Fiinovation Reviews India’s Migration and Malnutrition Problems

The rising disparity among the people of India is a stark reminder that growth after the liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation reforms of 1991 has not been inclusive. Although, the country developed significantly, yet the development ripples have not reached the remote villages. The initial plan of focusing on the service sector to reduce the dependency of the Indian GDP on the primary sector (Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Dairy, etc.) paid off well, but didn’t solve the problem of the rural population which is nearly 70 per cent of the total Indian population.

As the primary sector didn’t receive as much investments, there wasn’t much growth to improve the standard of living of the rural population. The problems associated with agriculture and allied sector ensured that millions had to migrate to the urban areas for employment opportunities. Migration is not a recent phenomenon, rather the pace of it has increased in recent times due to widespread distress in the rural areas. As per the Census 2011, there were about 45.36 crore migrants. In fact last year 2.06 crore people migrated looking for employment opportunities and education.

It is understandable that the impact of migration is one the entire family and it’s the children who suffer immensely. It has been observed that the rapid development which ensured India becomes the fastest growing major economy in the world is not helping to curb poverty and malnutrition. As per the global hunger index, India ranks abysmal 97 out of 118 countries which much worse that its neighbours Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and China. Fiinovation reviews that about 38 per cent children living in India are stunted or too short for their age. There seems to be a link between growing urbanisation and increase in malnutrition as it has been observed that significant proportion of children living in urban areas are stunted.

Alarmingly, it is estimated that 90 crore people will be added as urban residents in just three countries (China, India and Nigeria) by 2050. It seems that there is a paradigm shift of the burden of malnutrition from rural areas to urban areas, especially due to persistent child undernutrition. Fiinovation reviews that the problem of malnutrition is evident amongst the 6.5 crore slum dwellers in the country. Hence, the reason behind urban poverty and malnutrition is definitely India’s incapability to develop the rural areas while promoting inclusive and sustainable growth.

The road ahead will not be easy as the government plans to double the farmers’ income by 2022. Currently, there is very less industrial development in the rural areas. Agriculture in India is a seasonal activity with majority of the regions being mono-cropic, especially due to lack of irrigation facilities and dependency on the monsoon. Therefore, it is important to create livelihood opportunities and promote healthy lifestyle amongst the rural population. If the migrant population start finding employment opportunities in their inhabited regions, it will reduce migration, poverty and malnutrition significantly.

Hence, Fiinovation urges the government to implement policies which promote growth of the rural economy. Efforts to increase the farmers’ income will definitely pay huge dividends for the country. The impact of this will also be visible on the global hunger index and help the country eliminate extreme poverty as per the Sustainable Development Goals. However, this massive task cannot be done only by the government and the role of the private sector will be significant in providing resources for the development of rural infrastructure. The businesses should also contribute towards betterment of the farming community and the people residing in the rural areas through their corporate social responsibility funds. Investments in the agriculture sector by the businesses supported by agriculture credit from the government will significantly boost the primary sector thereby reducing the burden of the rural households.

Let us hope that the next two decades India grows inclusively and sustainably becoming one of the largest economies of the world with a higher human development index ranking.

 

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

FIINOVATION REVIEWS – THE NEW MATERNITY BENEFIT BILL

The Government gifts the Amended Maternity Bill as the Woman’s Day gift for the working women in India as the Parliament approves the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha on August 11, 2016 by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Bandaru Dattatreya and passed on 9th March, 2017.

“This is my humble gift to women, a day after the world celebrated International Women’s Day,” he said after about a four-hour debate in the Lok Sabha. He also informed that while finalising the Bill, few amendments were made in the old law to ensure that pregnant women derive maximum benefit from the law.

Fiinovation applauds the move as India joins the league of small consortium of countries with progressive maternity leave policy in system for the working women. Now, India ranks third in terms of number of weeks allotted for maternity leave with Canada and Norway leading at 50 and 44 weeks respectively.

The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 was introduced to protect the health and employment of working women during their maternity tenure. As per this Bill, the women employed in companies with minimum 10 employees were entitled to 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. However, the new bill has increased the tenure of paid maternity leave for first two children from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. However, for the third child it will be limited to 12 weeks. It also includes the 12 weeks paid leave provision for women legally adopting children under three months and mothers having children through surrogacy. In the later case, the 12-week period will commence from the date when the child is handed over to the mother. As per the Bill, every company employing 50 or more women employees is entitled to provide the creche facilities within a prescribed distance, allowing at least four visits to the creche during the day.

