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Press Information Bureau is the nodal agency for communicating to the media on behalf of Government of India. Follow for official updates from the horse's mouth.

Towards ENSURING quality Education

*Ghanshyam Goel

The department of School Education & Literacy is taking several steps to make school education job-oriented and qualitative. The Department is implementing a component of Vocationalisation of Secondary & Higher Secondary Education under Centrally sponsoredlogo.png

scheme of Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) with an aim to prepare educated, employable and competitive youth for various sectors of the economy and global market. It also envisages to fill the gap between educated and employable, reduce the dropout rate at the secondary level and decrease the pressure on academic higher education. The scheme involves introduction of job-oriented vocational subjects in sectors like Retail, Automobile, Agriculture, Telecommunication, Healthcare, Beauty & Wellness, IT-ITes, Electronics, Security, Media & Entertainment, etc. along with the general education subjects from class IX to class XII.

For granting academic equivalence to students of Industrial training Institutes (ITIs) affiliated with National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT), Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), an autonomous organisation of Ministry of Human Resource Development with the Directorate General of Training, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship on 15th July, 2016. The MoU provides a mechanism for grant of Secondary and Senior Secondary certificate to ITI students/passouts who have pursued two years of ITI course, after class 8th and 10th respectively.

In order to provide quality education to students at the secondary level, various interventions are funded under RMSA. These include provisions for:

  1. additional Teachers to improve Pupil Teacher ratio,
  2. induction and In-service training for Teachers and Principals including leadership training
  3. Maths and Science kits
  4. ICT facilities in school,
  5. Lab equipments
  6. Special teaching for learning enhancement.

 

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Under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), the State Governments and UT Administrations are supported on several interventions to improve teaching standards, including regular in-service teachers’ training, induction training for newly recruited teachers, training of untrained teachers to acquire professional qualifications, additional teachers for improving pupil-teacher ratio, academic support for teachers through block and cluster resource centres,  continuous and comprehensive evaluation to equip the teacher to measure pupil performance and provide remedial action wherever required, and teacher and school grants for development of appropriate teaching-learning materials, etc. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 specifies statutory duties and responsibilities of teachers and lays down the minimum qualifications for a person to be eligible for appointment as a teacher in elementary schools. Under SSA, textbooks are provided to all children in Government/Local Body and Government aided schools, including Madarsas desirous of introducing the State curriculum, within an upper ceiling of Rs. 150/-per child at primary level and Rs. 250/- per child at upper primary level. The SSA norms also provide for 2 Sets of uniforms to children from the deprived community viz. all girls, SC, ST and BPL boys, @ Rs. 400 per head. It also supports States/UTs on early grade reading, writing & comprehension, and early Mathematics programmes through a sub-programme namely ‘Padhe Bharat Badhe Bharat’ (PBBB) in classes I and II.

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Further the Government has launched Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyan (RAA) programme on 09.07.2015, inter alia, as a sub-component of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and RMSA to motivate and engage children of the age group of 6-18 years in Science, Mathematics and Technology through observation, experimentation, inference drawing, model building, etc. both through inside and outside classroom activities.

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For improving the quality of school education, the School Standards & Evaluation framework, known as ‘Shaala Siddhi’ has been developed by National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), to enable schools to evaluate their performance in a more focused and strategic manner and to facilitate them to make professional judgments for improvement.

In order to improve quality of education, the National Council of Educational Research & Training (NCERT) conducts periodic national surveys of learning achievement of children in grade III, V, VIII and X. Four rounds of National Achievement Survey (NAS) have been conducted so far for grade V and three rounds for classes III & VIII. These reveal improvement in learning achievement levels of pupils, in identified subjects from first round to fourth round. From the current year onwards, the Government has decided to conduct annual National Achievement Surveys covering all students from class 1-8 in all Government and Government aided schools. The students learning assessment will be according to the Learning Outcomes developed by NCERT for all subjects covering all classes in the elementary cycle.

*Author is Director General (M&C), posted at PIB, New Delhi. The article is based on the inputs received from M/o Human Resource Development

MGNREGA – Lifeline to millions

*Shambhu Nath Chaudhary

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has come a long way since its inception and has become a lifeline to millions. The Act was notified on 7th September, 2005 to provide minimum of 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Social inclusion, gender parity, social security and equitable growth are the founding pillars of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA.

