Chapter 16
Poverty eradication and human resource development


The overriding objective of a country’s policy and planning is to raise the standard of living and enhance the productive capabilities of its people. With over a billion people, this challenge is particularly daunting for a developing country such as India.

This chapter attempts to summarize India’s initiatives towards meeting the objectives of Agenda 21 for the social sector. In most cases, the origin of these initiatives dates well before the Rio Summit, reflecting the primacy attached to social development. Given the cross-sectoral nature of issues related to poverty, government initiatives have been analyzed in several parts of this report. This chapter touches upon some issues that directly relate to poverty eradication and human resource development.

The chapter begins with a brief narration of Agenda 21 social objectives notably poverty reduction, access to education, employment opportunities and health services; and the special considerations of women and vulnerable groups in society. This is followed by a discussion of the extensive organizational structure in the country to address these concerns; highlights of the major initiatives relating to each Agenda 21 objective and progress vis-à-vis these objectives. The chapter concludes with the main concerns and strategies that need to be adopted to address these.

Social sector and Agenda 21

Agenda 21 recognizes that eradication of poverty and, greater equity in income distribution along with human resource development remain major challenges for the global community. Given the interrelationships amongst economic growth, environment and poverty, an anti-poverty strategy is one of the basic conditions for ensuring sustainable development. An effective strategy for tackling the problems of poverty, development and environment should encompass simultaneously demographic issues, enhanced health care and education, the rights of women, the role of indigenous people and local communities and democratic participation process in association with improved governance. Integral to such action is, together with international support, the promotion of economic growth in developing countries that is both sustained and sustainable and direct action in eradication of poverty by strengthening employment and income-generating programmes.

Providing sustainable livelihood opportunities

Agenda 21 recognizes the need for direct action to eradicate poverty by strengthening employment and income-generating opportunities. It stresses on the need to generate remunerative employment compatible with the country’s endowments; assign a high priority to professional training and develop an adequate facilitating infrastructure.

Demographic dynamics and sustainability

Agenda 21 underscores the need to formulate policies that address demographic issues within the holistic goal of development. Programmes would need to be evolved that promote changes in demographic trends and factors towards sustainability, in keeping with the freedom, dignity and values of individuals. Such programmes would include reproductive health programmes and services and appropriate institutional arrangements to facilitate the implementation of demographic activities.


Agenda 21 identifies education, training and raising public awareness as essential for social progress and improving the capacity of people to address environment and developmental issues. The document underlines the need for:


Meeting primary health care needs

Agenda 21 underlines the need for developing and strengthening primary health care systems that are practical, community-based, scientifically sound, socially acceptable and meet the basic needs for clean water, safe food and sanitation.

Control of communicable diseases

There is a need for organizing programmes that support the principles of the global AIDS strategy and vaccinations for preventing communicable diseases. Intrinsic to this is the development and dissemination of technology as an effective tool for controlling communicable diseases and ensuring technical assistance.

Sustainable human settlements

Agenda 21 identifies the objective of sustainable human settlement as being crucial to sustainable development. This would include improving the social economic and the environmental quality of human settlements and the living and working environment for all people in particular the urban and rural poor.

Empowerment of women

Agenda 21 emphasizes the active participation of women in decision-making as a means to fostering social development. The need to eliminate violence against women and strengthen their capacity occupies an important place in the document. It underlines the need for gender equality in education and training, health and nutrition facilities, access to credit, and employment.

Ensuring the interests of children and youth

Agenda 21 emphasises on the need to further the interests and rights of children and advance the role of youth and actively involve them in protection of the environment and promotion of economic and social development. It stresses on the need for providing the youth access to appropriate secondary education or equivalent vocational training and for establishing processes that promote dialogue between youth and Government at all levels.

Recognizing the role of vulnerable and indigenous people and ensuring their active participation.

Agenda 21 aims at establishing, where appropriate, arrangements to strengthen the participation of indigenous people in formulating national policies, laws and programmes. It also stresses on ensuring their involvement both at the local and national levels in resource management and conservation strategies.

Social sector in India: review and analysis of initiatives

Poverty reduction has been the overriding objective of development planning in India. There has been over time a conceptual broadening in the notions of well being and deprivation. The notion of well being has shifted away from just material attainments, or the means for development, to outcomes that are either desirable in themselves or desirable because of their role in supporting better opportunities for people. Similarly, it is recognised that poverty is a multi-faceted phenomenon going beyond lack of adequate income and must be viewed as a state of deprivation spanning the social, economic and political context of the people that prevents their effective participation as equals in the development process. This recognition has resulted in a renewed focus on education and health- critical for capacity building- and other social and environmental factors that have a direct bearing on the state of well being (Planning Commission, 2002). Since Independence, the government has accordingly followed a three-pronged strategy for poverty eradication, which comprises:

Economic growth enables expansion of productive employment and generation of resources, which are vital to support any form of intervention for eradication of poverty. Since 1991 India has undertaken trade reforms, financial sector reforms, and removal of controls, which primarily were introduced with the objective of improving efficiency and productivity to accelerate growth. The ultimate objective of such reforms was ensuring the expeditious eradication of poverty. Adequate precaution was taken to protect the poorer sections of the society against the short-term effects of these changes. This was done mainly through increased allocation of resources for programmes for poor in the national plan and sharpening the focus of such programmes on the poor. The Central support for human resource and social development in the country has progressively increased through the 1990s. The Central Government’s expenditure (plan and non-plan) on education, health, family welfare, nutrition, sanitation, rural development, social welfare etc. has increased from Rs 9608 crore in 1992-93 to Rs 40,205 crore in 2001-02 (budget estimates). As a proportion of total expenditure the combined plan and non-plan Central expenditure on these areas has increased from 8.1% in 1992-93 to 10.7% in 2001-02 (MoF, 2002). The various initiatives are discussed in detail in later sections of this chapter.

Poverty eradication and capacity enhancement programmes in the country fall under a number of ministries and departments as shown in Figure 16.1. In addition to these, there are several other ministries/departments (agriculture; sanitation, drinking water supply, etc.) that impact poverty eradication directly and a host of others that have an indirect impact on poverty reduction.

Most programmes are implemented at the block/village level, where local bodies and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) play a significant role together with NGO’s. The enactment of the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution have provided a framework for decentralisation of governance and local participation in the formulation and implementation of plans for economic development and social justice including environmental protection and provision of basic services like water supply, sanitation and solid waste management.

Figure 16.1 Government organizations involved in social sector


M o H F W

Ministry of Health & Family Welfare

D o F W

Department of Family Welfare

D o H

Department of Health

M o H A

Ministry of Home Affairs

D o H A

Department of Home Affairs

M o H R D

Ministry of Human Resource Development

D o W & C D

Department of Women & Child Development


Ministry of Tribal Affairs

M o S J & E

Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment


National Commission for Minorities

N C SCc & STs

National Commission for Scheduled Casts & Scheduled Tribes

M o L

Ministry of Labour

D G E & T, WTD

Directorate General of Employment & Training, Women Training Directorate

M o S C I & A & R I

Ministry of Small Scale Industries & Agro and Rural Industries & Agro and Rural Industries

D o E

Department of Education

D o W C D

Department of Women & Child Development


Directorate General of Health Services


Ministry of Rural Development


Ministry of Urban Dept. & Poverty Alleviation


International Institute for Population Sciences


National Family Health Survey


National Council for Educational Research and Training


Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution

As a result of various initiatives, (elaborated in the following sections) there has been a secular decline in the poverty ratio (Table 16.1). The incidence of poverty expressed as percentage of people living below the poverty line declined steadily from 55% in 1973-74 to 36% in 1993-94 and further to 26% in 1999-2000 (MoF, 2002).

Table 16.1 Percentage of population below poverty line [1]-All India





















Source. Planning Commission (2001a), Ministry of Finance (2002)

The HDI (human development indicator), a composite measure reflecting health, education and economic attainment/deprivation for the country, has shown improvement by nearly 26% in eighties and another 24% in nineties (Planning Commission, 2002). The Human Poverty Index (HPI) recently formulated for the country is an attempt to capture poverty in its various dimensions, including access to minimum services, reveals that the proportion of the deprived at the national level declined from about 47.3% in the early eighties to 39.4% in early nineties in line with the head count measure of poverty (Planning Commission, 2002). However, there are considerable variations in terms of the rural -urban incidence as well as at the state level. The rural-urban ratio for the proportion of the HPI is nearly twice as high as that on the head count ratio of poverty, possibly reflecting the lower levels of basic amenities in rural areas. At the state level, while the HDI declined in all states, interstate differences have persisted.

At the national level, the inequality in consumption expenditure as captured by the Gini ratio has also shown a decline from 0.298 in 1983 to 0.258 in rural areas in 1999-2000 (Planning Commission, 2002). However, in urban areas, consumption inequality has increased marginally from 0.33 in 1983 to 0.341 in 1999-2000 (Planning Commission, 2002).

