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India - Social Objectives and Welfare Education

Education Breakthrough
In December 1993, India hosted the Education for All Summit, which was attended by nine high-population countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan. Together these countries account for more than half of the world's population. The summit adopted the Delhi Declaration and Framework for Action, which called for education for all children.

The then Prime Minister, Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao, announced at the summit that India would redeem the pledge to spend 6 percent of the GNP on education before the end of the century.

But before the Delhi Declaration, the National Policy on Education (1986) and the Programme of Action (1992) had resolved to ensure free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14 years before the beginning of the next century. In 1988, the National Literacy Mission was launched by the late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, which saw Kerala become the first state to achieve 100% literacy.

The National Policy on Education was updated in 1992 to include several key strategies, which have two aims: universal access to education by opening new schools in unserved habitations and improved school environment.

A two-pronged approach for universalization of elementary education and universal adult literacy has been adopted to achieve the goal of total literacy. A major initiative under it is the launching of District Primary Education Programme in 1993-94. The focus of the literacy campaign is concentrated in the northern states, which have the bulk of the illiterate population. A priority area under the national policy on education is women's education.

Since education has been recognized as the centerpiece of human resource development, it is realized at the highest levels that education will play a key role in balanced socio-economic development.

The Total Literacy Campaign, which is the major component of the programme for universal adult literacy, is operational in 338 districts, either partially or fully, spread over the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

About five million volunteers are engaged in teaching the alphabets to about 50 million people in the 9-45 age group. It is estimated that 15 million of them have become functionally literate. Post-literacy and continuing education programmes are also being launched. The objective is to make 100 million people literate. Special attention is being paid to the four low-literacy and high-population states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, which account for 48 percent of the illiterate population of the country.

The Panchayat
Democracy thrives in India today largely because it has always existed in some form at the macro level even during the long feudal era. The village council, Panchayat, consisting of village elders, played a key role in this long survival of grass-root democracy. The Panchayati Raj (rule) now enjoys constitutional status with built-in mechanism for regular elections and minimum representation of women and members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. There are over three million elected local representatives, making this the widest democratic base in the world. Of these three million, one-third are by law women. The guidance from chosen representatives ensures effective participation in both the preparation and execution of development schemes. Panchayati Raj helps in purposeful understanding of the masses and articulation of their responses. It is perhaps the best means of spreading democracy at the grass-root level. Mahatma Gandhi called the Panchayats, "village republics'; these village republics contribute to making India a shining example of democracy in the world.

Uplift of the Rural Poor
The removal of poverty has been the major focus of the Government's efforts. Under the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), efforts have been made to endow the poor with assets to promote rural self-employment. During the Seventh Plan period 18.2 million families were assisted under this step and other wage employment programmes generated 3.5 million man-days of employment. There are programmes for training of rural youth as well as for the promotion of socio-economic activity among rural women. The National Rural Employment Programme (NREP) aims at creating additional wage employment opportunities in rural areas simultaneously with the creation of community assets. The Jawahar Rozgar Yojana seeks to ensure 180 man-days employment to at least one member from families below the poverty line.

Environment, Ecology and Forestry
The need to harmonize development with environment is only too clear in today's world. The Government encourages use of pollution abatement techniques, especially in the critically polluted areas. Environmental considerations weigh heavily in clearing certain projects. For this purpose, laws have been framed, fiscal incentives given, agreements signed, educational programmes introduced and information disseminated through publicity. Environmental management is accepted as a major guiding factor for national development. The Ministry of Environment and Forests is responsible for planning, promoting and coordinating the environmental forestry programmes. There are about 30 enactments relating to environment protection.

The strategy for restoring the damage to environment includes not only use of science and new technology, but also active involvement of the people. People's involvement is an important part of the Ganga Action Plan that aims at cleaning the most sacred river of the country through diversion and treatment of pollutants.

At the Rio conference on Environment and Development in 1992, India played a major role in emphasizing the need to tackle environmental problems while executing development programmes. New global strategies were evolved and economic issues addressed to bring about a fair and equitable international order.

Throughout Indian history, from the time of Sita, the consort of Lord Rama, there have been women who have occupied a special place in society. Laxmibai, Razia Sultan and Meerabai are names that now belong to history. From contemporary times, women who have left their imprint include Mrs. Vijayalaxmi Pandit, the first women president of the United Nations, Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Mother Teresa, who was born in Albania but won the Nobel Prize as an Indian missionary who spread the message of love and peace among the neglected. In the field of sports, many Indian women have won laurels in international events.

As a welfare State, India is committed to the welfare and development of its people, particularly the vulnerable sections like the scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs), backward classes, minorities and the handicapped. There are specific articles in the Constitution, which outline this commitment. The strategy adopted for this aims at minimizing inequalities in income, status and opportunities. This section of the society constitutes nearly 85 percent of the population. The task is gigantic for a country with limited resources.