Achievements

During Financial Year (FY) 2015-16, 235 crore Persondays were generated which was the highest compared to the previous five years. During FY 2016-17 so far, 4.8 crore households were provided employment in 142.64 lakh works. In the process 200 crore person-days of employment were generated. Out of the total employment, 56% have been generated for women. This is the highestever participation of women since inception of the programme.

Total expenditure in the programme since its inception is Rs. 3,76,546 crore and  Rs.48,000 crore is the allocation of fund for FY 2017-18, which is the highest ever allocation for MGNREGA. The expenditure in FY 2016-17 so far is Rs.51,902 crore and is the highest since inception.

On an average, 25 to 30 lakh works were completed every year (till FY 2013-14). On the contrary, 51.3 lakh works have been completed so far in current FY 2016-17.

For the first time since inception of the programme, Consolidated Guidelines for Water Conservation were drafted. Mission Water Conservation – Planning and monitoring Framework for Natural Resource Management (NRM) related works under MGNREGA in convergence with Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) and Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) has been prepared for scientific planning and execution of water management works with the use of latest technology is the focus area of the Ministry.

In FY 2016-17 (so far) 63% of total expenditure is on NRM (Natural Resource Management) works. Expenditure on agriculture and allied sector works in FY 2016-17 is nearly 70%, which was only around 48 % in FY 2013-14.

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GeoMGNREGA is a path breaking initiative that uses space technology for geo-tagging all assets created under MGNREGA for improved planning, effective monitoring, enhanced visibility and greater transparency. The initiative was implemented in FY 2016-17, and so far, nearly 65 Lakh assets have been geotagged and made available in the public domain.

Direct Benefit Transfer

To further streamline the fund flow mechanism and bring down delay in payment of wages, the Ministry of Rural Development has implemented National Electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS) in 21 States and 1 Union Territory. Around 96% of the wages are being paid electronically into the Bank/Post Office accounts of MGNREGA workers through Electronic Fund Management System (eFMS). In FY 2013-14, only 37% of the wages were paid electronically.

8.9 crore active workers have their Aadhaar numbers seeded in NREGASoft-MIS so far, while the number was merely 76 Lakh in January 2014. As of now, 4.25 crore workers have been enabled for Aadhaar Based Payment System (ABPS).

Good Governance Initiatives

Job card verification and updation was taken up during FY 2016-17, and 75% of active job cards have been updated/ verified in campaign mode.

Initiative has been taken to simplify MGNREGA through issuance of Annual Master Circular (AMC) for FY 2016-17 by superseding 1039 circulars/advisories issued earlier. The AMC for FY 2017-18 will be issued.

Reduction in number of Registers being maintained at Gram Panchayat level to 7 simplified Registers from an average of 22 Registers has been implemented. So far, 2.05 lakh Gram Panchayats have already adopted it.

The programme is progressing towards a more independent and empowered system of Social Audit and Internal Audit to ensure growth with accountability through a trained community cadre of social auditors drawn from women SHGs.

New Initiatives

The Ministry has taken up skill development of the MGNREGA workers through initiatives like Bare Foot Technicians and Project LIFE (Livelihood In Full Employment) in order to move them up the skilling ladder.

The Ministry initiated Inter State Exchange Programmes, a process ensuring sharing of ideas and good practices. So far, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Meghalaya, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have already been visited by various States during FY 2016-17.

For the first time, guidelines for Non-PMGSY Roads were developed based on PMGSY Guidelines for basic layer. The asset will be durable with a possibility of upgradation to PMGSY standards in future.

The Performance Outcome Report of MGNREGA was for the first time published during FY 2015-16, and will be published for FY 2016-17.

*Author is posted at Press Information Bureau, New Delhi. The article is based on the inputs from M/o Rural Development.

Challenges to protect Forests in India

International Day of Forests, March 21, 2017

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India is one of the mega diversity countries in the world with different types of forests. Officially 20 per cent of geographical area in the country is under forest cover. The National Forest Policy (1988) aims to increase the forest cover to one third.

According to India State Forest Report released in 2015, the forest cover has increased by 5081 square kilometres between 2013 – 2015, increasing the carbon sinks by 103 million tonnes.

Though Mizoram has the highest 93 per cent forest cover, many north eastern states have experienced decline in green cover. The country faces numerous challenges in implementing its policies to protect and grow forests.