While the details of poverty eradication programmes are discussed in the following sections, it is useful to discuss here initiatives for improving access of the poor to food, since chronic food insecurity is an important manifestation of poverty in the country. The Public Distribution System (PDS) evolved in the wake of foodgrains shortages in 1960s is a mix of producer-price support cum consumer subsidy and is seen as a safety net for protecting poorer sections who might adversely be affected by price fluctuations. To streamline the existing PDS, a targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) was introduced in 1997 under which special cards were issued to families below the poverty line and essential goods were sold to them through the PDS at specially subsidized prices. According to the 2001-02 Economic Survey, the quantity of the foodgrains earmarked to meet below-poverty-line (BPL) requirements is 18.52 million tonnes per annum (at the rate of 25 kg/family/ month) benefiting an estimated 65.2 million poor families while for the population above the poverty line (APL), a quantity of 10.33 million tonnes of food grain per annum is earmarked for distribution under the TPDS.

Employment and labour welfare

An important objective of development planning in India has been to provide for increasing employment opportunities not only to meet the backlog of the unemployed but also to accommodate additions to the labour force. A two-pronged attack on rural and urban poverty has been launched in the country through wage employment and credit linked self-employment schemes. The Government, from time to time has undertaken several programmes and enacted legislation to reduce the incidence of unemployment and improve the welfare of labour both in the organized and unorganized sectors. Policies eliminating child labour and, enhancing employment opportunities for women and disadvantaged sections of the population are also given high priority. A brief overview of the important legislation, policies and programmes is provided in Table 16.2.

Table 16.2 Highlights of policies, laws and legislation on employment generation and poverty alleviation






Workmen’s compensation Act

Provides for compensation to workmen or their survivors in case of industrial accidents and occupational diseases, resulting in disablement or death.


Trade Unions Act

Provides for registration and operation of trade unions.


Payment of Wages Act

Regulates the payment of wages of certain classes of employed persons


Industrial Disputes Act

Provides for conciliation and adjudication of industrial disputes


Factories Act

Regulates health, safety, welfare and other working conditions of workers in factories.


Employees’ State Insurance Act

Provides for medical care and treatment, cash benefit during sickness, maternity, and employment injury; and pension for dependants on the death of the insured worker due to employment injury.


Minimum Wages Act

Empowers Central and state governments to fix/revise the minimum rates for scheduled employment under their respective jurisdictions.


Mines Act

Provides measures for health, safety, and welfare of the workers in coal, metalliferous and oil mines.


Employees’ Provident Fund & Miscellaneous Provisions Act

Provides for benefits such as provident fund, employees deposit linked insurance and pension to workers particularly in those classes of industry which employ 20 or more workers.


Maternity Benefit Act

Regulates employment of women before and after child birth and provides 12 weeks maternity leave, medical bonus and other benefits.


Payment of Gratuity Act

Provides for payment of gratuity @ 15 days wages for every completed year of service or part thereof, in excess of seven months. There is no wage ceiling for coverage under this Act.


Equal Remuneration Act

Relates to equality and empowerment of women


Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act

It fulfils the Indian Constitution’s directive of ending forced labour.


Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act

Its purpose is to prohibit the employment of children in specified hazardous occupational and processes.

Policies and Programmes


National Commission on Labour, 1969; Second NCL, 1998

Three decades after setting up the first NCL the second commission was set up to rationalize existing labour laws in the organized sector and an umbrella legislation for ensuring the minimum level of protection to workers in the unorganized sector.


Integrated Rural Development Programme

Provides central assistance to states on the basis of proportion of rural poor. Comprises several schemes including:

  • Supply of Improved Toolkits to Rural Artisans (SITRA), 1992
  • Training for Rural Youth for Self Employment (TRYSEM), 1979


Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA)

Initiated in 1982-83 on a pilot basis, covers almost all districts of the country today. Directed at improving the living conditions of women and thereby of children through opportunities for self-employment and access to basic social services.


National Policy on Child and Labour

Focuses on general development programmes benefiting children wherever possible.


Support to Training and Employment Programme, STEP

Seeks to train women for employment in the traditional sectors of agriculture, animal husbandry, dairy, handlooms and handicrafts was launched in 1987. Since its inception, about 448245 women have benefited from 86 projects (Planning Commission, 2001c).


Employment Assurance Scheme, (EAS)

It was started in 1993, and restructured in 1999-2000 as a single-wage employment programme for creation of additional wage employment for the rural poor living BPL.


National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP)

Seeks to provide social assistance to poor households affected by old age, death of primary breadwinner


Swarna Jayanti Shahari Rozgar Yojana, (SJSRY)

Comprises two special schemes: Urban Self Employment Programme and the Urban Wage employment Programme


Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana, (JGSY)

Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY) was restructured as the Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana, (JGSY), where all works that result in the creation of durable productive community assets are taken up. The secondary objective is generation of wage employment for rural unemployed poor.


Swarna Jayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana, (SGSY)

Aims at promoting micro enterprises and helping the poor. Formulated as a result of restructuring and combination of the Integrated Rural Development Programme and allied programmes along with the Million Wells Scheme into a single self-employment programme.





Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY)

Focuses on village level development in five critical areas: health, drinking water, primary education, housing, and rural roads with the objective of improving quality of life in the rural areas.


Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana

Aims at providing wage employment in rural areas as also food security, along with creation of durable community, social and economic assets


Food for work Program

It aims at augmenting food security through wage employment in drought-affected areas. A part of the wage can be paid in kind and rest in cash. Programme stands extended up to 31st March 2002 in respect of notified natural calamity affected districts.


As can be inferred from Table 16.2, Government programmes aimed at employment generation for the poor can be classified under two heads.

In addition, elimination of the gap between skills required and available has been a major focus of human resource development in the country, with emphasis also on enhancing the skills and productivity of workers through vocational training and education (Table 16.2). One of the main sources of such training is the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs). Other initiatives include the Ministry of Labour’s National Vocational Training System, the oldest training set-up and a number of organizations in sectors such as small industry, the khadi and village industries commission (KVIC), handlooms, tourism, electronics, medical technicians, agriculture and rural development also provide sector-specific training.

Other initiatives include creation of necessary infrastructure (e.g. Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana) and setting up of employment exchanges as sources of information, counselling and guidance to employment seekers. States such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have been successful in setting up employment exchanges on a computer-linked network for efficient exchange of information on placement services. Various labour welfare programmes including those catering to the interests of women (e.g. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, National Policy on Child and Labour etc) have also been introduced by the Government.

These initiatives have been successful in ensuring higher employment levels of the organized sector (Table 16.3). There has also been an increase in the real wages for unskilled agricultural labour, an indicator of change in quality of employment, at the all-India level (Planning Commission, 2001c).

Table 16.3 Employment in the organized sector (in lakhs)





































Source. Planning Commission (2001a)

There has been an increase in the proportion of women’s employment to the total employment. The work participation rate for women has increased from 14.22% in 1971 to 22.27% in 1991 (Planning Commission, 2001a). According to the Economic Survey 2001-02, women constituted about 17.2% of the organized sector in 1999—an increase of 0.8% as compared to 1998.

Population and health

The Government of India has adopted an integrated approach to population and health, linking population policies and programmes to improving human conditions and poverty reduction. This approach simultaneously addresses concerns about rapid population growth and the need to improve individual and family welfare.

Population stabilization has been a priority area for sustaining the process of economic development in India. India was the first country to launch, in 1952, a national programme, emphasizing family planning to the extent necessary for reducing birth rates ‘to stabilise the population at a level consistent with the requirement of the national economy’. The National Population Policy (NPP) 2000 outlines its long-term objective as a ‘…to achieve a stable population by 2045, at a level consistent with the requirements of sustainable economic growth, social development and environment protection’. Table 16.4 depicts the milestones in the evolution of the population policy of India.

Table 16.4 Evolution of National Population Policy in India





Launching of Family Planning Programme

In 1952, India became the first developing country to establish a national family planning programme to address the issues of high fertility and rapid population growth.


Statement on National Health Policy

Emphasized the need for ‘securing the small family norm, through voluntary efforts and moving towards the goal of population stabilisation’.


Committee on Population appointed by the National Development Council

The Karunakaran Report endorsed by the NDC in 1993 proposed the formulation of a National Population Policy to take ‘a long term holistic view of development, population growth and environmental protection’; to ‘suggest policies and guidelines (for) formulation of programmes" and ‘a monitoring mechanism with short, medium and long term perspectives and goals’ (Planning Commission, 1992).


National Population Policy

Prepared after several rounds of deliberations and revisions to ensure political consensus, the policy takes a holistic view of population control and its links with poverty by focussing on a range of issues such as access to reproductive health care, primary and secondary education, basic amenities including sanitation, safe drinking water, housing, transport and communication besides the issue of empowering women and enhancing their employment opportunities. The objectives of the policy are:

  • Immediate objective: to address the needs for contraception, health care infrastructure, health personnel and integrated service delivery.
  • Medium-term objective: to bring the fertility rate to replacement levels by 2010.
  • Long-term objective: to achieve a stable population by 2045.

