Indian Organisation for Commerce & Industry (IOCI) hosted a National Seminar on “Individual Contribution for Social & Economic Development at New Delhi on June 15, 2012.
The Chief Guest OIA Chairman Ambassador V. B. Soni was honoured with “National Leadership Award for Outstanding Achievements in Business Excellence and Quality Achievements”
by the Guest of Honour Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers Mr. Srikant Jena. A plaque and certificate was presented to him on the occasion.
Other dignitaries present at the seminar were H.E. Mr Waven William, High Commissioner of the Republic of Seychelles, Sardar Joginder Singh, IPS (Retd.) Former C.B.I. Director (India), Mr Anees Durrani, Secretary Of Minority Department for All India Congress Committee, Mr Haripal Rawat, Secretary, Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee and Mr R.K. Trehan, Chief Executive of Global Achievers Foundation – New Delhi
Ambassador Soni also delivered his keynote speech on the theme: “Individual Contribution for Social and Economic Growth”.
The Awards ceremony concluded with Ambassador V B Soni giving away awards and certificates of merit to other recipients along with other dignitaries on the dais.
We bring you OIA Chairman, Ambassador Dr. V. B. Soni’s speech on “Individual Contribution to Social and Economic Growth” at the IOCI National Seminar:
It gives me great pleasure to be present here on this occasion to share my thoughts on the important topic of “Individual Contribution to Social and Economic Growth”.
While the world applauds India’s recent economic performance, Indians are confounded by contrasting realities. Every day as millions of youths chase their dreams in the rapidly growing economy, million more continue to struggle in poverty, illiteracy and ill health. India presents a picture both of wonder and despair. After the almost 9% growth, and promised 'inclusiveness' the common man is left puzzled while trying to make sense of chaotic mess around them.
In a vast country like India, striking regional disparities can be seen due to differences in natural resources, growth rates, initial conditions, political structure and social traditions. We need to look at demographic development indicators like poverty level, literacy rate, fertility rate, human development index and social issues to get the real picture.
Poverty level indicates the number of people with low purchasing power and lack of access to basic amenities like drinking water, health care, education etc. The World Bank Development Indicator report (2004) estimates that roughly 1.1bn or 1/6th of the world population lives in extreme poverty, earning less than $1 per day. Majority of the world’s poor live in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Asia. In India, it is estimated that about 300 million people live below the extreme poverty line. The number of moderately poor is much higher. After Independence, socialist policies had little effect on reducing poverty. From the 1950’s to mid 70’s the poverty level hovered around 50% and showed no clear signs of decline. The 80's showed a significant decline in poverty: about 13% in a decade. Land reforms, robust agricultural growth and export contributed to this decline.
Since the reforms in the 90's, economic development has been robust and dramatic, but the poverty levels show only a marginal decline. In fact, there is evidence that poverty actually increased during the early 90's, and it was only after 1998 that there was a clear indication of declining poverty. Continued dependence on agriculture sector, which employs a staggering 60% of the total labor force and contributing only 20% to GDP has been cited as one of the prime reasons for persistent poverty. The jobs created since liberalization have been mainly in the service sector, giving little scope for the millions of illiterate or semi-literate population to reap the benefits of an open economy. Recent public initiatives like NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) and Food for Work are attempts to reduce poverty by using the unemployed to build rural infrastructure. There is mixed evidence for the effectiveness of these schemes. Long-term poverty reduction strategies should focus on making growth more inclusive through massive investment in human capital and creating opportunities to tap the human resources there in.
Literacy and Education level
Literacy rate measures the human capital (i.e. productive skills and knowledge) of the population. More literate population generally shows lower birthrate per woman, lesser infant mortality and has better access to economic activities. The performance of India in educating its population has been poor compared to many countries of the world. The literacy growth in India has been steady but slow. Back in the 50's, the literacy rate was just above 18%, and since then there has been roughly an increase of 10% per decade, with the highest 13% increase in the 90's. In 2001 world literacy averaged to 80%, while India remained far below the average at 66%. Government schools in many states are unsuccessful in checking high dropout rates and the ever-prevalent teacher absenteeism.The situation calls for shifting policy focus from access and enrollment to attainment and retention at the school level to ensure that all the children enrolled learn well and complete their primary education.