Welfare of SCs, STs, Backward Classes and Others
Almost a quarter of India's population consists of the SCs and STs, who had remained neglected for centuries. The approach for their development has been enunciated by the Constitution. The government has taken several steps for their welfare. The representation of the SCs and STs in the Parliament and State assemblies is assured.

The minorities have received a new deal with the establishment of the Minorities Finance and Development Corporation in September 1994. It will primarily benefit the backward sections amongst the minorities. The Central Wakf Council takes up the job of developing Wakf properties. A 15-point programme for the welfare of the minorities is being implemented. It also needs to be stressed that there is no bar against practicing any religion in India.

Children and Drug Abuse
A National Policy on Children was adopted in 1974. It states that the nurture and solicitude of children is the responsibility of the states. In line with the UN Declaration on the Right of the Child, India enacted the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986. India became the first country to adopt that legislation. There are over 450 day-care centers, old-age homes and mobile-Medicare units. Over 60 units also function for the welfare of the street children.

A Central Adoption Resource Agency has been set up to act as the clearinghouse of information on children available for adoption. The government recognizes 56 Indian agencies for giving children to foreigners for adoption and another 280 foreign agencies have been enlisted for sponsoring applications of foreigners who seek guardianship of Indian children.

There are 359 counseling centers for drug abuse prevention. They also propagate awareness. The government finances 250 NGOs, which are engaged in drug abuse prevention activities. A tripartite agreement between the government, ILO and UNDCP has been signed to help full rehabilitation and recovery of drug addicts.

Family Welfare Programme
India has 2.4 percent of the world's land, but supports 16 percent of the global population. According to the latest (1991) census report, India has a population of 846.30 million. Since the last census (1981), the country's population has gone up by 150 million. The task of removing poverty is enormous indeed. But the latest census figures have also brought some hope and indicated that efforts being made in the field of family welfare have not gone entirely waste. For the first time, the growth rate of population declined to 2.14 percent from 2.22 percent (in 1981). The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), which was 140 per 1000 live births in 1981, came down to 80. The decline in death rate was also sharp; from 15 per 1000 it climbed down to 9.6. The Eighth Plan goal is to achieve a birth rate of seven per 1000, IMR of 70 and death rate of nine per 1000. The life expectancy is expected to reach 64 from 58 years at present.

Planned Parenthood
Way back in 1951, the National Family Welfare Programme was launched to promote responsible and planned parenthood through voluntary family planning methods. Couples have the choice of adopting temporary (condom) or preventing (sterilization) measures. Facilities for medical termination of pregnancies in certain circumstances are also available.

Child and Mother Care
In view of the close relationship between high birth rate and high infant mortality, various child and mother healthcare programmes are being implemented. In 1992, a Child Survival and Safe Motherhood Programme was launched to provide for universal immunization and safe motherhood initiatives. Mortality and morbidity among women is countered through the Special Safety Net Project. The NGOs are being given increasing support in an effort to involve the community for promoting spacing methods to stabilize population. Innovative programs, which use local dialect and folklore, have been prepared under the Information, Entertainment and Communication scheme. The target of these programmes is the low-performing states and districts.

AIDS has reached India and the Government is aware of the problem. A National Programme for the Prevention and Control of AIDS has been launched. In 35 cities 67 AIDS surveillance centers have been opened.

In the absence of a cure, the emergence of AIDS has aggravated the problem in India. The threat of HIV transmission is being tackled through safe blood transfusion services, control of sexually transmitted diseases and information, education and counseling.

Medical Education
Medical research and education have received significant attention in the years following independence. While there were only 28 medical colleges in 1950, there are at present 106 medical colleges, 29 dental colleges and 11 other institutions providing medical education. Nearly 14,000 students graduate every year from medical colleges. Of late the Government has felt that it should not open any new medical colleges. There are nearly 30 medical colleges, which are not recognized by the Medical Council of India. Over 8,200 nurses qualify for service annually from 367 nursing institutions. Medical institutions in India also train a large number of students from other developing countries. There are over 30 nursing colleges for higher-level education.

Rural Health Services
The Government is paying increasing attention to integrated health, maternity and childcare in rural areas. An increasing number of community health workers and doctors are being sent to rural health centers. Primary healthcare is being provided to the rural population through a network of over 150,000 primary health centers and sub-centers by 586,000 trained midwives and 410,000 health guides.

Housing and Urban Development
Various policies and initiatives of the Government have put the country on the threshold of a major qualitative and quantitative change in the housing and urban development sector. The target is to ensure a minimum level of shelter and basic amenities by 2001.

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