The policy identifies 14 national socio-demographic goals, which include providing free and compulsory school education up to 14 years of age, reducing IMR to below 30 per live births, ensuring universal immunization, achieving 80% institutional deliveries and 100% deliveries by trained persons, providing access to information, arresting AIDS, prevention and control of communicable diseases, promoting small family norms, and conducting a people-centred family welfare programme.

On the health side, a number of policies and programmes have been evolved to improve the health conditions of the people of India. These policies and programmes are summarized in Table 16.5.

Table 16.5 Highlights of policies and programmes in the health sector




1953; 1971

National Anti-Malaria Programme (NAMP), 1953; Urban Malaria Scheme (UMS), 1971

Aimed at the control of malaria by reducing the vector population through recurrent anti-larval measures and detection and treatment of cases through existing health services;

1955; 1983



National Leprosy Control Programme, 1955; renamed the National Leprosy Eradication Programme, NLEP, (1983)

  • NLEP, 1983 aimed at eliminating leprosy by the end of the century
  • In 1993-94, NLEP received boost from World Bank assistance under Phase I that ended on 30th September, 2000. Phase II under consideration
  • Extension of MDT (multi drug therapy) services in uncovered areas, strengthening of existing services, health education and training activities.

National Immunization Programmes

  • Expanded Programme on Immunization, 1978
  • Universal Immunization Programme (UIP), 1985;Accorded the status of a Technology Mission under the banner of the Technology Mission on Immunization in 1986

  • Pulse Polio Immunization (PPI) Programme, 1995-96

1975; 1985

National Cancer Control Programme, 1975 (revisited in 1984)

Its objectives include:

  • Primary prevention: Health education and prevention of intake of tobacco;
  • Secondary prevention: Early detection of common cancers
  • Tertiary Prevention: Strengthening of existing institution for comprehensive therapy including palliative care.

The following steps have been taken to strengthen the National Cancer Control Programme:

  • Existing Regional Cancer Centres being strengthened to act as referral centres
  • Increase in the number of cobalt therapy units
  • Scheme for development of oncology wings in medical colleges initiated to fill up geographical gaps in detection and treatment of cancer.
  • District Cancer Control Programme: Under the scheme for district projects for health education, early detection and pain relief measures, one time and recurring assistance provided for four years. So far, 40 districts provided with assistance under the scheme.
  • Scheme of voluntary organization initiated for undertaking health education and early detection of cancer

1987; 1999

National AIDS Control Programme (NACO), 1987

National AIDS Control Programme-II, 1999

  • Led to the creation of National AIDS Committee, National AIDS Control Board and National AIDS Control Organisation
  • NACO II is a centrally sponsored programme initiated in 1999 funded by World Bank, DFID and USAID. The project has five components:

  1. Reducing HIV transmission among poor and marginalized sections of the community at the highest risk of infection by targeted intervention, STD control and condom promotion
  2. Reducing the spread of HIV among general population by reducing blood borne transmission and promotion of IEC, voluntary testing and counseling.
  3. Developing capacity for community-based low cost care for people living with AIDS.
  4. Strengthening implementation capacity at the National States and Municipal Corporation levels
  5. Forging intersectoral linkages between public, private and voluntary sectors

  • National Counselling Training Programme launched to train grassroot counsellors
  • National AIDS Helpline set up in 1997 with a toll free number,1097, for telephonic counselling
  • School AIDS Education Programme started to provide lifestyle education and information on HlV/AIDS. Draft National AIDS-Prevention & Control Policy to control the epidemic and arrest its spread within next five years. The policy aims at improving the quality of blood transfusion services through a comprehensive and total quality management approach
  • NACO II aims at reducing the spread of HIV infection in India and strengthening India’s capacity to respond to HIV/AIDS on a long term basis

1962; 1992

National TB Control Programme (NTCP), 1962; Reviewed by an Expert Committee in 1992

  • The revised NTCP (RNTCP), 1993 had the following features:
  • Based on Directly Observed Treatment Short course (DOTS) strategy with the objective of curing at least 85% of new sputum positive patients and detecting at least 70% of such patients; uninterrupted supply of medicines to patients assured.
  • Possibility of covering the entire country by 2005 under consideration


National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Programme (NIDDCP)

  • Iodization plants donated to 40 small scale manufacturers association/cooperative societies
  • Loans offered by the Salt Department for development of salt works to licenced manufacturers and promotion of cooperative societies in the salt industry


Pilot Project on Oral Health

Launched by the Directorate General of Health Services for 3 years in one district each of five states, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and Rajasthan as a collaborative project of the Government of India and WHO


Yaws Eradication Programme (YEP)

Yaws is a preventable, disfiguring and disabilitating non-venereal treponemal infection;

YEP initiated as a central sector health scheme in one (Koraput) and gradually extended to other states; is expected to achieve eradication of Yaws by 2004-05. Programme strategy includes manpower development, detection of cases, simultaneous treatment of cases and close contacts and Information Education Communication (IEC) activities


National/District Mental Health Programme

Launched in 4 districts; Includes training of health team at the identified nodal institutes within states, increasing awareness about mental health problems, providing services for early detection and treatment of mental illness, and providing data and experience at the level of community for future planning; extended to 22 districts in 20 states in 2001


National Dengue Control Programme

Under the programme

  • Dengue situation regularly monitored by the National Anti -Malaria Programme (NAMP)
  • Important components include surveillance and control, health education and symptomatic treatment


National Surveillance Programme for Communicable Diseases (NSPCD)

Under the programme:

  • A model district surveillance plan drafted with an objective to train, modernize laboratories, strengthen linkages for disease surveillance from peripheral to central levels, networking with state/regional and national institutions etc.
  • Pilot project implemented in 25 districts in 1998
  • Programme extended to 20 more districts in 1999
  • Programme continued to exist in 45 districts and extended to 35 more districts in 2001


As is apparent in Tables 16.4 and 16.5 above, the achievements in the health and population sectors can be classified under four broad heads: population and demography; prevention and disease control, infrastructure; and promotion of Indian systems of medicine.

Population and demography

The intensive health care and family planning programme in the country has led to an overall decrease in the birth rates along with stabilization of death rates over time (Figure 16.2). This has resulted in a decline in the rate of growth of population in the country from 2.14% in 1981-1991 to 1.93% in the decade, 1991-2001 (Census of India, 2001) (Figure 16.3).

Figure 16.2 Trends in birth rate and growth rate
(Birth and Death Rate in India, 1901 to 2001)

Figure 16.3 Trend in the growth of population: 1901-2001

Half a century after the formulation of the first family planning programme, the country has [2]:

(Source: National Population Policy 2000 [3] and MoHRD (2000))

Disease prevention and control

As summarized in Table 16.5 above, the government has launched a number of programmes to control infectious and other diseases in the country. These programmes have led to a significant decline in their incidence. Some indicators of this performance are:

The following table (Table 16.6) reports the achievements of immunization programmes in the country.

Table 16.6 Immunisation programme: % of targets achieved for various diseases - All India:1989/90 to 1999/2000


Coverage levels (% achievement of target)








































































(* Figures provisional)

Source. MOH&FW

DPT: Diphtheria Pertussis Tetanus

OPV: Oral Polio

BCG: Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin

MSLS: Measles

TT: Tetanus Toxoid

Health care infrastructure

The various programmes discussed above have reinforced the delivery of primary, secondary and tertiary health care throughout the country. As a result of the several initiatives of the government, there has been an increase in the number of health care centres/sub-centres/primary health centres/ community health centres from 725 in 1951 to 1,63,181 in the year 2000. The number of dispensaries and hospitals increased over five-fold, which indicates their accessibility by the population. Table 16.7 provides a summary of the major achievements.

Table 16.7 Major achievements in health care infrastructure:1951-2000










1,63,181 (99-Rural Health Survey)

Dispensaries and hospitals (all)



43,322 (95–96 -CBHI)

Beds (private and public)



8,70,161 (95-96-CBHI)

Doctors (allopathy)



5,03,900 (98-99-MCI)

Nursing personnel



7,37,000 (99-INC)

Source. MoH&FW

CBHI: Central Bureau of Health Intelligence

MCI: Medical Council of India

INC: Indian Nursing Council

To further enhance the health standards a New Health Policy (NHP), 2002 has been formulated (Box 16.1). The policy focuses on the need for enhanced funding and organisational restructuring of the national public health initiatives in order to facilitate more equitable access to health facilities.

Box 16.1 New Health Policy-2002

Some of the important features of the NHP are:

Indian systems of medicine and homeopathy

The Indian systems of medicine and homeopathy (ISM&H) consist of Ayurveda, Sidhha, Unani and Homeopathy, and therapies such as Yoga and Naturopathy. During the last five decades there has been a progressive increase in the number of physicians qualifying through educational institutions in ISM&H. There are about 6 lakh ISM&H practitioners serving in remote rural and urban areas (Planning Commission, 2001c). Strengthening undergraduate and post graduate training in ISM&H, establishment of speciality clinics in major hospitals, standardisation of drugs, enhancing availability of raw materials, research and development and information, education and communication (IEC) are some of the major achievements of the Department of ISM&H. There are four Research Councils for ISM&H—Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS); Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine (CCRUM); Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH); and Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy (CCRYN). These initiate, aid, guide, develop and coordinate basic and applied research, medico-botanical surveys, research on the cultivation of medicinal plants and pharmacognostical studies.