Protection of forests is done through implementation of Forest Conservation Act (1980) and through establishment of protected areas. The Government of India has established 597 Protected Areas of which 95 are National Parks and 500 Wild Life Sanctuaries. These comprise about 5 per cent of the geographical areas of the country. Different type of forests and scrub jungles are host to the diverse wild life including the tigers, elephants and lions.

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Due to the rising population there is enormous pressure on forest land for extraction of forest based industries and encroachment for extension of agriculture. The rising conflicts between conserving forests for generating ecosystem services and diversion for developmental project poses one of the biggest challenges in managing the forest resources.

It is estimated that the demand for timber is growing at a faster speed from 58 million cubic meters in 2005 to 153 million cubic meters in 2020. The annual growth of the forest stock can only supply 70 million cubic meters of timber, forcing us to import hard wood timber from other countries.

 In India 67 per cent of the rural household depend on firewood for cooking. About oneCWYojanalogoc791f661-2_02-05-2016151511.jpg million deaths are reported annually caused by the fumes of firewood for cooking.  In order to address this problem, Pradhan Mantri LPG Scheme ‘Ujjwala Yojana’ is implemented by Ministry of Petrolium and Gas that provides free LPG connections to BPL families in remote rural areas. This has provided access to clean and efficient energy to a large number of families in the countryside.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has given the call to celebrate world forestry day for 2017 with the theme of ‘forests and energy’.  The emphasis is to develop wood as a major source of renewable energy, to mitigate climate change and fostering sustainable development. By developing community wood lots and delivering clean and energy efficient wood stoves, millions of people in developing economies will have access to cheap and reliable supply of renewable energy.

Green India Mission

The Climate Change Action Plan and the Green India mission attempts to address the issue of development of wood energy by establishing large scale tree plantations with the help of community participation.

According to Shri Anil Madhav Dave, MOS (I/C), M/o Environment, Forest and Climate Change “there are two major afforestation schemes, National Afforestation Programme (NAP) and National Mission for Green India (GIM). Both these schemes are implemented in participatory mode under joint forest management programme”. NAP aims at eco regeneration of degraded forests and GIM aims at increasing the forest cover along with improving the quality of the forests, including the farm and agro forestry.

Under GIM, six million hectares of plantations will be established every year on degraded forest land.

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One of the main pillars of afforestation is to regrow the forests in lieu of diversion of the forest land for developmental purposes. Both the houses of Parliament passed the Compensatory Afforesttion Bill in 2016. With a provision of Rs 42000 crores, and annual outlay of  Rs 6000 crores will be made available to states to facilitate conservation, improvement and expansion of forest resources in the country. This Act provides institutional framework at both central and state levels to implement the compensatory afforestation programme.

Additionally this will generate 15 crore man days of direct employment in the remote forest areas of the country helping tribal population.

While implementing these green schemes, India faces enormous challenges. The climate change directly impacts the survival of planted saplings. The extension of dry areas and desertification is another big challenge that needs to be tackled with proper interventions.  There is need for participatory models of afforestation in which the local knowledge helps to regenerate and manage the forest resources.

Realising the strength of the tribal knowledge systems, the Prime Minister said” if there is someone who saved the forests, it is our tribal communities, and for them saving forests is part of the tribal culture”. He called upon the people to take the pledge to collectively work to conserve forests and increase the tree cover. More forests mean more water that benefits farmers and future generations.

In ancient Indian tradition the Rishis, or those who are the learned and sages get energy form the forests.  According to Rabindranath Tagore, life in forest is the highest form of cultural evolution.  The sages derived intellectual and spiritual energy from the forests, living near trees and water streams.

Though the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation has laid out ‘wood energy

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form the forests’ as the main theme of International Forest Day,  Indian tradition assigns much higher status and  value to the living energy of the forests to attain spiritual and cultural regeneration of life. This seems to be more holistic in understanding the links between forests and energy.

*Author is an independent journalist and columnist based in Karnataka.

ACCESSIBLE INDIA CAMPAIGN

*Sanjay Kumar

Accessible India Campaign (AIC) is the nationwide flagship campaign of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The aim of the Campaign is to make a barrier free and conducive environment for Divyangjans all over the country.  It was launched by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3rd December, 2015.

