MD Writes...

There is an interesting phenomenon that has been happening – silently, quietly and yet strongly. Whether its Egypt or India, we see civil society and individual citizens standing up for good governance.

From midnight vigils to signature campaigns, from fasts to silent marches, they are asserting a right, spreading an awareness and making a change that few could have thought possible.

However, what is needed is for civil society to stand with, and not only against the government.

At IPE, we work to link the needs of government with the aspirations of social organisations ensuring a win-win situation. Whether its urban slums, rural schemes or service delivery, communities and governments must come together to deliver. Then only can truly inclusive development take place.

- Ashwajit Singh

Editorial

Dear All

This edition of INSPIRE pitches the happy news of reducing IMR with the sharp challenges of poverty and social protection in India.

Despite being the first priority of the MDGs, poverty in India has remained an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, perhaps hidden in a mystery. It presents a complex cauldron of economic, social and political issues which brew a form of 'sustained' poverty in the country. From bean counting the poor to policy reforms and inclusive growth, India is the poverty test case whose success could well determine the direction of global achievements.

After all, development needs to move on from merely 'reducing mortality' to eventuallly 'enhancing quality' of lives!

Do keep writing in to us. Stay Inspired. Stay Ahead!!
- Abdul Rahim &
Preethi Thomas
World Bank Reviews Social Protection Schemes in India

Few things are as complicated as poverty in India. Despite spending over 2% of its GDP on social protection schemes, India's efforts at reducing poverty have had limited impact as it continues to house one-third of the world's poor!
These are some of the findings from a 7 year comprehensive study done by the World Bank on 'Social Protection for a Changing India' released on 18 May 2011. The report reviews performance of major central social protection schemes and complemented with another study on 'The perspectives of Poverty in India' (World Bank, 2011) makes the following observations on India's efforts to address poverty:
  • There has been steady progress in reducing poverty as measured by consumption
  • Even so, vulnerability remains high with new sources emerging and diversity of needs among the poor increasing
  • Data issues cloud the assertion of growth being pro-poor in the post-reform period
  • Despite spending significant resources on its core safety net programs, poverty reduction has been much lower than could be hoped for
  • The main driver of poor cost effectiveness is the Public Distribution System (PDS)
  • Urban and non-farm growth are emerging as new drivers of poverty reduction and need to be included in the plans
  • The targeted Health Insurance scheme - Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) is the most promising effort
  • Inequality is on the rise and may be higher than often thought
The specific proposal of this report is that over time India should aim for a “3 +block” strategy. This would involve three core Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) or “pillars”, combined with a block grant from which states could finance other safety net or social security programs.
Coming in the backdrop of the 2011 Below Poverty Line (BPL) census which is being conducted from June - December 2011, the reports highlight often overlooked challenges which may be useful even for the Twelfth 5 year Plan preparations.
Social Protection for a Changing India, 2011
SOCIAL PROTECTION FOR A CHANGING INDIA
World Bank, 2011
Vol 1 - Main Summary
(92 pp, 1.4 MB)
Vol 2 - Detailed Report
(320 pp, 6.0 MB)
Perspectives on Poverty in India, World Bank
PERSPECTIVES ON POVERTY IN INDIA: Stylized Facts from Survey Data
World Bank, 2011
Download Report here
(296 pp, 3.8 MB)


So, how many in India are poor?
 
Surprisingly, there is no clear answer to this. Current norms of calorific consumption laid down by the Planning Commission are not only outdated as brought out in this article, but have also been questioned by the Supreme Court. The current data about poverty in India is as follows:
Another way of looking at poverty is to understand the hunger index in India. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2010 Report published by the International Food Policy Research Institute ranked India at 67 among 84 countries. The Indian State Hunger Index (2009 Report) covering 17 states and 95% of Indian population also provides an insight into hunger profile in india.