Over the last two decades the cultivation of medicinal plants and herbs has been unable to meet the increasing demands for drugs used in these systems. Some of the species of medicinal plants are reported to be endangered because of increasing pressure on the forests. A scheme has been initiated for the development and cultivation of medicinal plants with the objective of augmenting production of raw herbs of plant origin by providing central assistance for their cultivation and development.


‘Education for all’ is one of the priority areas of the government. Programmes have been initiated by the government at various levels involving state governments and local bodies to enhance the spread of education in the country. Several of these schemes, launched by the Central government are summarized in Table 16.8 below.

Table 16.8 Highlights of policies/programmes/schemes in the education sector




Policies and legislation


National Literacy Mission (NLM)

Aimed at

  • Providing literacy and life skills to persons in the age group of 15-35 years by the year 2005
  • Promoting literacy among women, scheduled castes and tribes and backward classes.

District-based total literacy campaign (TLC) emerged as a programme strategy for NLM.


National Policy on Education, 1982; Reviewed in 1990; Revised in 1992

The 1992 Plan of Action assigned specific responsibilities for organizing, implementing and financing the proposals of NPE, 1986. The NPE emphasized elementary education, giving a thrust to:

  • Universal enrolment and universal retention
  • Improvement in quality of education


Constitution (Ninety-third Amendment)

The Bill seeks to introduce a new article in the Chapter on Fundamental Right of the Constitution of India, which makes the right to elementary education a fundamental right for all children in the age group 6-14 years. The Bill is waiting approval by the Parliament.



Operation Blackboard (OB), Later renamed ‘Special Orientation of Primary Teachers (SOPT)’programme

Intended to improve school infrastructure by providing essential facilities such as teachers, classrooms, books and teaching equipment.


Teacher Education

This centrally-sponsored scheme of restructuring and reorganization of teacher education taken up in 1987 envisages setting up District Institutions of Education and Training (DIETs) in each district to provide academic and resource support to elementary education teachers and non-formal and adult education instructors; establishment of Colleges of Teacher Education (CTEs)

and Institutes of Advanced Study in Education (IASEs) to organize pre-service and in-service training for secondary teachers; strengthening of State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) in States. Under this scheme 461 DIETs, 85 CTEs, 37 IASEs have been established so far.


Mahila Samakhya,

(supported by the World Bank)

Designed specifically for women's empowerment through education. focussed on the education and empowerment of women in rural areas, particularly of women from socially and economically marginalized groups.

The programme goes beyond target interventions; Sanghas (Village level women’s collective, the nodal points around which the programme evolves, address a wide range of issues relating to livelihood, education and health; Sanghas have played an active role in enrolling children specially girls in the village schools


Bihar Education Project

(collaborative venture of the UNICEF, Government of India and Government of Bihar)

Aims to bring about quantitative and qualitative improvements in the primary education, especially for deprived sections of society, such as SCs, STs and women. Focuses on Minimum Levels of Learning (MLL) and training of teachers

Highlights of MLL Programme:

  • Aims at competency by all primary school students in languages, mathematics and environmental studies.
  • First phase implemented through voluntary organizations, institutions, State Councils for Educational Research and Training (SCERTs) and established District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs)


Lok Jumbish (LJ),

Aims at empowerment of locally elected people, especially female representatives at village level.

  • LJ achieved a major breakthrough in welding government agencies, teachers, NGOs, elected representatives and the people into a group effort to promote universalization of primary education
  • Coverage extended to 75 blocks, covering a population of approximately 12 million


Shikhsa Karmi Project

Led to constitution of Village Education Centres (VECs) in 2000 villages to promote community involvement in primary education and encourage village level planning. The role of the VECs includes:

  • Mobilizing resources for maintenance, repair and construction of school infrastructure.
  • Determining the school calendar and school timings in consultation with the local community educational workers (shiksha karmis)

The programme covers over 150,000 students in 1,785 schools and 3,520 Prehar Pathshalas, involving over 4,271 Shiksha Karmis.


Uttar Pradesh Basic Education Programme

Assisted by the World Bank aims at ‘education for all’. Activities include:

  • Construction work of schools and Block Resource Centres
  • Preparation of training material for teacher trainers in established District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) (about 40,000 teachers have been trained in the first cycle of in-service teacher training)

The project is currently in operation in 12 districts. It is planned to expand the coverage to 15 districts under DPEP-II.


District Primary Education Programme

The programme, partially funded by a World Bank loan, aims at operationalizing strategies required for achieving the goal of universal elementary education through specific planning and target-setting at the district level;


  • Based on the concept of decentralized management, community mobilization, contextual and research-based inputs.
  • Designed to enhance government efforts to provide basic education to all children in the age group 6 to 11 years with a focus on girls, marginalized communities (SCs and STs), children with disabilities and working children.


National Programme of Nutritional support (Mid-Day Meal Scheme)

Provides 3 kgs of foodgrain per month to each primary school student; being implemented in all states.


Non Formal Education

  • Implemented in pursuance of the National Policy of Education, 1986; provides Central Government help for establishment of non-formal education centres
  • Scheme of Jan Shikshan Sansthan or Institute of People's Education, (previously known as the Scheme of Shramik Vidyapeeth) evolved as a non-formal continuing education programme to respond to the educational and vocational training needs of adults and young people living in urban and industrial areas and rural-urban migrants
  • Institutes' activities enlarged and infrastructure strengthened to enable functioning as district level repositories of vocational and technical skills in urban and rural areas.
  • 92 Jan Shikshan Sansthans in the India currently


Education Guarantee Scheme

Being implemented vigorously in Madhya Pradesh, this is a community centred initiative for Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE; more state/UTs proposing to launch this shortly


Schemes on Vocationalisation of Secondary Education

Centrally sponsored scheme to encourage setting up of vocational courses in the country; Pandit Sundar Lal Sharma Central Institute of Vocational Education (PSSCIVE) was set up to give impetus to R&D and technical support in the field of vocational education.


Schemes of Technical Education

Aims at implementing the recommendations of the National Task Force on information technology and software development through agencies such as the NCERT, IGNOU, and UGC; Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management set up in Gwalior and Indian Institute of Information Technology at Allahabad.


Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan

Flagship programme for UEE announced in the year 2000, made operational and launched in all the states of the country. Steps have been taken to make elementary education a fundamental right for children in the age group 6-14.

Broadly, it aims at ensuring that the schemes of elementary education are implemented in a holistic manner. The major goals include:

  • All children in the age 6-14 in schools/Education Guarantee Centres/bridge course by 2003
  • All children of age 6-14 to complete 5 year primary education by 2007.
  • All children of age 6-14 to complete 8 years of schooling by 2010.
  • Focus on elementary education of satisfactory quality with emphasis on education for life.
  • Bridge all general and social category gaps at primary stage by 2007 and at elementary education level by 2010 and
  • Universal retention by 2010.



Education Guarantee Scheme & Alternative and Innovative Education (EGS & AIE)

Launched in 2000 in the entire country to improve access to education with flexibility to cater to diverse needs of out-of-school children. It provides for guaranteed opening of EGS schools in unserved habitations where there are no school within 1 km radius.


Kasturba Gandhi Swatantra Vidyalaya Scheme

Provides for setting up of residential schools for girls in districts that have a particularly low female literacy rate

  • Sum of Rs 2500 million provided in the 2001-02
  • Financial incentives and scholarships for the girl child born in families living below the poverty line, also provided


Andhra Pradesh Primary Education Project

Implemented in the south central state of Andhra Pradesh, with a female literacy of just 34%, APPEP adopts a two-pronged strategy of improving classroom transaction by training teachers and giving a fillip to school construction activities.

  • An estimated 80,000 teachers in 23 districts trained and more than 3,000 teaching centres operational


National Programme for Women’s education

Aims at providing incentives such as free textbooks, uniforms, to increase intake and retention of primary and middle school girl’s enrolment



As can be seen from the above table, a number of central and state level initiatives are in place to enhance the level of literacy in the country. As a result of these, the literacy rates for India as a whole increased from 18.33 % in 1951 to 65.38 % in 2001, with the literacy rate for males at 75.85% and that for females at 54.16% (Census of India, 2001).

The country's commitment to elementary education sector is reflected in the move to make free and compulsory education a Fundamental Right for all children in the age group six to fourteen. Necessary Constitutional Amendment Bill has been introduced in the Parliament towards this end. The government has also launched the programme Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Movement for Education for All) which would be the main instrument for fulfilling this Constitutional obligation. It is a holistic and convergent scheme, with an effort to universalize elementary education by community-ownership of the school system. The community is the key in the planning, implementation and monitoring of SSA. There is a special focus in the programme for girls and other disadvantaged groups. In addition, to the gender-focus in SSA, the government is implementing some gender specific programmes like Mahila Samakhya and is also launching two more programmes, viz. Kasturba Gandhi Swatantra Vidyalaya (KGSV) and the National Programme for the Education of Girls at the Elementary Level (NPEGEL), targeting key issues affecting girls' education.

