Is there is a sense of disillusion creeping it among the people who had supported the anti-graft movement. Is there a feeling that perhaps it was a fad? Just like it is now a fad to question the movement- both its style and its content.
Well, the middle class is known to be cynical and skeptical. At the same time, it should be mature enough to understand that getting rid of something like corruption that has been so deeply entrenched not just in the system but also in our psyche is a long term affair.
It is alleged that while the middle class has been quick to express its disgust at the politicians, the most identifiable culprit, can it absolve itself of all responsibilities. What about the fact that it itself is so neck deep in corruption – fudging bills, evading tax, greasing palms to get a service out of turn. Surely, these are serious issues and we need to reflect on our realities. At the same time, perhaps we all seek redemption. In the movement, we find some solace and deliverance. Surely, the first fight against corruption should start at home and perhaps with the person in the mirror, but the movement did give the push and it must be acknowledged.
Finally, criticism is good– it implies engagement, it implies ownership and it implies public debate which is so much at the core of any democratic process. Let us be open to criticism and help these to make the instrument (whether it is Jan Lokpal Bill or whether it goes by any other name) robust and inclusive.
What are the preconditions of a healthy infant:
- During pregnancy, the mother must have access to sufficient quality and quantity food including during pregnancy and lactation
- During pregnancy woman and breastfeeding period, the mother must take iron folic acid supplements daily to reduce maternal anaemia and improve pregnancy and lactation outcomes
- During adolescence, girls must be protected against undernutrition and nutritional deficiencies like anaemia through dietary counseling, weekly iron and folic acid supplementation, twice yearly de-worming prophylaxis
- Regular consumption of salt with adequate levels of iodine is required by all pregnant women in order to prevent foetal brain damage associated with iodine deficiency
- Women must avoid early marriage and pregnancy
What this indicates is that at the core of any nutrition program for the infants is actually a program to improve the health outcomes of the mothers. Of course, woman’s health and well-being has its own inherent qualities and every women has a right to good health whether or not she is a mother. However, the point here is that any program that addresses nutritional needs of the children acknowledging it as the building block of the future must start with the women. This pertains not just to health but also to education as significant disparity in nutritional status can be explained by mothers’ education and literacy. Studies have found a significant association between low maternal literacy and poor nutrition status of young children. A healthy and educated mother who enjoys a good social standing is the best guarantee for a healthy child and indeed of development.
- The mid-day meal a government primary school in Orissa’s Kendrapara district was stopped with a section of villagers registering their protest allegedly against the meal being cooked by women of a particular caste. MDM was stopped at Sidha Marichani primary school at Sanamarichapalli village in Rajnagar tehsil yesterday. Some members of the Village Education Committee (VEC) made their way to the school kitchen and forced the cooks to stop cooking.Jan 21, 2010 ( http://zeenews.india.com/news597834.html)
These media reports reflect the disturbing trend of untouchability raising its ugly head in Mid Day Meal program, one of the most important school feeding cum health programs. However, it was something not totally unexpected. Sociologists and development practitioners had warned during the inception of the program about the possibilities of such issues and that it needed to be handled taking on latent caste issues head on.
There are many studies that point towards the influence of the caste system on children, especially Dalit children, in their pursuit of education. The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education had noted “teachers have been known to declare that Dalit pupils ‘cannot learn unless they are beaten’”. Noted journalist, Sainath, reported that in Rajasthan, children of the Balmiki (traditionally scavengers) caste, “are made to sit on their own mats, often outside the room or at the door”. (Cited in Nambissan and Sedwal 2002). http://www.hurights.or.jp/archives/pdf/asia-s-ed/v10/15Education%20of%20Ex-Untouchables,%20Dalits.pdf.
Addressing these issues are critical towards the achievement of a society that is trying to unshackle itself from its past and embrace somewhat alien but cherished value of equity.
How do you think that the issue of caste impacting MDM should be handled ?
