Making Post-2015 Matter for Socially Excluded Groups in India | Millennium Development Goals | Social Exclusion

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Will the post-2015 goals make a difference for those who are left behind by India’s social development? As the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) gets closer, the challenge of addressing inequality in the new framework is increasingly debated. This paper examines the issue from the perspective of four groups in India that face acute poverty and social exclusion: women, Dalits, Muslims and Tribal people. It draws on their situations to offer insights into an emerging consensus in the broader discussion around post-2015: the importance of addressing inequalities and putting human rights at the heart of the framework
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  i   Oxfam India working papers series January 2013OIWPS - XIX Lucy Dubochet Making Post-2015 Matter for Socially Excluded Groups in India  ABSTRACT What post-2015 goals will make a difference for those who are left behind the country’s social development? As the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is nearing, the challenge of addressing inequality in the new framework is getting highlighted repeatedly. This paper examines the issue from the perspective of four groups in India that face acute poverty and social exclusion: women, Dalits, Muslims and Tribals. 1  It draws on their situations to offer insights into aspects that emerge as a consensus in the broader discussion around post-2015—the importance of addressing inequalities and placing human rights at the heart of the framework, the central role of domestic policies, and the necessity of involving those whom the framework aims to serve. 2   The Author: Lucy Dubochet This paper was written by Lucy Dubochet, Research Manager, Oxfam India, with contributions from: Avinash Kumar, Director–Policy, Campaigns and Research; Anjela Taneja, Programme Coordinator–Education; Maju Varghese, Programme Officer–Essential Services; and Deepak Xavier, Essential Services Lead Specialist. Published by:   Oxfam India Disclaimer: Oxfam India Working Paper Series disseminates the finding of the work in progress to encourage the exchange of ideas about development issues. An objective of the series is to get the findings out quickly, even if the presentations are less than fully polished. The papers carry the names of the authors and should be cited accordingly. The findings, interpretations, and conclusion expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of Oxfam India.  Making Post-2015 Matter for Socially Excluded Groups in India 1. Introduction In India . . . we must aim at equality. That does not mean and cannot mean that everybody is  physically or intellectually or spiritually equal or can be made so. But it does mean equal opportunities for all, and no political, economic or social barrier. . . . It means a realization of the fact that the backwardness or degradation of any group is not due to inherent failings in it, but  principally to lack of opportunities and long suppression by other groups. Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India. 3 More than sixty years after the idea of equality translated into India’s Constitution, social exclusion remains a central dimension of poverty in the country. As the development community is now busy assessing performances of the MDGs, one bottom line emerges from India’s outcomes: inequalities along group lines are increasing with the country’s rapid economic growth. Four groups—Dalits, Muslims, Tribals and women—stand out in this regard.The social indicators for these four groups lag behind national averages. The women especially fare worse than their male counter parts across all groups. Lasting discrimination and insecurity, the lack of economic opportunities and political empowerment combine to keep them at the margins of the country’s economic and social development. These outcomes and the underlying dynamics they reveal, exemplify dynamics of social exclusion, 4  with caste, tribe, religion and gender at their core. 5  In India alone Dalits, Muslims, and Tribals constitute 38 percent of population, and a major share of the country’s poor. Their situation is a stark reminder that a framework for development will be of little relevance today if it leaves out social exclusion.While the MDGs cover a number of its symptoms, they do not address exclusion upfront: gender discrimination is confined to one goal, 6  and other types of discrimination are altogether left out. In that regard, India provides a lesson worth drawing on for post-2015: not only does the country exemplify some of the starkest dynamics of social exclusion and discrimination worldwide, but it is also home to some of the oldest, most ambitious and diverse policy attempts to address these dynamics. India’s example draws attention to the fine balance required between addressing group-specific vulnerabilities and challenging common drivers of exclusion. The Constitution mandates policy makers to address common drivers of social exclusion for the four groups by declaring: “the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds [...] of religion, race, caste, sex [and] place of birth”; the Directive Principles of State Policy further call on the State to “minimize the inequalities in income [...], status, facilities and opportunities, not only amongst individuals but also amongst groups of people”. 7    2In practice, policy makers have privileged targeted measures to address the historic disadvantage of specific groups. Positive discrimination, in the form of reservations in schools, government employment and political representation, has been key to the government’s response to social exclusion. While these policies have had some noteworthy successes, they have often failed to address deep-rooted causes of vulnerability that are similar for the four groups. Furthermore, targeted benefits have politicised differences between groups and slowed down the emergence of common policies to fight exclusion. These failures and successes inform our discussion of the MDGs.At a time when the impact of donor politics on domestic policies aimed at fighting poverty is declining, India’s example is of particular relevance. With foreign aid accounting for no more than 2.8 per cent of public expenditure on social services, 8  and a government that is the game setter on poverty reduction, India is representative of global context where aid is fast diminishing. 9  The Millennium Declaration decade coincides with the introduction of major domestic policies: the right to education, the right to hundred days of minimum wage employment for rural households, and a number of programmes aimed at supporting access to health and housing for the poorest. The link between these policies and domestic political struggles is obvious; the role of the MDGs in federating them less so—the MDGs were mentioned in the United Progressive Alliance’s National Minimum Programme before the 2004 elections, but references to the MDGs have been few and far between since. This paper draws on the lessons of this situation. It outlines recommendations for post-2015 based on the analysis of three dimensions: the dynamics of social exclusion exemplified by the four groups; the domestic policies aimed at addressing them; and the political forces that have shaped them. 2. Highlighting Inequalities: Dalits, Muslims, Tribals, Women and the MDGs Clearly, India is not on track to meet its MDG-targets, but it has made important progress on a number of them. In absolute numbers, India’s progress on the MDGs has been among the most important worldwide. 10  However, the outcome for the four groups is notably bleaker, and a reality check is needed for those claiming success. Official data claims India has attained universal primary school enrolment but the percentage of girls who never attended school in 2006 was just above 25 per cent among Muslims, Dalits and Tribals, and between 13 per cent and 16 per cent for boys. 11  Among Muslims officially recognized as lagging behind (classed “Other Backward Class Muslims”), the rate was even higher, at 31 per cent and 20 per cent for girls and boys respectively. 12  Incidence of malnutrition among children below five was estimated at 48 per cent among Dalits, 55 per cent among Tribals and 42 per cent among Muslims, against the 26 per cent target. 13  The government has since stopped collecting disaggregated data. On gender-specific goals, India’s achievements fall very short of the targets: maternal mortality rates are at 212 per 100,000 live births, against the 109 target. 14  In 2006, 47 per cent of women were attended by a skilled health worker when giving birth; this percentage dropped to 25 per cent for Tribals, against the 100 per cent target. 15  All four groups continue to be over-represented in casual, low-skilled employment. In fact numerous studies show that discrimination in the employment market largely prevents them from accessing better opportunities, even when they are qualified. 16 Poverty trends demonstrate these inequalities. With an estimated 22 per cent of the population below the official poverty level, India is nearly on track to halving poverty. 17  Repeated revisions of the poverty
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