Another notable initiative operating at a decentralised level through collaboration of the state government, local body/panchayat and the community is the Education Guarantee Scheme (1997) introduced in the state of Madhya Pradesh (Table 16.8). Under EGS, the Government gives a guarantee to provide a primary schooling facility to children in a habitation where there is no such facility within a kilometer within a period of 90 days of receiving a demand for such a facility by the local community.
The achievements in access to education sector can be categorized under the following broad headings: basic education, adult education and technical and professional education.

Basic education

Table16.9 Growth in school enrolment at the primary and upper primary level 1950/51-1999/2000

Total enrolment (in million)



Primary level



Upper primary level



Gross enrolment ratio (%)


Primary level



Upper primary level



Source. MoHRD

Adult education

The National Literacy Mission (NLM) was set up in 1988 to impart a new sense of urgency and seriousness to adult education. The goal of this Mission is to attain total literacy i.e. a sustainable threshold literacy rate of 75% by 2005. The Mission seeks to achieve this by imparting functional literacy to non-literates in the 15-35 age group. This has been a very successful programme for promoting adult literacy in India.

The Total Literacy Campaign (TLC) has been the principal strategy of the National Literacy Mission (NLM) for eradication of illiteracy. On the conclusion of a Total Literacy Campaign (TLC), a Post-Literacy Campaign (PLC) is implemented. The NLM has emphasized the integration of a skill development programme with the PL programme to enable neo-literates to acquire skills for their economic self-reliance and as a problem-solving tool, so that learning becomes relevant to living and working. the salient features of the NLM include:

As of December 2001, 561 out of 588 districts in the country, were covered under Adult Education Programme—166 under Total Literacy Campaigns, 260 under the Post Literacy Programme, 30 under the Rural Functional Literacy Project (RFLP) and 105 under the continuing Education Programme. About 91.5 million people have been made literate as of 31.12.2000. Besides, 92 Jan Shikshan Sansthans have been set up and 25 State Resource Centres are functioning under NGOs. The Directorate of Adult Education and National Institute of Adult Education (NIAE) are functioning as National Resource Centres.

Higher education (including technical and professional education)

The number of secondary and senior secondary schools in the country increased from 7416 in 1950-51 to 1,16,000 in 1999-00 with a student enrolment of 28 million. The Sixth All-India Educational Survey 1993 showed that there was an increase of 51% in the enrolment of girls in classes IX to X and a 54% increase in classes XI to XII as compared to 20% in the primary and 40% in the upper primary stages during the period 1986 to 1993 (MoF, 2002).

There has been an impressive growth in the area of university and higher education. Accreditation of all universities and colleges has been made mandatory. It has also been made possible for deemed universities to open campuses abroad. All higher education institutions at all levels can now have 15% supernumerary seats for foreigners. These steps will improve the quality of education offered and make the system more globally competitive.

Technical and professional education in the country has played a significant role in economic and technical development by producing quality manpower. There are at present 1058 approved engineering colleges at the degree and 1231 colleges at diploma level. Apart from this, 797 institutes impart courses on Master of Computer Applications Courses. There are 820 approved management institutes imparting MBA courses. Strong linkages have been developed between technical institutions and industry. For strengthening technical education and improving the polytechnic pass-outs, massive efforts have been made at the state level with the assistance of international agencies such as the World Bank (MoF, 2002).

Sustainable human settlements [5]

Housing and shelter

Agenda 21 stressed on the need for ‘Providing adequate shelter for all’. The various initiatives of the government in both urban and rural areas are briefly set out in Table 16.10.

Table 16.10 Highlights of policies and other initiatives for provision of shelter for all






Urban Land (ceiling and Regulation) Act

Enacted with a view to prevent concentration of urban land in the hands of a few persons, speculation and profiteering in urban land and to bring about an equitable distribution of urban land to subserve the common good. The Act was repealed in 1999.


Land Acquisition (Amendment) Act


Land acquisition in India is covered by a national law, the 1894 Land Acquisition Act (LAA) and its subsequent amendments

It allows for land acquisition in the national interest for water reservoirs, canals, plants, fly-ash ponds, transmission lines and highways to be carried out by the respective States


Sixth Plan (1980-85)

Integrated Development of Small and Medium Towns

Aimed at improving infrastructural facilities and helping in creation of public assets in small and medium towns


Urban Development Plans Formulation and Implementation (UDPFI) Guidelines

Prepared by the Ministry of Urban Development and Poverty Alleviation, these aim at adopting an urban development planning system consisting of four inter related plans viz. Perspective plan, developmental plan, annual plan and plans of projects and schemes. All these plans focus on resource mobilization and legislative support as well as taking in to account the regional approach environmental aspects and peoples’ participation.


National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB)

NCR Planning Board was constituted under the National Capital Region Planning Board Act, 1985 to regulate the growth and to prepare plans and policies for balanced and harmonised development of National Capital Region.


National Housing Habitat Policy

Aims at providing housing for all and facilitates construction of 20 lakh additional housing units annually (13 lakh in rural areas and 7 lakh in urban) with the emphasis on extending the benefits to poor and deprived.



Infrastructure Development of Mega Cities scheme

The main objective of this scheme was creating and maintaining a special fund for the development of infrastructure on a sustained basis. The scheme targeted cities having population above 4 million, excluding Delhi.


National Slum Development Programme

Under this programme funds are given to the states on yearly basis to take care of housing and shelter and up gradation of slums.


Indira Aawas Yojana (IAY)

Launched during 1985-86 as a sub-scheme of Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP) and continued as a sub-scheme of Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY) since its launching from April, 1989. It was delinked from the JRY and has been made an independent scheme with effect from January 1, 1996. The scheme aims to provide assistance to below poverty line households belonging to Scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, and free bonded labour categories.


Credit-Cum-Subsidy Scheme for rural housing

The Schemes targeted rural families having annual income upto Rs. 32,000 to enable/ facilitate construction of houses for rural households who have some repaying capacity. Under this scheme, preference is also given to rural households below the poverty line.


Samagra Aawas Yojana

Under this scheme a block each in 25 districts of 24 states and one union territory were identified for implementation of a participatory approach under Accelerated Rural Water Supply Programme.


Pradhan Mantri Gamodya Yojana (PMGY)

Aims at achieving the objective of sustainable human development at the village level. The PMGY envisages additional central assistance (ACA) for the basic minimum services of rural roads, primary health, primary education, shelter, drinking water and nutrition in order to focus on these priority areas. To achieve the national goal of village electrification by 2007, the village electrification component has now been included under PMGY.


The government has taken numerous measures to promote sustainable settlements over the years. Efforts have been made over the years to achieve the objective of shelter for all through a number of centrally sponsored schemes and institutional financing through HUDCO (Housing and Urban Development Corporation) and other institutions. Several enabling programmes have been initiated, such as, the establishment of a housing finance system with a National Housing Bank at the apex level.

In 1998, the National Housing Policy was revised and amended, making a conscious attempt to redefine housing from a mere physical asset to more dynamic concept that of a sustainable living habitat. The concept of adequate shelter includes adequate social and physical infrastructure, use of energy saving and cost effective building material, good clean living environment and other such parametres. The emphasis is therefore on human settlement technology rather than a civil engineering approach. In order to meet the target of achieving the objective of Agenda 21 by 2007, it was decided to create 2 million additional dwelling units predominantly for the poor in urban areas each year. A practical approach was adopted to provide housing by involving various stakeholders- corporate and co-operative sector, housing finance institutions and research institutions with government playing the role of a facilitator. The Government seeks to achieve the target of ‘shelter for all’ through a facilitating approach principally in three areas—legal reforms, fiscal incentives and transfer of technology. A set of laws, statues, rules, regulations which have an impact on the housing and construction activity have been undertaken including an amendment to the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act to expand the supply of land, formulation of a model Rent Control Act and model Apartment Ownership Bill (details in Table 16.10). Some fiscal incentives for enlarging the resource base have been taken by the Government. These include increase of government equity in HUDCO to enable an increase in mobilization of funds, allowing tax concessions for rental housing, providing for external commercial borrowings, activating Housing Co-operatives etc. The shelter needs of the poor cannot solely be achieved by the legal and fiscal concessions and therefore the use of efficient construction techniques and cost effective technologies becomes imperative. In this regard the Building Material and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC) and Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) and Habitat Polytechnic have played an important role.

An action plan has been prepared for the development of housing in rural areas. It comprises the following elements (for details refer to Table 16.10).

During the period 1991 and 1997 about 57 lakh houses have been constructed through the ongoing Indira Awaas Yojana, State Governments and HUDCO. Further a major initiative - Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana- aimed at creation of social and economic infrastructure at the village level has recently been introduced.

