A two-day national seminar on “Economic Growth and Marginalized Groups: A Search for Inclusive Policy” was inaugurated at the School of Economics, University of Hyderabad (UoH) on March 24, 2014. Dr. G. Sridevi, the seminar coordinator gave introductory remarks and told that although there has been agenda of inclusive growth in place from the first plan onwards in India, still one can find exclusion and discrimination of a large part of citizenry based upon caste, region, gender etc.
Prof. G. Nancharaiah, Dean, School of Economics, UoH welcomed the delegates and stated that even after 66 years of independence we’ve not been able to progress satisfactorily on welfare measures for our people. Further, people from marginalized sector lag behind the development radar due to significant gap in access to land, educational attainment, health facilities and income levels.
Prof. Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, VC, UoH observed that the topic of the seminar is very timely as we’re dealing with many forms of discrimination that are also subtle in nature. He gave the example of gender discrimination citing the study from the Indian Academy of Science, that brought to the light that for same qualification and experience level, there exists high probability for a male candidate to be selected compared to a female candidate. It’s also observed that marginalized groups are also discriminated by those who themselves have faced discrimination.
In his inaugural address, Chancellor of UoH, Prof. C. H. Hanumantha Rao told that India’s 12th five year plan has prime focus on “Inclusive Growth”. It is recognized that setting right sectoral priorities is not sufficient for achieving inclusive growth. Marginalized groups can avail the opportunities for setting up enterprises and securing jobs in these sectors only when they have access to the resources like land, capital, education and skills without being subjected to various forms of discrimination.
Further he stated that Agriculture sector is the single largest employer of labour force including some of the most marginalized sections. Since the size of labour force dependent on agriculture in India is going be quite high for the next few decades, the existing ceiling on agricultural land holdings needs to be continued for preventing the concentration of agricultural land into a few hands. This is a necessary pre-condition for ensuring inclusiveness in agriculture growth, especially because there is no evidence, as yet, that small and marginal farmers cannot raise productivity in agriculture as effectively as large farmers, when adequate public support systems are in place. However, given the ceiling on ownership holdings, tenancy needs to be liberalized so that those wanting to leave agriculture – whether large or small land owners – are free to lease out their land without fear of losing their ownership. This would enable those choosing to remain in agriculture to become viable by enlarging their operational holdings, provided tenants are ensured adequate access to credit from institutional sources, he added.
According to the India Human Development Report (IHDR) 2011, the SCs, STs and Muslims suffer the most on account of poor health status: The most striking shortcoming of our public health system has been the failure to reach out to the bottom of the pyramid, to the 300 million people who are often excluded. The problem of illiteracy in both rural and urban areas was most pronounced among SCs, STs, and Muslims, and relatively more pronounced among females. The Report points out that the combination of low public expenditure on both health and education has had serious, long-lasting adverse consequences for India’s human development levels, and suggests that establishing publicly funded educational institutions alone can ensure greater participation from among the educationally disadvantaged communities, opined Prof. Hanumantha Rao.
However Prof. Rao told that one good news IHDR 2011 brings is that all the three groups, that is, SCs, STs, and Muslims have been converging towards the national average in terms of literacy rate. Health indicators for these marginalized groups are also converging with the national average, although in absolute terms, the overall situation continues to be worrisome.
These encouraging developments should not come as a surprise. The year 2004 was a watershed after 15 years of economic reforms, when the government at the centre made an explicit commitment, for the first time, to implementing economic reforms with human face. Among many policy initiatives taken in the social sector, two major ones are Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme and the Programme for the Welfare of Minorities. On all accounts, these two programmes had a distinctly better impact. It’s crucial for all state governments to act as agents of change to make the development process truly inclusive. It may be noted that in both Kerala and Tamil Nadu the system of Public Distribution of Food grains has been successful. These states also show better accountability of programme performance through Panchayati Raj Institutions, Prof. Rao concluded.
Prof. R. Radhakrishna, Chairman, CESS, Hyderabad delivered the keynote address and presented that in post reforms period, Indian economy shifted to market oriented growth by replacing the level of investment and support for public sector. He emphasized upon the greater role of the State to play in development process as an agent of economic change to ensure economic growth with inclusiveness.
The two-day seminar will see a Panel Discussion on Economic Discrimination and Role of State and technical sessions on Access to Land and Marginalized groups; Access to Health and Education; Food, Poverty and Inequality, where academicians and researchers from all over India will debate the issues and present their findings.
By Kumar Ashish, Research Scholar in School of Economics, UoH