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The campaign is based on the principles of the Social Model of Disability, that disability is caused by the way society is organised, and not the person’s limitations and impairments. The physical, social, structural and attitudinal barriers prevent People with Disabilities from participating equally in the socio-cultural and economic activities. A barrier-free environment facilitates equal participation in all the activities and promotes an independent and dignified way of life. The campaign has the vision to build an inclusive society in which equal opportunities are provided for the growth and development of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) so that they can lead productive, safe and dignified lives.

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For creating universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities, the campaign has been divided into three verticals: Built Environment; Transport and Information & Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem.

Built Environment

The Built Environment Accessibility component of Accessible India Campaign entails following targets:

  1. Completing accessibility audit of at least 25-50 most important government buildings in 50 cities and making them fully accessible by the end of this year;
  2. Making 50% of all the government buildings of NCT and all the State capitals fully accessible by December 2018;
  3. Completing accessibility audit of 50% of government buildings and making them fully accessible in 10 most important cities/towns of States not covered in targets (i) and (ii) by December 2019.

The Department has completed the accessibility audit of 1653 buildings which were identified by state governments through empaneled Access Auditors. The Access Audit Reports for 1469 buildings were submitted to the State Nodal Officers for submitting financial proposal for retrofitting of these building. The proposals for 575 buildings have been received under the scheme. Funds amounting to Rs 45.42 Crore have been disbursed to States for 242 buildings. An amount of Rs.148 lakh has been released to auditors for conducting access-audit.

Transport System

Transport accessibility component of Accessible India Campaign aims to make all international airports fully accessible immediately and domestic airports by March 2018. Out of 32 international airports 25 have been provided with accessibility features namely, ramps, accessible toilets, lifts with braille symbols and auditory signals.

Railways is the most popular mode of transport in our country. In order to make one of the biggest rail-networks in the world accessible, all A1, A & B categories of railway stations are to be made fully accessible.

Under Accessible India Campaign, Department aims to make 10% of government owned public transport carriers to be made fully accessible by March 2018. To achieve the same, the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has issued instructions to States and Executive Directors of State Undertakings to ensure that 10% of Government owned Public Transport is made fully accessible to the PwDs by March 2018.

ICT Ecosystem

Accessibility of Information and Communication System is another crucial pillar of Accessible India Campaign. The target set under this vertical is to make at least 50% of Central and State Government websites accessible by March 2017.

The work-order has already been issued for making 917 state government websites accessible. In addition to this, 100 Government websites of 56 Ministries/Departments are being made accessible by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY).

Department launched ‘Sugamya Pustakalaya’- an online library for Persons with Print Disabilities centred on achieving ‘Universal Accessibility’.

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The Department has also organised awareness workshops at Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Raipur, Bhubaneswar, Chennai and Ranchi to provide an insight into various contours of Accessible India Campaign.

To create mass awareness on Accessibility, a Motorcycle Rally ‘Ride4Accessibility’ was organised on July 24.2016 at India Gate, Lodhi Garden, Vasant Kunj and South Extension, in which more than 600 motorbike riders and 6000 youth/students participated.

In order to create a foot-print in digital space, the Department is constantly exploring the Social Media for providing updates on AIC through blogs, reports, live broadcasts, pictures etc.

The Department has a dedicated website – www.accessibleindia.gov.in and a mobile application whereby, it can be reached for recent updates and happenings.

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*Author is posted at PIB, New Delhi. The article is based on inputs from the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), M/o Social Justice and Empowerment.

Equality in the World of Workplace

International Women’s Day – March 8

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This year Women’s Day theme focuses on Equality in the World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.

Although workplace world is changing for women, we are still long way to go for “Work place equality”. We need more focus on equality of pay, leave entitlement, especially paid maternity and extended child care leaves, special leave entitlements for family & elderly care, protection during pregnancy, sensitivity during breast feeding leadership positions & even sexual harassment at work place.

We also need to encourage our girls to pursue broad range of careers (like military & sports) and choices beyond the traditional soft jobs like teaching banking etc. We need to teach our girls to dream big.

Another barrier in women’s career is their own self defeating belief and bias. Marriage, pregnancy child birth, breastfeeding and child care should not be considered as barrier or full stop in a woman’s career.

Women these days are facing lot of challenges at workplace, home and society due to multiple roles that they perform. We expect women to perform perfectly the role of a homemaker, a daughter, a daughter in law, a wife and many more roles besides a demanding job. As a result, women suffer from false guilt for not fulfilling expectations of the family and people around. It leads to increase in anxiety, depression, panic disorder and eating disorder among women. Apart from good working environment at workplace, attitude of society toward working women needs a drastic change. She should not be pressurized to push her limits to emerge perfect both at work and at home.

