Development after 2015: Ten Goals to Make a Difference for Those Left Behind in India

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The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been a great laboratory for poverty reduction, with major successes and frustrating failures. These fifteen years of experience have provided us with the knowledge to do better in a deeply changed world. This paper summarises the outcomes of consultations and studies around the question: what new framework will make a difference for groups in India that face acute poverty and social exclusion? The question brings several challenges to the forefront—addressing inequalities and exclusion
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  OXFAM INDIA POLICY BRIEF APRIL 2013 www.oxfamindia.org  DEVELOPMENT AFTER 2015 Ten Goals to Make a Difference for Those Left Behind in India The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been a great laboratory for poverty reduction, with major successes and frustrating failures. These fifteen years of experience provide us the wisdom to do better in a deeply changed world. This paper summarises the outcomes of consultations and studies around the question: what new framework will make a difference for groups in India that face acute poverty and social exclusion? The question brings several challenges to the forefront — addressing inequalities and exclusion; impacting on the politics of poverty in sovereign nations; financing the goals in a context where the role of aid is diminishing. The paper proposes to address these challenges in 10 goals that build on the current framework but will help make a difference for those at the very bottom. SUMMARY The importance of India’s example hardly needs to be  stressed. Globally, the majority of poor now live in middle income countries: 1  India is home to more poor people than any other country, despite crossing the World Bank’s threshold to qualify as a middle income country in 2008. In-country inequalities are rising worldwide; the rise has been dramatic in India, and income inequalities now rival with South Africa and Brazil. 2  A massive demographic shift from rural to urban regions generates new dimensions of poverty: though rates of urbanisation have been relatively limited in India, 3  poverty reduction among excluded groups has been slowest in cities, where much of India’s growth in GDP  is created — 4  a trend that raises the question of urban poverty with urgency. Finally, with foreign aid accounting for no more than 2.8 per cent of public expenditure on social services, 5  and a government that is the game-setter on poverty reduction, India is representative of a global context where the role of aid is diminishing. 6   Beyond these aspects, India’s example holds lessons on social exclusion. The rise in inequalities has added one dimension to historic patterns of social exclusion. A World Bank report estimates that Tribal people lag 20 years behind national averages on human development indicators, while Dalits lag 10 years behind. 7  Other studies show that Muslims fare no better than Dalits; women across all groups are worse off than their male counterparts. 8  Lasting discrimination and insecurity, the lack of economic opportunities and political empowerment combine to keep certain groups at the margins of the country’s economic and social development. Muslims, Dalits and Tribals constitute 38 per cent of India’s population, 9   and a major share of the country’s poor. Their si tuation is a stark  2 reminder that a framework for development will be of little relevance today if it does not address social exclusion. The country not only exemplifies stark dynamics of social exclusion, it is also home to some of the most diverse policy attempts to address them: decades of experimentation with affirmative action and targeted planning for vulnerable groups provide lessons on how to tackle discrimination. This framework suggested here draws on these lessons in concrete terms, by suggesting 10 goals organised around the following priorities: securing human rights for all; addressing inequalities and social exclusion;   targeting the real drivers of social, economic and political discrimination against women;   achieving quality services for all in healthcare and education;   linking sustainability and equity;   financing the goals by supporting fair taxation and resource allocation nationally and internationally;   ensuring accountability.     3 1. SOURCES This brief draws on the analysis of several longer papers supported by Oxfam India. 10  Issues of social exclusion are discussed in Tanweer Fazal’s ‘MDGs and Muslims of India’, Rajendra Mamgain’s ‘Situating Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Post- 2015 Framework’, Pamada Menon’s ‘Post -2015: A Gendered Perspective’, and Lucy Dubochet’s synthesis report ‘Making Post -2015 Matter for Socially Excluded Groups in India’. In addition, a paper by Darshini Mahadevia looks at urban poverty and the MDGs, while Ashish Kothari ’s ‘Development and Ecological Sustai nability’  discusses how issues of environmental sustainability can be mainstreamed.   2 . INDIA’S CHALLENGES  TO THE MDGS 2.1. Inequalities and the MDGs Clearly, India is not on track to meet its MDG-targets, but it has made important progress on a number of them. For Muslim, Dalits, Tribals and women, improvements have been even slower. Official data claims India has attained universal primary school enrollment, but the percentage of girls who never attended school was just above 25 per cent among Muslims, Dalits and Tribals in 2006. 11  Incidence of malnutrition among children below five was estimated at 42, 48, and 55 per cent among Muslims, Dalits, and Tribals respectively, significantly higher than the projected 26 per cent target. All four groups continue to be over-represented in casual, low-skilled employment. Income trends follow similar patterns. Income inequality has grown dramatically over the past two decades and is now on par with some of the highest worldwide. With an estimated 22 per cent of the population below the official poverty level, India is nearly on track to halving poverty over the past two decades. 