|Speech of Shri
Finance Minister, Government of India
27th February, 1999
National Human Development Initiative (NHDI)
17. Even a half-century after Independence, the levels of human development in India lag behind most other countries. The essence of human development should be to empower vulnerable groups in society to take advantage of the process of development. Empowerment, in my view, entails access to five basic requirements, namely, Food, Health Care, Education, Employment and Shelter. It is our resolve to make them available to the entire population of this country within a decade. With this initiative for people-centred development, we will be implementing the Prime Ministers mandate for reforming the reforms.
Food: The Targeted Public Distribution System has been designed to provide food security, especially to those below the poverty line, on the basis of susbidised foodgrain prices. With greater involvement of Gram Panchayats in its supervision and implementation, the Targeted Public Distribution System will be suitably strengthened to ensure its proper coverage and make it efficient.
The Targeted Public Distribution System does not however adequately cover the indigent senior citizens who have no income of their own and none to take care of them in the village. I propose to launch a new scheme, "Annapurna" in 1999-2000, to provide food security to such persons. "Annapurna" will provide 10 kg. of foodgrains per month free of cost to all indigent senior citizens who are eligible for old age pension but are presently not receiving it and whose children are not residing in the same village. The number of persons benefitting from the scheme will not for the present exceed 20% of the old age pensioners within that State. The Gram Panchayat will be required to identify, prepare and display a list of such persons after giving wide publicity.
Health Care: The expansion and improvement of health infrastructure and services are key goals set out in the Special Action Plan announced by the Prime Minister. While an extensive network for primary health care has been created in most rural areas, inadequate community participation and supervision has constrained use of these facilities to much below their capacity. Our goal is to integrate and synergise the existing programmes for health care, family welfare, rural development and related areas in different Central Ministries and to deploy the available resources so that every household secures ready access to both primary health care and family welfare services. The Central Government will provide funds to such Gram Panchayats that come forward with their own contribution to set up primary health care facilities in their respective areas. This will match similar assistance from the concerned State Government.
Education: Access to primary education is critical for empowering people. Several States have recorded considerable success with their respective models of education guarantee schemes. I propose to implement an Education Guarantee Scheme at the national level. The aim will be to provide an elementary school in every habitation, which does not have one within a radius of 1 km. Initially, the local community would provide the premises and select a local person as a part time teacher. Teaching material and other assistance will be provided by the Central and the State Governments, while Gram Panchayats will mobilise contribution from the local community in cash and kind for running the school for at least two years. After the school has functioned successfully for two years, it will be upgraded on a permanent basis. At least 1.8 lakh such schools will become operational during the next three years of the Ninth Plan. The resources available under the existing Centrally sponsored education schemes will be mobilised to support this important initiative. This initiative will provide an opportunity to the rural poor, especially those belonging to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes to secure education for their children. This is the first and most important step towards their empowerment.
Employment: At present, a variety of self-employment and wage employment schemes are in operation. To enhance the effectiveness of these schemes in generating income-earning opportunities for the rural poor, Government will follow a four-pronged strategy with the common theme of ensuring greater involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions:
Shelter: The rural housing shortage at the beginning of 1997-98 was estimated at nearly 140 lakh units, which included shelterless households and those with only kutcha dwellings. Governments priority will be to provide shelter to all shelterless poor households by the end of the Ninth Plan. The task of upgradation of kutcha dwellings of poor households will be completed by the end of the Tenth Plan. Furthermore, to ensure integrated provision of shelter, sanitation and drinking water, we propose to launch a comprehensive "Samagra Awas Yojana", which will embrace existing programmes including Indira Awas Yojana.
18. The National Human Development Initiative will go a long way in empowering the weakest sections of the population and improving the quality of rural life. This will minimise the rural-urban disparities. The effectiveness of this initiative will depend critically on the extent to which the Gram Panchayat, as an elected body, can assume a pivotal role in implementing the various components of the programmes. I propose to declare 1999-2000 as the "Year of the Gram Sabha" to affirm our resolve to set the process of decentralised democracy in motion, with human development as the core objective of planning.
19. Turning to shelter in urban areas, we have already taken major steps for encouraging housing development, including repeal of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act. To improve the flow of credit for housing I propose the following measures:
20. The development of housing in urban areas also depends heavily on the quality of urban services. Many of our municipal bodies are at present financially too weak to provide basic services. To encourage these bodies to improve their creditworthiness in financial markets, I propose to accord tax-free status to a limited amount of municipal bonds issued each year. A little later, I shall be announcing far reaching tax initiatives to promote housing.