We also need to positively acknowledge workplace success of women. Women tend to face hostilities both at workplace and home if they are successful, despite the fact that the quality of life improves significantly when the woman of a family also works. Women should not be made to feel guilty for their professional work as having both parents working outside is good for child’s overall development especially for girls. She is very career oriented is still viewed as negative compliment in our society.

We need to inculcate such values in the youngsters that they grow up as more supportive colleagues. We need to have families who share household responsibilities to provide for healthy working environment. Families where there are less gender discrimination (like mother going for work and father sharing household responsibilities) produce more confident children. As Prime Minister had once exhorted the Nation in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ that we need to bring ‘attitudinal’ change in our boys so that they learn to respect the women. The men of young generation should contribute to career of their partners. We need to change many gender stereotypes. We need to make our boys learn to be gentle in their personality, to love cooking, washing, serving and tending to the needs of children and elderly people at home. We need to make them learn the value of balancing family and careers too. We need to make them learn that although anatomically and physiologically women also have the same dreams and desires. Beside teaching girls to be bold & strong, we need to change our ‘nurturing’ attitude towards boys too.

Although, there has been a vast improvement in women representation in higher jobs and their financial empowerment, we need to change our unconscious bias for working women. There is also the need for attitudinal change in women. They should feel confident to honour the huge potential that dies daily within them. It is not only about equal wages, but it is also about opportunities, career choices and gender roles.

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On Women’s Day, women should resolve to Be bold for change by challenging bias, inequality & celebrate journey of achievement. Let’s reinforce & support women’s triumphs in careers after overcoming all barriers. Let’s create new work opportunities for women, let’s be bold for change.

*Author is a Psychiatrist, Safdurjung Hospital, New Delhi. 

President of India’s message on the eve of International Women’s Day

The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee in his message on the eve of International Women’s Day, which is observed every year on March 8, has said: – “On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I extend warm greetings and best wishes to women in India and in all parts of the world.

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With their incomparable compassion, tolerance and hardwork, generations of Indian women have made an invaluable contribution to the development and progress of our country. Government of India has introduced and implemented historic legislations and far sighted programmes for their empowerment and equal participation in nation building. ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is an important initiative to prevent female foeticide and provide educational opportunities for female children in India.

On this day, I call upon the people of India to reaffirm their commitment to gender equality and the true empowerment of women. Let us rededicate our efforts to give them all the support they need to develop to their full potential, realise their aspirations and enjoy the safety, dignity and unfettered equality that is their sacred right.”

“Nari Shakti Puruskars 2016”- National Award for Women

Author: Leena Nair leena

Women have played an integral role in Indian history from ancient times. We find that in the Vedic or Upanishadic age Maitreyi, Gargi, and others ladies of revered memory have taken the places of rishis through their skill in discussing about Brahman. In an assembly of a thousand Brahmanas who were all erudite in the Vedas, Gargi boldly challenged Yajnabalka in a discussion about Brahman.

 In pre-independence times also,  women have led the charge for educational and social upliftment causes. In 1950, India was one of the few countries in the world to grant universal adult suffrage to its citizens. Women paved the way for a young India’s development. And today, we see women leading our Government, businesses, sports, armed forces and even in real rocket science. Women are breaking the glass ceiling and setting our standards higher every day.

The Nari Shakti Puraskar, instituted in 1999 is a way for us to recognize women who have exceeded expectations to challenge the status quo and make a lasting contribution to women’s empowerment. The Government of India confers these awards on individuals and institutions in recognition of their service to the cause of women. The outstanding contributions in the field of women development & upliftment by way of being role models are of primary consideration in identifying the recipients of Puraskar.

 This year’s Nari Shakti Awards are being conferred on women and institutions that represent a variety of fields. Having received an overwhelming number of applications, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has chosen candidates who are leaders in sectors as varied as social entrepreneurship, art, horticulture, yoga, environmental conservation, journalism, dance, social work, science and technology. Women have made a mark in each of these sectors both at the national and international level, proving to the world that gender is not a limitation to success. These awardees are breaking new frontiers in emerging fields such as building social enterprises, promoting organic consumption and working for the creation of a sustainable environment. It is encouraging to see women lead this charge, making lasting impressions that will set the course for future developments.