As per the National Human Development Report (Planning Commission, 2002), the quality of housing has improved over the years. The share of households living in kutcha and semi pucca houses has declined by around 9% between 1981 and 1991 while those living in pucca houses increased from 33% to nearly 42%.

Basic Amenities

Safe drinking water and sanitation

Provision of sustainable housing facilities goes in tandem with access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities. The 1991 Census reported nearly 62% of households in India with access to safe drinking water compared to 38% in 1981. The NFHS II survey revealed that share of population with access to safe drinking water was nearly 78% in 1998-99 while 64% of the households in the country did not have access to sanitation facilities compared to 76% in 1991 (Planning Commission, 2002).

The government has undertaken several initiatives to ensure availability of safe drinking water. These are discussed in more detail in Chapters 7 and 15. The trend is towards greater community participation in the provision and management of basic services. One such programme, Swajal, the Uttar Pradesh Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project is implemented by the Government with World Bank assistance since 1996. Under this programme, nearly 1000 villages have been covered in 12 districts of Uttaranchal with the aim of providing not only safe drinking water in rural areas but also community empowerment by converging a range of development initiatives including Non-Formal Education (NFE); Hygiene and Environmental Sanitation Awareness (HESA); and Women’s Development Initiatives (WDI). The programme has been successful in promoting self-reliance amongst the local communities.

Another successful programme is the Sulabh Sanitation Movement started by Sulabh International Social Service Organization, an NGO. The movement has demonstrated the use of low cost technology for providing sanitation facilities throughout the country especially to the economically weaker sections. The key to the success of the Sulabh movement is creation of public awareness and enhanced community participation in implementation and maintenance of the infrastructure.

Other infrastructure

Provision of basic infrastructure-road connectivity and electricity - particularly in the rural areas is often the primary means for supplementing effort directed towards providing basic health and education services as well as infrastructural support for production, trade and commerce at the local village level.

The road length per 100 square kilometres has increased from 45 kilometres in 1981 to 61 km in 1991 to about 75 km in 1997 (Planning Commission, 2002). During the same period the road length per million population has increased from 21.68 km to 25.82 km. To provide rural connectivity in rural areas the government has recently launched the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. Its aim is to connect all unconnected habitations with a population of more than 500 persons through good all-weather roads by the end of Tenth Five-Year Plan period.

Access to electricity has also shown considerable improvement over time. About 86.3% of the villages have been electrified in the country and several governmental schemes have been put in place to electrify the remaining villages (for details refer to Chapter 3).


The principle of gender equality and protection of women’s rights have been prime concerns in Indian thinking since independence. Some of the Government’s main programmes, laws, and policies in this pursuit are discussed in Table 16.11 below.

Table 16.11 Highlights of initiatives for women






Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act

Prohibits illegal sexual traffic and contains provisions for corrective institutions, special police officers and advisory body.


Dowry Prohibition Act

Prohibits giving and taking of dowry and makes it an offence.


Family Courts Act

Provide for the establishment of Family Courts to promote conciliation in, and secure speedy settlement of disputes relating to marriage and family affairs and for matters connected therewith.


Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act

Prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner and for matters connected therewith.


Protection from domestic violence bill

The draft bill envisages assistance to victims of domestic violence. The bill has been approved by the Government for introduction in the Parliament (MoHRD, 2002).



National Commission for Women Act

The Commission was set up to safeguard the interests of the women. It has been reviewing women-specific and women related legislation and advising the government to bring forth necessary amendments from time to time.


National Policy of Empowerment of Women

The National Policy for the Empowerment of Women was adopted by the Government in January 2001. It aims to bring about advancement, development and empowerment of women by creating an environment through appropriate economic and social policies to enable women realize their full potential; ensure equal access to participation and decision making; strengthen legal system to reduce violence against women (See Box 16.2).



Hostels for Working Women (HWW)

Extends support services of secured accommodation and crèche to working women with the prime objective of providing greater mobility for women in the employment market.


Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA)

Directed at improving the living conditions of women and thereby of children through the provision of opportunities for self-employment and access to basic social services; initiated on a pilot basis, this scheme it covers almost all districts of the country today. The scheme has now been subsumed under the Swarna Jayanti Gramin Rojgar Yojana.


Support to Training and Employment Programme, STEP

Seeks to train women for employment in the traditional sectors of agriculture, animal husbandry, dairy, handlooms and handicrafts was launched in 1987. Since its inception, about 448245 women have benefited from 86 projects (Planning Commission, 2001c).


Mahila Samakhya

Programme for women's equality and empowerment, which addresses issues such as drinking water, health services, managing non-formal education, provision of pre-school centres/crèche facilities etc.


Women in Agriculture Program

Aims at training women farmers having small and marginal holdings in agriculture and allied activities like animal husbandry, dairying, horticulture, fisheries, bee-keeping etc


Nutritional Support to Primary Education program

The programme focussed on low female literacy blocks.


Rural Women’s Development and Empowerment Project (RWDEP): Swa-Shakti Project

A centrally sponsored scheme that aims at providing empowerment to women particularly in rural areas through the self help groups.


Women's Co-operatives

An example of these cooperatives is Operation Flood, where rural women involved in dairy development on cooperative lines were given training in various activities relating to milk production, preservation and cooperative group formation.


Swayamsidha (Integrated Women Empowerment IWEP)

Aims at holistic empowerment of women through awareness generation, economic empowerment and convergence of various schemes. Immediate objectives include establishment of Self-reliant women’s self-help Groups (SHGs); creation of confidence and awareness; improving access to micro-credit; involvement in local level planning



A new scheme launched for the benefit of women in difficult circumstances like destitute widows, women prisoners released from jail and without a family, women survivors of natural disaster who have been rendered homeless. The package of assistance under this scheme includes provisions for food clothing, health care, measures for social and economic rehabilitation through education, awareness etc.

In addition to these, India has ratified the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993 and endorsed the Mexico Plan of Action (1975), the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (1985), the Beijing Declaration as well as the Platform for Action (1995) for appropriate follow up.


The Indian Constitution and legal framework uphold the dignity and status of women and seek to create an environment where empowerment is facilitated. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Bills for strengthening the local self governance, provides that a third of all elected offices in the local bodies are reserved for women.

As can be inferred from the Table 16.11 above, the planning strategies on women have evolved over the years from ‘welfare’ to ‘development’ to empowerment’. The Eighth Five-Year Plan adopted strategies to ensure that the developmental benefits do not bypass women and implemented special programmes—Mahila Samridhi Yojana and set up institutions like the National Credit Fund called the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh to complement the general development programmes. The RMK was established to facilitate credit support to poor women particularly those in the unorganised sector.

The Ninth Five-Year Plan further brought about changes in the planning strategy enabling women to exercise their rights both within and outside home, as equal partners with men. The empowerment of women became a primary objective in the Ninth Plan, for which the National Policy for Empowerment of women was approved in 2001, the year that was observed as ‘Women Empowerment Year’ (refer to Box 16.2). The centre and states were also directed to adopt a special strategy of Women Component Plan, through which 30% of funds would to be earmarked in all women sectors. The Government recently has initiated gender budgeting to establish the gender-differential impacts of various government programmes.

To deal with the increasing problem of violence against women and the girl child within and outside the family, concrete efforts have been undertaken such as the setting up of women cells, family courts, counselling centres. A National Commission for women has been established and the National Human Rights Commission has been mandated to look into the human rights issues involving women. Special cells for preventing crimes against them have also been established..

As a consequence of several efforts initiated by the Government of India there has been a perceptible improvement in the status of woman.

The life expectancy at birth among women has steadily improved overtime and stood at 61.8 in 1997 (MoHRD, 2002). The female literacy rate has risen steadily over time from 29.76% in 1981 to 39.29% in 1991 and further to 54.16% in 2001. Higher literacy rates offer possibilities of greater exposure to new ways of thinking, which in turn results in better health, improved maternal competence and lower infant mortality. The percentage of women in the organized activity has increased from 10.9% in 1961 to 17.4% in 1998 (Planning Commission, 2001a). On March 31, 1999 women constituted about 17.2% of the organized sectors (public and private) employment (MoF, 2002).

The index of gender inequality measuring the attainments in human development indicators for females as a proportion of that of males has shown improvement, though marginally, in the 1980s. At the national level, the GEI increased from 62% in the early eighties to 67.6% in the early nineties. This implies that on an average, the attainments of women on human development indicators were only two-thirds of those of men (Planning Commission, 2002).

Box 16.2 National Policy for Empowerment of Women (2001)

The goal of the Policy is to bring about advancement, development and empowerment of women. Specific objectives of the Policy include:

Children and youth

Investment on child development is viewed not only as a desirable societal investment for the nation’s future but also as fulfilment of the right of every child to ‘survival, protection, and development’. The Convention on the Rights of Child ratified by India in 1992 is the guiding principle for formulation of necessary policies and programmes of child development. The highlights of some major policies, acts and others initiatives are given in Table 16.12.