Other major amendments allows a woman to avail work from home opportunity after joining back from the maternity leave on mutually agreed terms between the employer and the woman. It mandates all the organisations to inform a woman about all the benefits included in the bill during the time of her appointment through both written and electronic medium.

Additionally, there are various other labour laws like the Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 which entitles the payment of wages to an insured woman, during her 12-week maternity leave. Even, the women employed in newspapers or working as journalists are entitled to similar maternity leave under the Working Journalists (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955. Further, women employed in the central government are provided about 24 weeks of paid maternity leave and additional child care leave up to a period of two years.

Although progressive and applauding but still it has left many important aspects untouched. Fiinovation reviews that this bill is entitled to benefit only 1.8 million women working in the organised sector as they constitute only 10% of the women workforce. It fails to include the women belonging to the weak and marginalised sections of the society as 90% of the women workforce is employed in the unorganised sector belong to the lower strata of the society. It includes women working as seasonal labourers working at construction and agricultural sites, contractual labours and domestic workers. The Bill lacks to cover them under its ambit as they lack eligibility under the 1961 Act such as continuous employment or a period of 80 days in the one year prior to the date of delivery. Hence, it portrays a huge disparity among the allotted benefits amongst the different sections of the society.

Experts also argue that the Bill could have an adverse impact on the job opportunities available for women. As it requires an employer to pay full wages during the maternity leave, many companies may consider it as a financial burden and prefer to hire male candidates on critical positions. Although, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Maternity Protection Conventions has proposed that the complete burden should not be borne by the organisations as suddenly the compensation period has increased from 12 to 26 weeks. It recommends compensating through public funds, insurance schemes, etc. Various countries like UK, Germany, Australia and Norway compensate by combining funds from the government and employer or national security fund.

A government official, who has been part of the debate in parliament argued that, “A father also has equal responsibility towards the child like a mother and paternity benefits would help a couple to raise their child together as majority are now nuclear families”. In fact, another government official from West Bengal shared saying that the government in its state is already providing the paternity leave of 30 days. Additionally, the benefits should extend to single father adopting children who are currently excluded from the Bill.

Fiinovation recommends that instead of introducing different bills and schemes, the government should introduce a uniform policy to benefit every employed woman rather parent in the country. Not only this, a strict monitoring mechanism should be implemented to ensure that women receive these benefits as currently only a handful of leading corporates in India have been strictly following these norms.

As quoted by in a report by Mckinsey Global Institute “Achieving gender equality in India would have a larger economic impact there than in any other region in the world – $700 billion of added GDP in 2025 – but comprehensive change is needed.” Fiinovation second with the though and feels that the New Maternity Bill is an important step towards the same and will certainly act as an impetus for women empowerment since they will be able to strike a healthy balance between personal and professional life.

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

Corporate Social Responsibility – In Context of 2017

The year 2017 brings new hopes in the social development sector with more businesses contributing towards improving the standard of living of the people. With praises across the country for their contributions, the businesses are now more focused on strategising CSR rather than doing charity. However, there are several questions which are not answered as CSR projects are not good parameters for judging societal welfare. Today, it is unclear whether CSR spending by businesses have increased or not as compared to the days before the mandate, with not much available information.

However, data from the last two years suggest an increase of CSR funding with Indian businesses spending INR 9,309 crore in 2015-16. This is INR 163 crore more than what was required by the law and INR 703 crore more than 2014-15. The major focus areas for businesses have been Education and Health and they are likely to remain one of the most favoured sectors for CSR investments.

Understanding the present situation, Fiinovation, a global CSR consulting company analyses the trends in CSR for the year 2017.

1. Environment – After the successive droughts that nearly crippled the rural economy, it is expected that businesses will look to invest their CSR funds in projects that mitigate the climate change risks. Keeping focus on water, businesses will look to implement CSR projects for natural resource conservation, rain water harvesting, safe drinking water, watershed development and irrigation. Organic agriculture, climate smart agriculture, grain production with new innovative methods, etc. will also receive adequate focus. Several companies are looking to reduce their harmful environmental impacts.