- 56 percentage of children aged 12-23 months do not receive all recommended vaccines
- 46 percentage of children under age 3 are underweight
- 57 number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the last 5 years
- Only 26.2 percent of children with diarrhoea receive ORS
- 79.2 percent Children age 6-35 months are anaemic
National Family Health Survey 3
Clearly, child health indicators of India are anything but encouraging. While the country talks about reaping demographic dividend with a high proportion of young population, the truth is that, it is doing little to ensure that the young have access to basics of nutrition and healthcare. The current share of programs on children in the budget is around 4.86 per cent. Out of this, nearly 70 per cent is marked for education while health gets a modest 11.43 per cent. In these circumstances, it is not surprising that problems like Infant mortality and malnourishment persist.
What is most unfortunate is that a lot of this is preventable- it needs penetration of the programs. However, despite a fleet of programs, achievements remain far from satisfactory. While budgetary ‘constraints’ – or should we say ‘priorities’- remain a challenge, the questions of accountability cannot be evaded. The anganwadi worker (AWW), for example, has it in her job description to provide care to expectant and lactating mothers and their infants. However, this is rarely done. One of the reasons for low motivation levels is the poor remuneration. Improved pay, with training in identifying and solving some newborn health problems, could go a long way in promoting neo natal health. Unfortunately, we fall short on doing the additional bit.
Talking about accountability, a WHO study reports about the Child Survival and Safe Motherhood (CSSM) intervention undertaken by the National Neonatology Forum (NNF) with support from the government. Under the program, operationalization of newborn care was initiated at district level. This included training of medical officers and nurses in newborn care at the Primary Health Centre (PHC), first referral unit (FRU) and District Hospitals in 30 districts along with the supply of essential neonatal care equipment.. The project monitoring report revealed that at PHCs and FRUs the utilization of neonatal care equipment such as weighing machines, thermometers and warmers was a mere 50%. In some facilities the NNF review staff found the equipment still in their packing cases even after a year. Most of the trained medical staff had been transferred and the new incumbents were unaware of the use of the equipment or the principles of essential newborn care. (Source: http://www.whoindia.org/LinkFiles/Commision_on_Macroeconomic_and_Health_Bg_P2__Newborn_and_child_health_in_India.pdf).
Why do we put up with this? Where do we fix accountability?
It is important to empower communities, families and mothers, so that they not only seek but demand health care for the children. Let this demand be articulated through political forums. Sensitize the media to report about these chronic issues so that it hits the collective conscience of the society. Fight elections on these issues. Make it a national priority. Else, we will lose another generation before we can hand over the mantel of development to them.
Going by strictly economic measures, India is a successful growth story- impressive growth rates insulated by the economic downturn. Impressive Foreign investment, rising average incomes, that have doubled since the mid-1980s. IT driven industries employing a large work force with companies like Infosys and Wipro at the forefront of a knowdege based economy. What is this, if not a success story for globalization?
The dampener comes when we start looking at the quality of life of the people. Poverty continues to haunt as people continue lack livelihood choices, the country has the highest children under nourishment figures in the world, girl child continue to be discriminated against. In fact, it seems that the India describes in the para one has nothing in common with the India we are talking about here. They are just two different world with nothing in common.
Fundamentally, the problem is that the much applauded economic growth has been built on a exclusive and narrow base. Unless the deep-rooted inequalities– in access to and opportunities for health, nutrition, education, employment are addressed, India and Bharat will remain two countries with different realities and no meeting point. For India, development and social progress will require more than sustained economic growth brought about by globalization. It will need deep and undivided attention to inequalities and broadening the platform for greater inclusion of the disadvantaged sections.
In the context of student-teacher relationship, the Dalit dimension takes a new form. While, it is one of the most fundamental relationship an individual has and is at the core of the learning process, it often takes an ugly turn. There are several reports of Dalit students being abused by non Dalit teachers. Typically, these teachers do not belong or stay in the same village. As a result of discriminatory treatment, large number of Dalit children are intimidated and drop out of such oppressive school environments, especially in the early stages, leading to high drop out rates.
In order to address the problem, there were directives to employ Dalit teachers. However, such teachers also reported mistreatment not just by fellow teachers but also by parents of the children. There are instances where the children have refused to eat mid day meals prepared by Dailt cooks. There have been instances of abuse and unfortunately, these have not been dealt with the severity such acts deserved. Such actions that indicate part lethargy and part complicity have only eroded the faith of the Dalit students and teachers in the educational system.