Table 16.12 Highlights of initiatives for children and Youth





1929; 1976

Child Marriage Restraint Act

The Act restrains the solemnization of child marriages. The Child marriage restraint Act of 1976 raised the age for marriage of a girl from 15 to 18 years and that of a boy to 21 years and made offences under this Act cognisable.


Child Labour Prohibition Act

Prohibits the employment of children in specified hazardous occupational and processes.



National Policy on Children

The National Policy on Children was adopted with the view to provide adequate services to children, both before and after birth and through the period of growth to ensure their full physical, mental and social developemnt.


National Child Labour Policy

Comprises a legislative plan focusing on general development programmes benefiting children. A major activity undertaken under NCLP is establishment of special schools to provide basic needs like non-formal education, pre-vocational training, supplementary nutrition etc. to all children withdrawn from employment.


National Plan of Action on Children

Two plans of action adopted in 1992: one for children and the other specifically for the girl child; Identifies quantifiable targets in terms of major as well as supporting sectoral goals representing the needs of children in India in spheres of health, nutrition, education and related aspects of social support.


National Charter for Children and a National Commission for Children

These major initiatives, are in the process of being finalized (MoF, 2002). The main objective is removal of structural causes related to issues that affect children and to awaken the conscience of the community to protect children from violation of their rights.



Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)

ICDS was conceived in early years of Fifth Five year Plan and since then it has played a major role in catering to the needs of the pre-school children below six years and expectant and nursing women with a package of services viz. Immunisation, health check ups, supplementary nutrition, pre school education etc. the scheme is now in operation in almost all the development blocks of the country (See Box 16.3)


Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA)

Directed at improving the living conditions of women and thereby of children through the provision of opportunities for self-employment and access to basic social services; initiated on a pilot basis, this scheme it covers almost all districts of the country today.

Eighth Plan

National Service Scheme

Provides for development of youth through community services. The program has successfully taken up activities which have social orientation like literacy, environment enrichment, management of resources etc.

Eighth Plan

Nehru Yuva Kendras

Aims at providing rural and non-student youth with opportunities to take part in the process of national development as also to develop their own personality and skills.


Nutritional Support to Primary Education program

To focus on low female literacy blocks.


Balika Samridhi Yojana

A special intervention to raise the status of the girl child. It promises financial help for families below poverty line to whom a girl child is born.


Over the years there have been significant efforts towards child development. Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), is one such scheme which aims to provide an integrated package of health, nutrition and educational services to children below six years, pregnant women and nursing mothers (Box 16.3). Other initiatives in this direction include, National Crèche Fund for child care services; assistance to voluntary organisations in the field of welfare of women and child development and proposed setting up of National Commission for Children to safeguard constitutional and legal rights of the children (refer to Table 16.12).

India has all along followed an active policy for tackling the problem of child labour. The present regime of laws relating to child labour has a pragmatic foundation and is consistent with the International Labour Conference Resolution of 1979. The Government has sought to ban the employment of children below 14 years of age in hazardous employment and to regulate working conditions for children in other employment. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Protection) Act, 1986 seeks to achieve this objective (Table 16.12).

Youth are a major resource in the task of nation building. Over the years there has been a major thrust towards developing the capabilities of the youth and enabling their involvement in the development process. Major schemes undertaken during the Eighth Five-Year Plan (1992-97) include National Service Scheme (NSS) and Nehru Yuva Kendras (NYK). The NSS aims at building the social consciousness of the youth with an overall objective of personality development of students through community service. Recently NSS launched a sensitisation campaign on AIDS awareness called ‘Universities Talk AIDS’ (UTA) in 174 universities all over the country. Besides, 17 lifestyle education centres have also been established to orient youth towards planned parenthood and healthy lifestyle.

Another scheme called the Scheme for Training of Youth has been formulated to motivate the youth thereby helping them develop leadership qualities through training programmes so that youth can act as focal point of dissemination of knowledge in their own area of activity. It also aims at creating new skills among rural youth in order to build foster self-reliant villages.

Box 16.3: Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)

ICDS is a visionary scheme aimed at holistic development of children. The programme has played an important role in addressing the nutritional and health needs of the children and women across the country. The scheme targets the most vulnerable groups of population including children up to 6 years of age belonging to the poorest families and those living in disadvantaged areas including backward rural areas, tribal areas and slums. In addition to children, ICDS also takes care of the essential needs of pregnant women and nursing mothers in socially and economically backward villages and slums.

Three essential components of ICDS are:

Using the ICDS infrastructure, a special intervention scheme was devised for adolescent girls (AG scheme). This was revised later and renamed the Kishori Shakti Yojana with a training component aimed at empowerment of women and was converged with other programmes of similar nature in education, rural development, employment and health sectors.

Source: MoHRD (2002)

Socially disadvantaged groups

The Government of India recognizes that certain under privileged sections of society require special attention in the planning process. Over the years there have been continuous efforts to grant social justice to these socially disadvantaged classes viz. scheduled castes (SCs), scheduled tribes (STs) and other backward classes (OBCs). The following table (Table 16.13) summarizes the policies and programmes that have been effected in the country for their upliftment.

Table 16.13 Highlights of initiatives for uplifting unprivileged groups






Protection and Civil Rights (PCR) Act

This act prescribes punishment for the preaching and practice of ‘Untouchability’


SC/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act

Aims to control the increasing problem of social discrimination, exploitation, untouchability, and violence/atrocities against backward classes and minority groups.



National Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC)

Extends financial assistance at concessional rates for training for upgradation of skills and income generating activities for SCs and STs whose annual income is below double the poverty line.


Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Ltd. (TRIFED)

Extends marketing assistance and remunerative price to STs for their minor forests produce and surplus agricultural produce to reduce exploitation of the tribals by the private traders and middlemen.


National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC)

Assists the backward classes in a wide range of income-generating activities through both wage and self-employment ventures


National Minorities Development and Finance Corporation (NMDFC)

Extends concessional finance to eligible beneficiaries for employment and income-generation ventures with a special focus on those living below the poverty line


The National Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC); National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC); Tribal Co-operative Marketing Development Federation of India Ltd. (TRIFED); and State Scheduled Castes Development Corporations (SCDCs) have been catalysts in enhancing the status of disadvantaged groups. In addition, there are explicit provisions for these groups in most education, training and income-generation programmes.

The impact of developmental plans, policies and programmes resulted in a perceptible improvement in the socio-economic status of SC/STs.

The percentage of population belonging to SC/STs living below the poverty line has come down from 57.60 (1983-84) to 48.37 (1993-94) and from 63.14 (1983-84) to 51.14 (1993-94), respectively (Planning Commission, 2001a).

There has been a significant improvement in their literacy levels (Table 16.14).

Table 16.14 All India literacy rate of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes (%)





% age increase of 1991 over 1971

General Population (including SC/ST)





Scheduled Castes





Scheduled Tribes





Source. Department of Education (1995) produced in Planning Commission (2001a)

Female literacy levels for both SC/STs has shown improvement over time. The female literacy rate has risen form from 6.44% in 1971 to 23.76% for SC while for STs, there has been an increase from 4.85% to 18.19% (Planning Commission, 2001a).


Despite a perceptible improvement in basic socio-demographic indicators and a reduction in overall poverty, large numbers of our population continue to live in abject poverty and there are large gaps in our social attainments even after five decades of planning. The government recognizes that there is still a long way to go to meet its social objectives. The main concerns include:

Prevalence of poverty

Though the poverty ratio has declined, the absolute number of poor has remained stable at around 320 million for a fairly long period of two decades, (1973-1993) due to the growth in population (MoF, 2002). In addition, there are wide regional, gender and class disparities in the incidence of poverty in the country (Table 16.1).

High density of population

India accounts for 2.4% of the world surface area with 16.7% of the world’s population. Though the growth rate of the population has fallen particularly in the last decade, the large numbers pose a big challenge through their impact on density (which has increased from 117 in 1951 to 324 person per sq km in 2001), rural-urban migration and demand for services and natural resources.

High incidence of malnutrition and deficiency diseases

Though the overall levels of malnutrition have declined it is still prevalent with wide inter-state variations. More than half the children in the age group 1-5 years in rural areas are under-nourished, the fraction being even higher for girl children. As per the National Family Health Survey II, 1996-98 about 47% of children under age of 3 years were undernourished.

Deceleration in employment generation

There has been a decline in the rate of growth of employment from 2.43% per annum (1987/88 to 1993/94) to about 1% per annum (1993/94–1999/2000). This decline is associated with the lower growth of population and labour force over this period. The incidence of unemployment defined as percentage of persons unemployed in the age group 15 years and above on the usual principal and subsidiary status to the total number of persons in the labour force has increased at the national level from 2% in 1983 to 2.3% in 1999-2000 (Planning Commission, 2002).