Fertility rate and population growth
Ever since Independence, population growth has been recognized as one of the major obstacles in the path of India’s development. Our population has increased three-folds from 360 million in 1951 to 1 billion plus in 2001. After Independence, India has made significant progress in reducing the fertility rate. In 1950, on an average 6 children were born per woman, as compared to 2.8 in 2007. If the current decline continues, India will most probably reach replacement level by 2020. In spite of this decline, India performs relatively poor with respect to countries with a similar history of population growth, like China, Sri Lanka, Brazil etc. In India the task is harder especially with social taboos on sexuality and a lack of openness about sexual and reproductive health. Widespread resistance to sex education at school level has an adverse impact on the reproductive choices exercised by women. The situation calls for greater focus particularly in the Hindi-speaking belt by spreading awareness about family planning and reproductive health, sex education etc.
Life Expectancy and Health
The healthier a person is, the longer he or she lives. The average Life expectancy of population indicates the physical health conditions of the people. Wealthier population can afford private medical care and generally live longer, while the longevity of poor crucially depends on conditions of public health, nutrition and sanitation services. Developed countries in Europe, North America have a Life Expectancy at Birth (LEB) of over 75 years, whereas the poorest countries in Sub Saharan Africa have a life expectancy of less than 45 years. India, China and most Asian countries have seen a dramatic increase in LEB after the 1950’s. In the late 1940's, on an average Indians used to live for 33 years. Since then has been a steady increase in life expectancy to 65 years in 2001. Elimination of small pox, and a sharp reduction in deaths due to Cholera and Malaria contributed to this increase in LEB. On the other hand there are many other indicators of public health like infant mortality, maternal mortality and malnutrition, in which India lags behind even some developing countries. In the name of structural adjustments, the government spending on public health has in fact decreased after the economic liberalization. With a mere 1% of GDP allocation, India’s public health spending is among the lowest in the world. There are only 40 doctors per 10,000 people in India, whereas in United States, it is as high as 2300. Only when we address these issues can we hope that our people will be healthier while the country is getting wealthier.
Human Development Index
The inaugural UN-Human Development Report (1990) notes, "Physical expansion of economy, as measured by per capita GDP, does not necessarily mean that people are better off in the larger sense of the term, especially with regard to health, freedom, education and leisure time. People are the real wealth of a nation." Many countries in the world have shown good social development in spite of relatively poor economic conditions; for India the opposite appears to be true. It ranks 127 in the world according to the UNDP report-2005. India's high GDP growth contrasts with the poor human development indicating a failure at the social front. Achievements in literacy, access to public health and gender equality are far from impressive. The UNDP report adds, “Pervasive gender inequalities, interacting with rural poverty and inequalities among states are undermining the growth into human development.”
An egalitarian ethos is not a prominent feature of Indian civilization. The Indians have long held it to be self-evident that all men are created unequal. Hierarchy is central to the Indian identity, whether in the family, the workplace, or the community. Indeed, a host of hierarchical relationships—framed by traditional norms of deference, authority, and obligation—shape most Indians throughout their lives. In the Indian social realm, the primary institution of hierarchy is caste, or jati, of which thousands exist today. So when we consider the issue of ‘inclusive growth’ without which there can never be any meaningful poverty reduction the real challenge is how does one bring such a large percentage of the country’s deprived socially deprived dalit and tribal population to the mainstream? I urge IOCI to address the issue in seriousness. While the Government has done its bit by not removing the reservation policy in Government jobs private sector has to come forward voluntarily to do its own bit by affirmative action in their respective workplaces. The Corporate sector, Intelligentsia ,Academia and a section of the media who oppose inclusiveness and social mobility at different stages in independent India have to move with the times and not to allow age old prejudices to persist
The failure at the social front in the era of liberalization has been reflected with increased inequality and social unrest. It is unfortunate that per capita growth has overshadowed the need for equity and inclusiveness. While the GDP growth is absolutely essential, it should be seen more in terms of hitherto unseen social opportunities.
To achieve inclusive and participatory growth, public policies should focus on substantial investment in human capital, ensure their efficient delivery through good governance and create opportunities for economic participation by all sections. The lessons learnt from the journey through our own past, and that of the world, tell us much about the road ahead in realizing the VISION 2020 of a developed India.