The importance of India’s example hardly needs to be stressed. Globally, the majority of poor now live in middle income countries: India is home to more poor people than any other country, despite crossing the World Bank’s threshold to qualify as a middle income country in 2008. In-country inequalities are rising worldwide; the rise has been dramatic in India, and income inequalities now rival with South Africa and Brazil.A massive demographic shift from rural to urban regions generates new dimensions of poverty: though rates of urbanisation have been relatively limited in India,poverty reduction among excluded groups has been slowest in cities, where much of India’s growth in GDP is created— a trend that raises the question of urban poverty with urgency. Finally, with foreign aid accounting for no more than 2.8 per cent of public expenditure on social services,and a government that is the game-setter on poverty reduction, India is representative of a global context where the role of aid is diminishing.
Beyond these aspects, India’s example holds lessons on social exclusion. The rise in inequalities has added one dimension to historic patterns of social exclusion. A World Bank report estimates that Tribal people lag 20 years behind national averages on human development indicators, while Dalits lag 10 years behind. Other studies show that Muslims fare no better than Dalits; women across all groups are worse off than their male counterparts.Lasting discrimination and insecurity, the lack of economic opportunities and political empowerment combine to keep certain groups at the margins of the country’s economic and social development. Muslims, Dalits and Tribals constitute 38 per cent of India’s 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 does not address social exclusion.
The country not only exemplifies stark dynamics of social exclusion, it is also home to some of the most diverse policy attempts to address them: decades of experimentation with affirmative action and targeted planning for vulnerablegroups provide lessons on how to tackle discrimination. This framework suggested here draws on these lessons inconcrete terms, by suggesting 10 goals organised around the following priorities:
- securing human rights for all;
- addressing inequalities and social exclusion;
- targeting the real drivers of social, economic and political discrimination against women;
- achieving quality services for all in healthcare and education;
- linking sustainability and equity;
- financing the goals by supporting fair taxation and resource allocation nationally and internationally;
- ensuring accountability.
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