Poor implementation of poverty-alleviation programmes

Evaluations of programmes such as the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) suggest that these suffer from numerous defects including sub-critical investments, unviable projects, lack of technological and institutional capabilities in designing and executing projects utilizing local resources and expertise, indifferent delivery of credit (high transaction costs, complex procedure, poor recovery etc.), poor targeting of beneficiaries etc (Planning Commission, 2001b).

Lack of infrastructure in providing primary health care

Though a substantial infrastructure for providing primary health care has been created, the issues of inequitable distribution of existing institutions and manpower, poor functioning due to mismatch between personnel and infrastructure, requirement of skill upgradation of personnel, provision of adequate diagnostics, drugs etc., and lack of an appropriate referral system remain areas of concern as identified by the Ninth Five-Year Plan. Technological advances that widen the spectrum of interventions have not penetrated to the poor, still being beyond the financial reach of the masses. Indigenous and alternatives forms of medicine – Homeopathy and Ayurveda- have not been effectively integrated with conventional medicine.

Low levels of primary education

There is a huge backlog of un-enrolled children in the country. As per National Family Health Survey 1998-99, 78.6% of the children in the age group 6-14 are attending school i.e. out of the 200 million children about 157 million are attending school, leaving 43 million without access to schools.

Inadequate education infrastructure

The insufficient number of primary schools remains another concern. According to the all-India 6th Educational Survey, about 17% rural habitations were not served by primary school within a distance of one kilometre. The survey revealed that about 40% of primary schools were being run in thatched huts/tents. Apart from this, the lack of basic infrastructural facilities such as drinking water, proper sanitation, teaching equipment and teachers were identified as areas that need attention.

Low levels of education amongst women and disadvantaged groups

Low levels of education and training aggravate the state of deprivation of women. The literacy levels of women are low (50% in 1997) as compared to men (73% in 1997). There are also large regional disparities in literacy rates. The literacy rate amongst scheduled castes and scheduled tribes over the years has shown a steady increase but a wide gulf remains between the SC/ST population and the rest of the country (Planning Commission, 2001b).

Poor quality of higher education

Although the number of universities has increased over time, many of these are characterized by low educational standards. The scheme of vocationalization of education has not taken off in the country, due to logistic and academic constraints, and lack of industry-institution linkages. In addition, there is a need to augment quality education in the streams of science and information technology.

Lack of adequate housing infrastructure

The shortage of the housing has increased over the decade (1981-1991). As per the 1991 census, the total rural household shortage was 13.72 million. Of these 3.41 million households were without shelter and 10.31 million households were living in `Kutcha unserviceable’ houses. National Buildings Organization (NBO) estimated the urban housing shortage at 8.23 million in 1991 from 7 million in 1980. Another fallout of the absence of structured housing schemes for the urban poor is the rapid growth of slums causing tremendous pressure on urban basic services and infrastructure.

Gender discrimination

Gender discrimination is reflected in the sex ratio 946 females per 1000 males in 1951 which fell to 927 females per 1000 males in 1991; though the sex ratio for the country as a whole has shown a marginal improvement to 933 in 2001, most states, except Kerala and Pondichery (a parity sex ratio of 1058 and 1001, respectively), have shown declining sex ratios. Gender discrimination is also manifested in the rising incidence of crimes against women (68,317 in 1990 to 121,265 in 1997 (Planning Commission, 2001b).

Strategies for the social sector

Cognisant of the above concerns, the government will seek to redress them as is indicated in the Approach Paper to the Tenth Five-Year Plan. The document explicitly recognizes that development objectives need to be defined not just in terms of increases in GDP or per capita income but in broader terms of the enhancement of human well being. This includes not just adequate level of consumption of food and other types of consumer goods but also access to basic social services especially education, health, availability of drinking water and basic sanitation. It also includes the expansion of economic and social opportunities for all individuals and groups, reduction in disparities, and greater participation in decision-making. Accordingly, the document proposes to set targets not only for economic growth but specific state-level monitorable targets for key indicators of human development. The document also recognizes the interlinkages between economic development, social progress and environmental management—economic development which destroys the environment will create more poverty, unemployment and disease—and accordingly places emphasis on environmental protection. Some of the strategies directly related to the social sector in the areas of poverty alleviation, employment, health and interests of special groups are briefly discussed below.

Growth, equity and sustainability

While growth per se has strong direct poverty reducing effects, the frictions and rigidities in parts of the economy can make this process less effective, thereby necessitating that equity is explicitly addressed. The approach paper proposes to do so through:

Population and health

The government remains committed to improving the health status of the population through better access to quality health-care (including reproductive health care) facilities. The focus will be on reorganizing and restructuring existing health care infrastructure at the primary, secondary and tertiary level, to ensure that the delivery mechanism adequately and efficiently covers the population in the defined geographical area, with appropriate referral linkages. This would also involve adequate provision of drugs, equipment and competent manpower; skill upgradation of health personnel; increasing awareness of the community through health education; and greater involvement of local bodies to facilitate local planning and monitoring and ensure local accountability of public health care providers. There will also have to be a continued commitment to provide essential primary health care and emergency life-saving services under the National Family Welfare programme and National Disease Control programmes free of cost to the poor while evolving a system for levying and collecting user charges from people above the poverty line. In addition, it will be necessary to improve centre-state and inter-sectoral coordination, and involve the private sector, voluntary institutions and civil society to support national efforts in achieving the goals of the National Population Policy, 2000. In the area of nutrition, the strategy will be to move beyond food supplementation to monitoring growth itself, including screening pre-natal women, in order to identify onset under-nutrition and initiate appropriate health and nutritional interventions.


Universal access to primary education and improvement of basic school infrastructure will receive a high priority. This would mean a school available within 1 km of every habitation with adequate staff, textbooks provided to all SCs/STs, children and girls, mid-day meals, management and repair of school buildings, opportunities for non-formal and alternative education for out-of school children in backward and inaccessible segments of the population. Integral to these objectives would be mobilization of local communities for promotion of primary education and adult literacy and greater control of local bodies and community groups over schools and teachers to ensure accountability and need-based education.

The quality of higher education will also be addressed by modernization of syllabi, examination reforms and greater attention to issues of internal generation of financial resources, governance of universities and colleges and setting up of colleges and universities outside of the public sector. These considerations would also apply to the technical educational system—technical and management education need to be managed strategically in order to provide a broad-based, multi-disciplinary education incorporating composite skills and knowledge which will meet the challenges of globalization.

Special attention to the needs of vulnerable groups including tribal communities, Scheduled Castes, and Other Backward Classes

The government will remain committed to improving the standard of living of vulnerable groups and minimize the divergence with respect to the general population through the promotion of special facilities and programmes. Attention will also be given to strengthening and expansion of safety nets for these groups especially women and the aged. The Government is committed towards holistic empowerment of women for which several programmes such as Swayamsidha (an integrated scheme for women’s empowerment) have been formulated. Its long term objective is all-round empowerment by ensuring direct access to and control over resources through a sustained process of mobilisation and convergence of all on-going sectoral programmes.

In short, the strategy would be to strengthen implementation of existing programmes; converge multiple programmes to improve efficiency; diversify the rural economy; enhance the skill sets of labour to conform to the needs of the market; rationalize the subsidy regime; empower women and the socially disadvantaged and facilitate the active involvement of local bodies and the community to promote local planning and monitoring of programmes. The focus on human development will go a long way towards the objective of growth ensuring equity and sustainability.


Census of India. 2001


Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India

MoHRD. 2002

Annual Report 2001-2002

Department of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. 293 pp.


Economic Survey 2001/02

New Delhi: Ministry of Finance, Government of India.


Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India

MoRD. 2001

Annual Report 2000/01

New Delhi: Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India.

National AIDS Control Organisation web site

Planning Commission. 2001a

Indian planning experience: a statistical profile

New Delhi: Planning Commission, Government of India. 221 pp.

Planning Commission. 2001b

Approach Paper to the Tenth Five-Year Plan

Accessed from web site:

Planning Commission. 2001c

Mid term Appraisal of Ninth Five-Year Plan (1997-2002)

New Delhi: Planning Commission, Government of India. 510 pp.

Planning Commission. 2002

National Human Development report

New Delhi: Planning Commission, Government of India. 297 pp.

World Bank. 1992

Gender and Poverty in India, World Bank Country Study

Washington, DC: The World Bank. 373 pp.

Eighth Five-Year Plan: 1992-1997

Vol. 2: Thematic Issues and Sectoral Programmes

New Delhi: Planning Commission. 480 pp.

Ninth Five-Year Plan: 1997-2002

Vol. 2: Thematic Issues and Sectoral Programmes

New Delhi: Planning Commission. 1059 pp.


[1] Poverty line is defined as the average per capita consumption expenditure which enables specified calorie requirements to be met (Planning Commission)

[2] There are inter-state variations in these trends. For instance, IMR varies from a figure of less than 50 per 1000 live births for Goa, Kerala, Tamilnadu and Mizoram to a figure of nearly 100 per 1000 live births for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Orissa.

[3] Ministry of Health and Family Welfare web site:


[5] Also refer to Chapter 7 on Water resources and Chapter 15 on Urban governance and services