India's IMR reduces to 50!
According to the SRS Bulletin January 2011,  Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in India has decreased significantly from 53 (in 2008) to 50 (in 2009). Rural IMR declined from 58 to 55 while urban IMR reduced from 36 to 34. Similarly birthrate improved (from 22.8 to 22.5) and death rate (from 7.4 to 7.3) during the period. The earlier SRS Bulletin was for 2008 and issued in October 2009. Time Series data on some demographic indicators is available here and can also be viewed through this dynamic Google Chart.
World Bank approves NGRBP
On 31 May 2011, the World Bank's Board approved $1 Billion support ($199 million interest-free IDA credit and $801 million low-interest IBRD loan) for the National Ganga River Basin Project in India. The funding will, over the next 8 years, help strengthen capacity of the just formed National Ganga River Basin Authority and implement demonstrative investments for reducing point-source pollution at priority locations on the Ganga. Read more about the project here.

Indian Urbanisation Challenges
India is rapidly urbanising and its urban population is expected to reach 600 million by 2031. From the current expenditure levels, this will mean an increase in urban infrastructure investment from 0.7% of GDP to 1.1% by 2031-32. Complementing this finding, Amitabh Kundu analyses the 'Politics of Urban Growth' (EPW, May 14, 2011) and how India must gear up to address these in the Twelfth Five year plan and beyond.
Six Thinking Hats
Six Thinking Hats is a thinking framework popularized by Edward de Bono, a world-renowned author of dozens of books on creative and lateral thinking. In the last 25 years, this method has been adopted by organisations around the world as an aid for individual and group decision-making and other problem-solving applications. Here are some articles to use this effectively to improve your thinking as well as in public speaking.

RBI releases State Finances Review
The Reserve Bank of India has released it's study titled State Finances : A Study of Budgets for 2010-11 recently. The report contains data, analysis and assessment of State government finances and although it observes corrections in key fiscal indicators, it voices concern over the quality of such adjustments. This report also includes a special section on 'Role of Finance Commissions' and the complete report with state specific annexes is available here.
Regulating Over-use of Antibiotics!
India's Union Health Ministry has formalised a draft National Policy for Containment of Antibiotic Resistance to curb irrational use of antibiotics which promotes resistance developing against them, hence making it ineffective. The Policy includes recommendations for a separate schedule for antibiotics, hospital surveillance for monitoring antibiotic resistance and encouraging rational drug use. Read a press article on this.
NREGA for Climate Change
This EPW paper (May 14, 2011) attempts to assess the environmental implications of activities under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). By reviewing works such as plantations, water recharge and water bodies development being done under NREGA
in Chitradurga district of Karnataka, it concludes that NREGA is a powerful model for aligning climate change concerns with poverty reduction in India. Read paper here
DFID Action Plans released
On 31 May 2011, DFID released its  4 year Country-wise Operational Plans outlining the results they will deliver. The plan for India is yet to be uploaded - others are available here. Meanwhile, on 25 May 2011, US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron made a joint Commitment to accelerating progress towards the MDGs through a series of UK -US initiatives as brought out in this  Joint fact sheet.
New study to assess Black Money
Amid mounting pressure , the Union Finance Ministry announced an in-depth study to quantify the unaccounted income and wealth in India and suggest ways to detect and prevent  such practices in future. The study will be undertaken by three national institutions i.e. National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCEAR), National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) and National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM). Read Press Release.
Battling for the girl child
On May 24, 2011 Lancet released a series of papers highlighting selective sex determination in India which shockingly is more prevalent in the affluent and educated groups. The Lancets' 'Trends in selective abortions of girls in India' review this and asks whether India can at all 'achieve a balance of sexes at birth'? A similar article in EPW on 'Long battle for the girl child' reviews effectiveness of the ban on pre-natal sex determination and also has disappointing results.

ADB invests in Climate Change Technology VCs
The Asian Development Bank announced that it is investing $60 million to help set up three Venture Capital funds dedicated to nurturing new climate change technologies. The funds - Aloe Environment Fund III, Keytone Ventures II, and VenturEast Life Fund III - will raise further funds from the private sector and target markets of China and India, which are actively promoting clean energy and sustainable technologies. Read more here.

The Power of Vulnerability
Brene Brown, a Professor of Social Work, studies human connection - our ability to empathise, belong, love. In this poignant and funny talk at TEDx, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to understand how people relate to vulnerabilities. And in thhe process, she got to know herself better as well as to understand people in general. View this Video here (21 mins).