These awardees have challenged stereotypes associated with women, by being torchbearers in fields such as space research, railways, motorcycling and mountaineering. They have not only made inroads, but also excelled in sectors that have historically not seen the participation of many women. The Scientists and Engineers from ISRO, Ms. Mumtaz Kazi, the first diesel train driver, Ms. Pallavi Fauzdar, the motorcyclist & Ms. Sunita Choken, the mountaineer are examples for young India to follow in their footsteps and pursue their dreams, no matter what they may be. In fact the winners represent the face of a changing global India.

The Government has awarded women and institutions that are working for the cause of vulnerable and marginalized women, including those facing violence, improving the Child Sex Ratio, providing livelihood opportunities to encourage women’s economic independence, working for the development of women farmers and bringing real development to the remotest corners of the country. The institutions Chhanv Foundation, Shikshit Rojgar Kendra Prabandhak Samiti, Sadhana Mahila Sangha and Dr. Kalpana Sankar through her organization ‘Hand in Hand’ have worked at the grassroots level for the betterment of women in the society.

 The awardees have proven that innovative ideas can often transcend situational limitations. Facing a lack of financial avenues, women have leveraged social media to raise funds; in the aftermath of natural disasters they have found unusual ways of rehabilitating locals; with a lack of economic opportunities, women have tapped into the digital economy; in the face of health challenges, women have adopted and popularized alternative treatment practices; and faced with social ostracism, women have taken their lives into their own hands and set an example for others to follow. One of the awardees, Ms. Smita Tandi collects money through social media and helps those who require medical treatment, Dr. Nandita Shah founder of SHARAN has a vision of diabetes free India, she assists in reversing diabetes by using food as medicine and Ms. Kalyani Pramod Balakrishnan, a textile designer has helped poor weavers by promoting traditional crafts. They show us that no challenge is insurmountable if one has the courage to take the road less travelled.

A quality common to all the winners of the Nari Shakti Puraskar this year has been their perseverance and will to go the extra mile. Government and non-Governmental organizations have worked for decades to improve the quality of life for all in their regions. People have left the comfort of their homes and lives to lead the fight for a cause, taking others along with them. Change often comes slowly, but these women and institutions have demonstrated that a committed effort will eventually lead to a positive outcome. The awardees has shown that one can achieve anything if one has determination, Ms. Tiasa Adhya and Ms. Bano Haralu fought to impose ban on hunting of fishing cat and migratory Amur Falcons in their respective regions. Ms. V. Nanammal, a nonagenarian yoga enthusiast has taught yoga to many people, now her students are teaching yoga across the world.

 The Nari Shakti Puraskar this year sets a high standard for our country. The awardees are examples of motivation, dedication, innovation and the belief that an effort made with the right intention can lead to an improvement in the lives of millions. Let us inspire more people to join the effort to make a better India.

*Author is Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, GoI.  

Views expressed in the article are authors personal.

Marching Towards Equity

International Women’s Day – March 08

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Take any project from the Mars Orbiter Mission to the simultaneous launch of 104 Satellites, the contribution of Indian women scientists in their success is being hailed and celebrated not only by India but also across the globe.

Scientists like Dr. Tessy Thomas, N. Valarmathi, Minal Sampath, Anuradha TK, Ritu Karidhal, Moumita Dutta, Nandini Harinath have made every Indian feel extremely proud.

Just like these scientists there are a lot of women who are trendsetters and are glowing examples of excellence and knowledge in diverse domains. This, however, is only one end of the spectrum wherein educated, successful and empowered Indian women are positioned. A vast majority of women at the other end of the spectrum still face enormous amount of sexism, discrimination and oppression. They are still far removed from demanding their rightful place in life and society and thereby, exercise their fundamental rights including the Right to Equality (article 14), enshrined in the Constitution of India. The only way forward, therefore, is to reduce that gap and balance both ends of the spectrum.

Fortunately, we are on the right path, working on the principles of gender equity. The contribution and participation of women in the work force and in the political arena at the grass roots level has enabled India to climb 21 spots in the Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum in 2016. It has climbed to 87th rank in 2016, which is a vast improvement from being ranked at 108th in 2015. It has substantially improved due to attainment of education, economic participation and opportunity, health and survival and political empowerment. It ranks 9th on political empowerment in the world, which is a major achievement and also underline the inherent strength of the democratic model our country has adopted.

