• Till the very last rupee

    The budget this year provided 15 per cent higher allocation for health and 20 per cent for education. However, this may not mean that more children will learn to read or write or more doctors will be available at public health centres. In the present context, outlays are supposed to be considered ends in themselves. While higher outlays are welcome, there is an urgent need to measure outcomes, the actual effectiveness of a government scheme. A clear index of deliverables is what will lead to other reforms: rewarding states that are doing it right and implementing mid-course correction in areas where the scheme fails to take off. A paragraph towards the end of this year's budget speech shows that the government is beginning to wake up to this need: "I think we do not pay enough attention to outcomes as we do to outlays; or to physical targets as we do to financial targets; or to quality as we do to quantity. Government therefore proposes to put in place a Central Plan Schemes Monitoring System (CPSMS) that will be implemented as a Plan scheme of the Planning Commission.' It is heartening to see an acknowledgement of a long-felt void. As the government disburses more money, there is an even greater need to track it better, to find out a rupee's worth in intervention A versus B or its performance in different states. For now, one has to depend on a few private NGOs/research institutions who fulfill this need: For example, Pratham, an NGO working in the field of primary education, comes out with an annual survey called ASER that has some startling findings on Sarva Siksha Abhiyaan, a Centrally-sponsored programme that aims to put all children into school, even in the remotest parts of India. They found the number of days a teacher is actually teaching in class is abysmally low. They had a percentage for children who are in secondary school but can neither read nor write. There is no government agency that comes up with similar data. India is wasting precious resources if teachers are not found in classrooms after two decades of the existence of this "flagship programme'. The government did make an effort to come out with an "outcome budget' but, according to experts, it was not even worth the paper it was written on. It had never-ending tables with targets achieved in the form of numbers. Drinking water reports had data on the number of taps and villages covered but not the quality, quality and availability of water that is distributed. The outcome budget stops short of measuring important aspects like absenteeism and who is accessing these services created by these schemes. Anyone reading it will be no wiser if she wants to find out where to put the money the next year. Once government has evolved the mechanism of measuring these outcomes, it can take the next step: link performance with outlays for states. Infant mortality rate, extent of immunisation, literacy for women, feeding programmes should be systematically collated to form a clear index. Central share of the scheme's money should be transferred based on the performance of states on this index. The fuzziness on performance has another implication too: the government is not able to under-take mid-course correction. For example, the Supreme Court has asked the government to universalise the Integrated Child Development Programme. With no improvement in malnourishment figures for children, which are higher than that of Sub-Saharan Africa, there is clearly something wrong. The government is starting from scratch in trying to figure out what is going wrong. A fresh committee has been set up to brainstorm, without any data to arrive at clear answers. The number of anganwadis set up each of the last five years, state-wise, is available. But it has no information on whether the anganwadi worker actually comes there, feeds children in the 0-6 age group with supplementary nutrition, takes care of their health and immunisation needs and pays special attention to malnourished children. N.C. Saxena, who is a court-appointed commissioner for monitoring the mid-day meals and the ICDS programme, is a strong votary for measuring outcomes versus outlays. In an article, he goes as far as to suggest action against officers who indulge in bogus reporting of figures. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, the number of fully immunised children being reported by the state government was almost 100 per cent in 2002-03. A rapid household survey found only 30 per cent of children to be fully immunised. "Such cases of flagrant over-reporting should not go unpunished,' he says, stressing on the need for independent agencies verifying data for the government and then disseminating it widely. Such steps will need a complete change in bureaucratic mindset. This signal from the finance minister, hopefully, will not go unnoticed if India is serious about inclusive growth.