12  Repeated revisions of the poverty line over recent years have raised scepticism about this figure — in contrast, 42 per cent of the population fall under the international threshold of $1.25 (PPP per day). 13  Despite this, the overall reduction in poverty has undeniably been significant. In contrast, among Dalits, Muslims and Tribals, poverty rates range between 30 per cent and 33 per cent, 14  and the gap between these groups and the national average is increasing. Strikingly, the reduction in poverty incidence has been slowest in cities where much of the country’s growth is generated : annual reduction has been 2.3 per cent in cities against 2.5 per cent in rural areas between 1993 and 2010. 15  Muslims lag behind with annual rates of poverty reduction at 1.8 per cent in cities, followed by Dalits and Tribals at 2.1 per cent. This paradox highlights some of the systemic factors that skew the countr  y’s development benefits towards relatively more privileged groups. Discriminated in the employment market and with lower levels of education on average, Dalits, Muslims and Tribals often do not find quality employment to compensate for costs of living that have dramatically increased in cities; historically deprived of assets, they are over-represented in slum areas, 16  where land rights are insecure and access to basic sanitation services lacking. These trends tie into environmental challenges: air and water pollution is acute in cities, industrial and agricultural areas; groundwater depletion is faster in the Ganges Basin than anywhere else according to recent estimates; 17  energy production does not start to meet the basic needs of the poor, 18  while richer households have reached unsustainable levels of consumption. India has moved far away from an environmentally safe space; those most tangibly affected are the poor, who cannot afford paying for safe water or clean energy, and live in insalubrious areas. 19    4 2.2. International Framework, Domestic Policies The Millennium Declaration decade saw the introduction of major social policies in India: the right to education, the right to hundred days of minimum wage employment for rural households, and several programmes aimed at supporting access to health and housing for the poorest. The link between these policies and domestic political interests is obvious; the role of the MDGs in federating them less so. Overall, India’s attitude towards the MDGs has moved from rel uctance to a relative lack of interest: it criticised the absence of consultation before defining the goals. Even after the government signed up to the goals and the United Progressive  Alliance mentioned them in its election manifesto in 2004, references have been few and far between. Till today, India opposes a UN-led monitoring of performance on the goals. The new framework will need to strike a fine balance: it needs to create effective leverage points on domestic policies and help domestic stakeholders hold their government accountable, while taking into account the sensitivities of sovereign nations. More challenging yet, it needs to do so while focusing on social exclusion — an issue that many countries are reluctant to expose. 3. PRIORITIES FOR THE 10 GOALS 3.1. Securing Basic Rights The current MDGs are the expression of a world divided into North and South, East and West; rich countries that drive the politics of aid and poor receiving countries. This world no longer exists. Most poor people now live in sovereign middle income countries, and foreign aid no longer drives poverty reduction. This calls for a universal set of goals based on principles of human rights. The situation of socially excluded groups in India adds to this argument by drawing attention to the link between rights insecurity, exclusion and poverty. Security remains a primary source of concern for all groups: rights violations linked to gender, caste, religion, and to the conflict that has spread in Tribal dominated areas persist. Beyond this, more diffuse forms of discrimination are widespread. The two factors combine to hamper access to basic services, economic opportunities, and prevent the emergence of a unified political leadership. These issues are at the heart of international human rights law, but they are poorly reflected in the current MDGs. The new framework should build on decades of international law making, and embed goals in existing human rights. In addition, a number of specific targets should address major causes of rights insecurity — situations of extreme vulnerability like disasters and conflicts in goal 7, the link between land rights insecurity and vulnerability under goal 6; violence against women under goal 3. The rights focus will also help link the new goals with existing social mobilisation. Human rights are central to the struggles of organisations that lead the mobilisation for equity — for example, those representing women and Dalits in India. Linking the rights framework with a framework like the MDGs, which helps focus efforts and attentions, will give them additional leverage. 3.2. Addressing Inequalities and Social Exclusion  A quantified target on poverty reduction is not enough. The framework needs to reverse a trend that is driving social groups apart. One separate goal should focus on reducing inequalities in income and consumption to 1990 levels. In addition, goal 1, eradicating extreme poverty, should focus specifically on the bottom 20 per cent, and target the dynamics of exclusion that tie them into extreme poverty. Governments should identify vulnerable groups based on neutral criteria.
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