However, there are no two opinions that there is a long way to go as far as gender equity is concerned and one of the major stumbling blocks is how women are perceived by our society. While the legal and constitutional framework protecting rights of cross sections of women is extremely empowering; liberal and progressive awareness about these provisions is abysmally low. Even if legal awareness is there, accessing justice, navigating through the long winding legal tangle, is no mean task for any common man or woman.

Similarly, gender imbalance and gender discriminations, leading to a steady decline in the female population of the country since 1961, is a well-known stigma in the growth story of India. The multi-sectoral Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme was launched in 2015 by the Prime Minister to address precisely this issue and reverse the decline.

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The declining numbers, however, reflect only part of the story. It is merely a symptom, albeit a grave one, of the low social status of women and girls. It amply reflects how the deep rooted patriarchal social structure in India governs the entire life cycle continuum of neglect, abuse, inequality and discriminations in a woman’s life. Such discriminations and violation of basic human rights of women cut across class and demographics and manifest in minor to grave instances of sexism, experienced on a day to day basis.

Even today, it is quite common to come across such instances of women being prevented from watching TV or listening to the radio so that they do not get “spoilt to being compelled to drop out of school, forced to marry early etc. These discriminations might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so niggling and normalized that one doesn’t even feel the need to protest. Misogyny and violence against women and girls are increasing at an alarming rate.

#WeAreEqual Campaign of WCD

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Given such a context, awareness, mindset change along with social and behavioral change towards creating an enabling environment for women and girls to achieve equality, becomes a constant necessity. It also becomes a necessity to engage with men and boys who are equal stakeholders in the process. It is imperative that men and boys show the mirror to our society and become equal partners in the war against sexism, inequality and gender discriminations.

Targeted at raising awareness, Ministry of Women and Child Development initiated a social media campaign #WeAreEqual recently on 13thFebruary, to highlight the need for equal opportunity to women in the fields of education, health, nutrition, safety and dignity. The Campaign is part of a series of initiatives to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March including the Nari Shakti Awards ceremony. It appeals to all to participate in the campaign saying, “YOU and I, WE are one. This International Women’s Day, share your slogan of equality and join the change.”

The campaign is getting a lot of traction on social media as more and more celebrities, sports stars and everyday heroes have joined in. Both men and women have been posting the #WeAreEqual messages on social media for positive affirmation of gender equality.

They are also communicating their personal stories and efforts towards creation of a gender just society. Additionally, it indicates ownership of common people of not only the importance and necessity of gender equality but also their willingness to take responsibility towards invigorating change.

Popular actor Aliya Bhatt and Indian Skipper Virat Kohli will also lend their support to the Campaign as indicated by the Ministry of Women & Child Development earlier. Superstar Amitabh Bachchan, Wrestler Sangram Singh, Olympian Boxer Mary Kom, Dia Mirza and ISRO scientists K Thenmozhi Selvi, Subha Varier and Minal Rohit etc. have already lent their support to the campaign. Social influencers like them can not only boost traction but also inspire change. For the Campaign, Mary Kom has posted as follows, “I want every girl to have the liberty to pursue her dreams. Give them more recognition in sports.”

Common people are also sharing their personal stories and messages with this hash tag, reiterating its necessity, application in daily life, acknowledging the world of sexism faced by women every day and that it is a valid message to send out.

There is absolutely no doubt that India needs to maintain its tempo in the march towards achieving gender equity and a gender just society where men and women have equal access to all resources and opportunities. Every little effort, every campaign, every initiative counts! And every stakeholder has to believe in it.

*Author is a freelance writer and a development communication professional, currently serving as Head, Communication at SOS Children’s Villages of India.

The Fastest Growing Major Global Economy in the World

*V.SRINIVAS  i20173301.jpg

India remains one of the fastest growing emerging market economies driven by key structural reforms, normal monsoon and reduced external vulnerabilities. The Q3 GDP estimates of 7 percent growth indicate that the key domestic risk of demonetization has not undermined the growth momentum and growth prospects for 2017-18 remain bright. The article seeks to examine the key reform measures undertaken by Government of India to maintain the growth momentum.