  • Peta-friendly science syllabus from Board

    Students of class VI will dissect cockroaches and catfish instead of rats, birds and toads during life science experiments. The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education decided to modify the experiments after repeated appeals from the animal rights activists, led by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta). Peta protested that certain portions in the syllabus encouraged students to do cruel activities against animals. For instance, in order to understand the importance of air, students were asked do experiments like suffocating a guinea pig. In a similar experiment, students were asked not to give water to birds to understand the necessity of water for sustaining life. The Board has informed publishers to omit such experiments. While discussing such topics, examples of common pests like cockroaches and common air breathing fish (catfish) should be cited instead of rats, birds and toads. Mr Swapan Sarkar, Board secretary said letters in this regard have been issued to the publishers more than a month back. "The publishers have to make the necessary changes before the publication of new books for the next academic year.' Peta had approached both Mr Arjun Singh, Union human resource development minister and Mr Partha De, state school education minister to make the necessary changes in the life science syllabus over a year back. The West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education had gotten rid of dissection of toads in practical examination of class XI and XII in 2005. Instead students have to distinguish between a male and female cockroach, rohu fish and grasshopper. n SNS

  • Land for SEZ registered: Collector IIN

    Land owners who gave away their lands for SEZ were compensated at the rate of Rs three lakh an acre and family members have been assured jobs on the basis of educational qualifications Around 2,100 acres of land, valued at Rs 63 crore, had been registered for the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to be set up near Perambalur, district Collector Anil Meshram said. Speaking on the development works in the district, the Collector disclosed that land owners who had given away their lands towards SEZ were compensated at the rate of Rs three lakh an acre. Their family members have also been assured of jobs on the basis of educational qualifications. A total of 298 acres of land has been acquired near Naranamangalam for starting MRF tyre factory. The Cauvery Combined Drinking Water Scheme to facilitate 306 residential units and the town panchayats of Arumbavur and Poolambadi are being implemented at Rs 61 crore. The work would be completed by 2009. Underground drainage scheme for Perambalur municipality is to be implemented by TWAD Board at an ried out at an estimated cost of Rs 5.45 crore, which includes the extension of the main roads in Perambalur town. The department of cooperatives had plans to sanction Rs 41.80 crore as loans. So far, Rs 37.81 crore had been disbursed as agricultural loans. Under the Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy maternity assistance scheme, Rs 5.23 crore had been distributed to 6,322 pregnant women and 129 medical camps were organised under the Varumun Kappom scheme, providing medical facilities to more than 1.5 lakh persons, Collector said. Under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA), an allocation of Rs 18.94 crore was set apart for implementing special schemes. School drop outs numbering 177 were re-admitted in schools and fitted into the regular scheme. Regular education for 869 differently-abled students is also under implementation. Under the unemployment assistance scheme, Rs 1.90 crore had been distributed to 11,172 youth. More than 1,400 girls had been benefited under the Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar memorial marriage assistance scheme totaling Rs 2.11 crore. estimated cost of Rs 20 crore. Five mega road projects are also being car.

  • India's common people: Who are they, how many are they and how do they live?

    This paper attempts to define the common people of India in terms of levels of consumption and examines their socio-economic profile in different periods of time since the early 1990s with a view to a

  • Use tech know-how for illiteracy, poverty eradication

    Public Relations, Culture and Mineral Resources Minister Laxmikant Sharma has said that modern technical know-how must be used for eradicating illiteracy, poverty and hunger from the face of the earth

  • Education infrastructure is lagging behind

    The penultimate year's budget presented by the United Progressive Alliance Government before the 2009 general elections come knocking, has tried to give an even layer of butter to the national bread,

  • Govt prioritising rural development, says CM

    Chief Minister Digambar Kamat has said that his government is committed for the welfare of needy and poor people and is giving a priority to the development of rural areas.

  • Budget high on promises, low on delivery: BJP

    The Leader of the Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, Jagdish Mukhi, on Tuesday termed the Delhi Budget presented by Finance Minister A. K.

  • Every section of society benefited: Chouhan

    During the last four and half years, the state government has launched a number of programmes which have benefited every section of society, especially programmes for empowerment of farmers, girls and

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