#YesDemocracy | Creating fearless spaces for all

#YesDemocracy | Creating fearless spaces for all

As per The Economist’s Democracy Index 2018, India is ranked at 41- a notch above than 2017. With a score of 7.23, India is classified as a ‘flawed democracy’ as per the index. (Source- Business Standard)

The Economist’s Democracy Index ranks nations on five parameters – electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties. Among all these parameters, India ranked at the lowest bar when it came to political culture. 

#YesDemocracy Campaign

Oxfam India’s #YesDemocracy Campaign is a joint initiative of Oxfam India and several other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), think tanks, academicians, social influencers and organisations like RTE (Right to Education) Forum etc. With the aim of upholding equal citizenship for all in the country, #YesDemocracy aims to ensure free and quality education and healthcare for all India citizens.

As part of this campaign, Oxfam India made recommendations and put forth some key asks:

  1. HEALTH

-Make the right to healthcare a justiciable right

-Increase substantially the public expenditure on health, financed primarily through general taxation to 2.5% of GDP (this would be annually around Rs. 4,000 per capita at current rates as recommended by the National Health Policy-2017) in the short term and 5% of GDP subsequently

-Expand and strengthen public healthcare system to ensure quality health care to primary, secondary and tertiary sectors; make it entirely free of user fees and provide universal access to an entire range of essential drugs and diagnostics at the public facility with a matching human resource policy and much better governance and management

-Ensure every person’s right to a complete range of free essential medicines and diagnostics in all public health centres and hospitals

-Abandon plans for the "Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana” or “National Health Protection Scheme” as part of Ayushman Bharat, as this is based on the discredited ‘insurance model’. The projected annual outlay of Rs. 12,000-50,000 crores, as per different estimates would be much better utilised by investment in expansion of public facilities

-Effectively regulate the private medical sector - modify the National Clinical Establishment Act 2010 to ensure observance of patient’s rights, regulation of the rates and quality of various services, elimination of kickbacks for prescriptions, diagnostics and referrals and grievance redressal mechanisms for patients. All states must adopt the National Act or a state specific act

-Regularise all contractual health workers including ASHA, Anganwadi workers and helpers involved in the delivery of public health services and ensure that they receive protection from the entire range of labour laws

  1. EDUCATION

The manifesto must set concrete, time bound targets and action plans to ensure quality education for all children with a special focus on education of girls. Oxfam India and Right to Education Forum recommend the following three areas to ensure socio-economic and human capital transformation of the country.

  • Universalisation of equitable quality education for all children up to the age of 18 years

-Extend the purview of the Right to Education Act from birth to 18 years in line with the internationally recognised definition of childhood by including Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) and pre-school and higher secondary education as a legal entitlement. This will ensure achievement of India’s commitment to deliver minimum of 12 years of free education with special focus on Dalits, Muslims, Adivasis and girls.

-Ensure measures to curb commercialisation and privatisation of education. Strengthen the accountability of private schools and ECCE centres by drafting & implementing a national regulatory framework that would lay down fee regulation and compliance with quality & safety norms

-Ensure eradication of child labour up to the age of 18 years and remove the provision in section 3 of the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Act 2016, which legalises child labour in a ‘family enterprise’. Allowing children to work puts at risk and violates their right to education. It decreases the retention rate and increases the dropout rate in schools, especially of children from Dalit, Adivasi and Muslims communities

  • Compliance with Right to Education Act norms

-Ensure effective implementation of the RTE Act, whose implementation has been dismal with only 12.7% schools complying with the norms even after eight years of implementation. The government must draft a road map to ensure 100% compliance with RTE norms within three years of formation of the new government. To ensure quality with equity; per child spending on education needs to be progressively enhanced to bring it in line with Kendriya Vidyalaya norms

-The Union and respective State Governments should expedite the process of recruitment for vacant teachers’ positions; put in place appropriate mechanisms for pre and in-service teacher training and ensure proper working conditions for teachers; timely availability of textbooks and creation of other infrastructural facilities to ensure RTE compliance as soon as the new government is formed

-Ensure that mass scale closures of public schools are stopped in the name of merger and reopen those that have been closed to ensure the RTE norms are met and schools are accessible to all

-Ensure all out-of-school children are brought back to schools and provided quality education. It is important to particularly plan for the uninterrupted education of girls to ensure their equitable comprehensive development, given they are more prone to drop out due to social discrimination.

-Ensure school safety guidelines are finalised and rolled out at national and state level while ensuring budgets for implementation of guidelines. Particular effort will be needed to ensure safety and security of girls, to ensure retention and quality learning of girls up to secondary education

-Place the 'No Detention Rule' in the Right to Education Act. The recent amendment to the RTE Act risks penalising students for the system’s failure and is discriminatory, exposing children from marginalised communities to disproportionate negative impact

-The government must invest in strengthening school management committees and community participation in education with a view of ensuring social accountability in education

  • Enhance Public Financing of School Education

-Given the importance of education in the development of a society and an economy, it is important to ensure inclusive education and sufficient public provisioning for education

-Take urgent action to reverse declining expenditure on education as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and bring it to at least 6% of the GDP in line with the global education financing benchmarks and Kothari Commission recommendations. It is recommended to focus on budget allocation for girl child education especially from Dalit, Muslim & Adivasi communities and dedicated budget for ECCE under the RTE Act. To ensure RTE compliance, the government will require to allocate sufficient financial resources, which cannot be achieved through the education tax alone. Additional funds need to be channelised through strengthening progressive taxation systems. It is important to note that the public spending on education as the share of GDP is the lowest in India amongst all of the BRICS countries

-The Union and respective State governments should strictly adhere to the recommendation of PAB to spend at least 30 percent of the funds on entitlements and interventions related to quality initiatives

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