering figures.

Providing high quality education remains a mammoth task. An Ernst & Youngstudy on higher education points out that by 2030, India will be the youngest country in the world, with 14 crore individuals of college-going age. World class education, especially higher education, remains one of our biggest challenges.

There have been key outcomes in the sector. The categorisation of universities for graded autonomy has been initiated with well-performing universities so that they can be awarded various dimensions of academic, administrative and financial autonomy. Another outcome is the strengthening of the accreditation framework, which enables additional agencies to be empaneled by a credible and independent Accreditation Advisory Council (AAC). All accreditation reports must, therefore, be made public online for transparency.

In schools, states have successfully synchronised academic initiatives with administrative reforms to create an enabling environment for these new practices to take root, aided by technology for learning outcomes and monitoring/evaluation. The focus has been on a systems approach towards improving learning outcomes. These are being replicated by all states. NITI has also developed the state-level School Education Quality Index which seeks to make improvements in learning outcomes a focal point of governance by ranking states and putting the rankings in the public domain.

A lot of work is happening on introducing innovation to education through ICT so as to reach the farthest corners of India, and this sector is a key one for growth in the next 10 years. A unique example is of Banka District of Bihar which has utilised mobile telephony to spread education in schools.

The Aspirational Districts Programme was formed to comprehensively address the development needs and transform 115 districts across 28 states that require the most progress on various development parameters. These districts account for more than 20% of India’s population and cover over 8,600 gram panchayats. The programme’s emphasis is on improving districts on 49 indicators across five core indicators: education; health and nutrition; financial inclusion; agriculture; skill development; and basic infrastructure. The programme is based on real time data, constant monitoring and is a collaborative project between the Central and state governments in partnership with various philanthropic foundations and the larger civil society. The main attempt is to prioritise resources, concentrate efforts, address governance and capacity bottlenecks in order to accelerate the pace of change in the human development indicators.

Amitabh Kant is CEO, NITI Aayog

The views expressed are personal.

First Published: Apr 22, 2019 07:18 IST