Debating India


See shine on social sector too: NDA to Sonia


Tuesday 13 April 2004, by ARUN*T.K.

NEW DELHI: The ruling NDA today sought to counter Sonia Gandhi’s charge that the India Shining catchline was aimed at the urban elite by citing the large social services package in its manifesto.

In fact, the NDA’s agenda reveals an uncommon seriousness of intent on making a strong state intervention in the social sector. This is reflected not only in the specific commitment to create a Rs 100,000 crore social development fund to be invested over the next five years but also in the detailed set of policies and programmes that the NDA manifesto articulates in place of the cursory statement of broad good intentions that manifestos normally offer when it comes to the social sector.

Besides health and education, the manifesto separately deals with food security, sports, youth development and population control and then goes on to offer special schemes for particular vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, the disabled and women.

The manifesto talks of a fund that will spend Rs 1,000 crore every year on improving all primary school buildings in rural areas in five years. Part of the money will come from a cess on non-needy students. If this brave call to all parents who send their children to public schools to cough up yet a little more for the greater rural good is surprising in an election manifesto, the twin commitments to public-private partnership in education and to curb commercialisation of education is a little confusing.

Five new IITs will be set up in five years and at least 25 universities and 100 colleges will be elevated to international standard. "Bharatiya" languages and teaching in the mother tongue will be encouraged, as part of strengthening the focus on Indian culture, heritage and ethical values in syllabi.?In health, the manifesto makes the initiatives already taken by the new government to upgrade hospitals, institute medical insurance for the poor, save the girl child, eliminate polio and filariasis, and provide professional care to pregnant women.

Again, another Rs 1,000 crore fund will be created, this time out of public-private partnership. The manifesto makes a commitment to double the public spending on healthcare to 4% of GDP in five years. While combating HIV/AIDS and spurious drugs, an NDA government would also promote traditional systems of medicine. India’s wealth of medical experts will be utilised to make the country the world’s preferred destination for healthcare.  Food security is sought to be ensured by inducting people’s participation and decentralisation into the existing public distribution system and special schemes targeting the poorest, such as the Antyodaya Anna Yojana.

A National Policy for Women’s Economic Empowerment, a Charter of the Disabled, new National Commissions respectively for Children and senior citizens have been promised, and the manifesto commits the NDA to introduce the women’s reservation Bill in the very first session of the 14th Lok Sabha.

An old slogan of the Left parties’ youth organisations, "Education for All, Employment for All" has been hoisted on to the NDA manifesto, to address the concerns of the country’s burgeoning youth population. A Prime Minister’s 10-point programme for the development of sports and a Rashtriya Khel Rozgar Yojana are new initiatives to make India a sports power.


in "The Economic Times", Tuesday, april 13, 2004.

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