Social Sectors


The state of the economy should also be viewed from the point of view of the performance of the social sectors. Unfortunately a lot has  yet to be done to meet the basic needs of the poor, particularly in rural areas.


The housing shortage would be around 200 lakh units in the country by the year 2000. Also, it was estimated that in the eighth plan period (1992-97), about 122 lakh units require substantial upgradation to make them habitable.5 Only about five percent of the rural households have access to tap water supply.


The rural health sector needs to be revamped. The current outlay for health sector which is around 3.5 percent of the GDP needs to be enhanced to at least 5 percent. At the national level, there is serious shortage of community health centres (CHCs)– almost to the extent of 2500. Nearly 50 percent of the urban population has no sanitation facilities.


Universalisation of elementary education could not be achieved so far. There are about 55 million children out of primary schools. India accounts for one-third of the world's unlettered and 22 percent of 'out of school' children. The question of retention is another problem. Mere provision of funds is not going to solve this problem. There should be commitment on the part of the Government. Voluntary organisations' help should be sought.


Several rural water supply schemes have been introduced. Yet, about 18 percent of rural population and 15 percent, of urban population has access to safe drinking water. As on April 1, 1997, there were 61,724 habitations without safe source of drinking water. About 1.50 lakh habitations had quality problem.


There is no doubt about funds shortage for the social sectors. But, more importantly schemes relating to social sectors should be effectively implemented, without leakages. The administrative set up should be improved.


It is suicidal to undermine the role of the state in the economic sphere. As rightly observed by the International Workshop on 'Poverty, Marginalisation and Development' (New Delhi, February 3-5, 1996), "The role of the state is frequently critical, whether by



active involvement in the impoverishment or marginalisation process, or by its failure to intervene adequately against it. The erosion of state’s strength in the political and financial spheres–through the hegemony of individualistic ideologies and capital markets––is of grave concern in this regard."


According to economists, 0.3 percent of the GDP would be sufficient to provide a minimum package of social assistance, encompassing old age pension, maternity benefit and survivor benefit, to the entire eligible population. There is a case for increasing such expenditure in India. The Human Expenditure ratio in India, which is 2.5 percent of the GDP is below the average of 2.9 percent for a number of developing countries, and is only half of what is actually required (five percent).


The ILO recommends intergrated, area-based schemes to be administered by local bodies, rather than the current organisation of schemes along occupational or sectoral lines with separate administrative machinery for each sector.6

Economic reforms may help improve the growth rates, but their deleterious effects on poverty and unemployment situation are discernible.



2        Bibek Debroy : 'The Indian Economy : Outlook and Policy Initiatives'. Yojana, January 1999. p. 20.


      2. Kamal Nayan Kabra : 'Poverty and Poverty     

          Estmmates'. The Hindu, March 6, 1996.


      3.     Prem Shankar Jha : 'False Complacency',     

            The Hindu, April 4, 2000.


4.      Economic Survey 1999-2000. p. 127.


5.     Krishna Singh : 'Shelter for All : A Roof    

        Over Your Head', Kurukshetra, May-June   

        1996. p. 43.


6.   Kathyayini Chamaria : 'Why Nothing  

      Changes for the Poor', The Hiudu (Magazine    

      Section). January 10, 1999. p. II