On February 28, 2017, India’s quarterly estimates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate have projected the Q3 GDP estimates at 7 percent. India remains one of the fastest growing emerging market economies driven by key structural reforms, normal monsoon and reduced external vulnerabilities. Inflation has declined from 6 percent in July 2016 to 3.4 percent in December 2016. The Government has continued to adopt the path of fiscal consolidation and the Reserve Bank of India has maintained an accommodative monetary stance. The current account deficit remains manageable and international reserves standing at US$360 Billion are at their highest levels. External vulnerabilities remain subdued. It also appears that the post-November 8, 2016 decision to withdraw the legal tender character of all Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes and the re-monetization initiative has not undermined the growth momentum.

The macroeconomic scenario looks quite bright with the Union Budget adopting a fiscal consolidation path having achieved the fiscal deficit target of 3.5 percent of GDP in 2016-17 budget. Fiscal deficit is projected to further decrease to 3.2 percent of GDP in 2017-18. The revenue deficit is envisaged to reduce from 2.1 percent of GDP in 2016-17 to 1.9 percent of GDP in 2017-18. Continued progress in reforms provides a healthy environment for a marked improvement in medium-term prospects.

The Union Budget 2017 has identified the external uncertainties around commodity prices, especially crude oil, and signs of retreat from globalization of goods, services and people as pressures for protectionism as future challenges. Further the Union Budget noted that the US Federal Reserve’s intent to increase policy rates in 2017 could lead to lower capital inflows and higher outflows in emerging market economies. That said, the economic risks are titled on the downside. With the key domestic risk of currency exchange initiative being successfully negotiated, the prospects for significantly stronger growth in coming months have brightened.

The transformational reforms launched by Government in 2016 include the passage of the Constitution Amendment Bill for GST and the progress in its introduction, demonetization of high denomination notes, enactment of an insolvency and bankruptcy code, amendment to the RBI Act for inflation targeting, enactment of the Aadhar bill for disbursement of financial subsidies and benefits. Further the Union Budget has made major reforms in merger of the Railway budget with the Union budget and the removal of plan and non-plan classification to facilitate a holistic view of all allocations for sectors and ministries.

Demonetization is likely to have significant long-term benefits. These include increased flow of financial savings, greater formalization of the economy, greater digitization and transparency. The surplus liquidity in the banking system will lower borrowing costs and increase the access to credit. Stringent efforts are being made to clamp down on illicit financial flows. The availability of cash has been quickly restored with prudent monitoring of the pace of re-monetization of the currency counters.

Astute food management and price monitoring by the Government has helped to contain inflation. A number of measures have been taken by Government to control inflation and restore price stability.The steps taken include, increased allocations for the price stabilization fund, creation of buffer stock of pulses, announcement of higher MSPs to incentivize production, imposition of export duties and reduction of import duties on certain commodities.

In 2016, amongst the significant steps for monetary management and financial intermediation is the amendment in RBI Act. This amendment provides for an inflation target to be set by Government in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India once every 5 years. It also provides for a statutory base for constitution of an empowered monetary policy committee (MPC). The Government has fixed an inflation target of 4 percent with a tolerance level of +/- 2 percent for the period 2016-2021. The RBI has maintained an accommodative policy stance, which is duly reflected in the money markets.

The performance of the banking sector continues to remain subdued. The asset quality of banks has deteriorated further with non-performing assets ratio of scheduled commercial banks increased to 9.1 percent. Credit growth to industrial sector remains persistently below 1 percent and non-food credit growth has remained sluggish. The Government has given a strong policy push for cleaning up bank balance sheets by the new bankruptcy code. That said, there remain elevated corporate sector risks and heightened levels of non-performing assets in public sector banks continue to pose risks to banks’ soundness.

The Union Budget has reiterated its deep commitment to fiscal consolidation. Such a commitment is critical for lowering the cost of credit to private sector and help price stability. The fiscal consolidation strategy envisaged further subsidy reforms. Significant efforts in this direction have been made with the oil subsidies and Aadhar linkages for better targeting of subsidies. There has been considerable progress on structural reforms with continued efforts to reduce poverty, increase financial inclusion and further trade liberalization.

To conclude it can be said that the Indian economy is growing strongly and remains a bright spot in the global landscape. The prospects for the Indian economy for the year 2017-18 are expected to get a boost from the accommodative monetary policy stance and the unleashing of domestic trade and consumption as the economy gets remonetized to the required levels.

*Author is a senior civil servant, an IAS officer of 1989 batch, who has served in senior positions in Finance Sector

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