It is indeed shameful that the place of education becomes the stage for perpetuating inequity and the student-teacher relationship that is accorded such a high place in Indian society has become subservient to regressive caste practices. Is there a way out of this?
What was the stated objective of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA)? FCRA came into being with the purpose of maintaining a watch on the foreign exchange received by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). The intention was to ensure that the contributions received were used for the purposes specified, and that these were consistent with the principles of national sovereignty.
The stated purpose is stated to install a mechanism to regulate receipt and utilization of foreign contribution. However, other than putting barriers to sourcing funding from abroad, what has been the contribution of FCRA in terms of a serious engagement to monitor utilization? An NGO that wishes to utilize funds of a foreign development funding agency has to register under the FCRA Act. However, as a practice organizations have to apply for prior permission for any funds that it is likely to receive. The department invariably gets a survey done of the applicant organization by state intelligence agencies. While as a procedure it seems reasonable, the practical difficulties it presents to the NGO is enormous and takes a big toll on their time and resources.
Finally, does FCRA really meet its objective- Does it really compare the costs of targets achieved with what was proposed? Do the officials really ever visit the field to verify to monitor achievements as stated in the documents?
It is not time we looked as Acts as constructive instruments and not as instruments to control power.
What is most disturbing about the personality cult of the anti-graft movement?
Why not Gandhian Anna Hazare or yoga guru Ramdev baba? What is wrong in having a torch bearers of the movement? After all don’t movements need a face to rally around?
The question is- is this the kind of civil society led mass movement against corruption we were talking about.? Are we not, once again, getting mobilized around an individualistic pursuit where the masses are just ‘herds’.
How do we address complex issues like corporate-politician relationship? Where is the public education that is required for something as complex as the Lokpal bill? Where is the public debate beyond the newspaper articles, TV shows , mostly in English language and web based interactions, again in English.
It is perhaps time to introspect and reflect on the way the movement is being carried out. Perhaps it is time to re-orient - moving away from individuals and getting mobilized about the issues.
The harsh clauses in the FCRA radically alter the state-Voluntary sector relationship. To begin with, it must be understood that this relationship is based on contestation. It is the primary duty of the civil society to question the state. However, if the civil society has to depend on a ‘cordial’ relationship with the state machinery for the approval of something as fundamental as funding, does it not defeat the entire point about having a robust sector that challenges as well as partners with the state based on issues?
Admittedly, both the parties have reasons to be alarmed based on certain threat perceptions- the state feels that some elements in the society use the garb of the voluntary sector to source funding to engage in illegal activities that are not in the ‘national interest.’ However, it is also important to ask and find answers to the fundamental question- are all actions of the state in ‘national interest’. After all, national interest is a deeply contentious issue, especially in the context of India where the state idea of national interest is seen as converging neatly with private and corporate interest. At the same time, to declare the voluntary sector as immune to any fraudulent behaviour is also not without mistake.
It is time the state and the voluntary sector come together on a common platform and discuss issues head-on. It is time, the line between the acceptable and unacceptable is negotiated and accepted by both. The lack of clarity does not help either the state or the civil society. It is critical to facilitate a common perspective on these proposed changes and chart out a way forward.
How should civil society (OK-whatever it means - the entire range of institutions and associations outside the state and the political parties, specifically the voluntary and not for profit sector) articulate it views?
What are the best and the most accepted ways to get heard? What are the best ways to get a response from a state that is an active conduit in the game of corruption? What are the best ways to hold those in power accountable?
We are swift to admonish Anna Hazare style of agitation and scorn at Baba Ramdev’s hysterics. However, in our rejection of these, we need to propose and produce alternative forms to articulate our voice.
The UPA government had created a space for civil society by setting up the National Advisory Committee (NAC). The creation of the NAC brought in grassroots activists and allowed mainstreaming of their ideas into policy making. Can we have something similar for the anti-corruption campaign as well? However, it is difficult and complex as is reflected by the experience of the joint drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill. It is time that the anti-corruption movement started broadening its support base and make the critical mass felt.
What do you think are the ways and means of doing it?