2. Education – Several businesses will rather not look to diversify and stick to their CSR projects in education. It is expected to remain the favourite sector when it comes to CSR expenditures. Although, there might be a shift towards digital literacy, digital education and higher education to meet the current demands of the nation.

3. Health – Similar to Education, investments in health projects is likely to continue even this year. Focus will be on preventive healthcare along with healthcare infrastructure facilities including ambulances, digital check ups, diagonistic centers etc. Several businesses will also look to invest in public health in a public-private partnership model working in tandem with the government initiatives.

4. Skill Development – The Indian Government is currently committed towards providing skill development trainings to the youth. The government also provides additional support for entrepreneurship of the SC, ST and women. The government has also urged the businesses to contribute their CSR funds towards skill development trainings to ensure that the emerging workforce is formally skilled. It is expected that businesses will also look to boost infrastructure in the ITIs and Training Institutes to support the government. There are several businesses who are also investing in Sustainable Agriculture projects by providing trainings to the farmers.

5. Other Sectors – It is also expected that several other sectors will receive CSR funding but not at a very large scale. Swachh Bharat, Clean Ganga, Digital Literacy, renewable energy, etc. are some areas which will receive contributions.

The impact of the CSR law can be better understood after the end of this year, when experts review the first three years after the enforcement of the law.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

FIINOVATION OBSERVES – HUMAN RIGHTS DAY

“It’s time for each of us to step up for human rights. There is no action that is too small: wherever you are, you can make a difference. Together, let’s take a stand for more humanity” — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

Every year, the United Nations observes 10th December as the Human Rights Day worldwide. In 1950, the United Nations General Assembly invited all the member states and interested organisations and passed a resolution to observe the day for preserving and protecting human rights. On this day, the international conferences, exhibitions and events dealing with the issues related to human rights are conducted throughout the world. Additionally, on this day the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights and Nobel Peace Prize are awarded to people working voluntarily to ensure everyone enjoys equal freedom and rights.

The basic human rights has always been a controversial debate throughout the world as rich and powerful continue to misuse their powers to dominate the weak and marginalized leading to severe human rights violations. Even after so much development, millions throughout the world are devoid of their basic human rights. Extremist movements and messages comprising intolerance and hatred often lead to extreme violence. Hence, this day has gained a lot of attention for protecting and preserving the rights of everyone. This year too United Nations has appealed everyone to volunteer for protecting someone’s rights as humanity is often under attack by anti-social elements.

Since Fiinovation has been actively working in the social development sector from past many years, it has closely observed the pain and plight of weak and marginalized who are forced to lead a miserable life due to continuous social injustice and discriminations. Hence, we firmly believe that it is our duty to reaffirm humanity throughout the world. We should take up stands to defend the rights of people suffering from injustice and discrimination like women, children, indigenous people, minorities, specially-abled people, migrants, the LGBT community and anyone else at the risk of discrimination or violence.

Fiinovation also feels that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) voices a strong message for the world that no matter where we live, what we believe, or how we love, we are each individually deserving of the most basic fundamentals of human needs such as food, shelter, water, education, quality life, etc.

“Upholding human rights is in the interest of all. Respect for human rights advances well-being for every individual, stability for every society, and harmony for our interconnected world” – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications

Fiinovation

Civil Society, Need of Democracy

Civil Society, Need of Democracy

Civil Society, Need of Democracy

Freedom is the most precious gift to life. Unfortunately, this freedom which is loved by all or has been squashed and suppressed by men of power and position from time to time. While the books of history are filled with stories of struggles to attain freedom, the situation today is no different. The news channels are flooded with reports of civil wars taking place inside countries and groups fighting to take control over the other while some fighting for want of a peaceful and better life.

The new age of human civilisation is moving away from the old school of authoritarian system of kings, queens, emperors and dictators. Democracy, in which people elect their leaders and government, is taking over these old systems, where only a single man/woman or a family ruled the country. Today, 123 countries in the world have democratic system in which people have power to elect or reject the representative. But, only establishing a democratic system does not ensure the welfare of the people.

There are many countries which are democratic on paper, while dictatorship is practiced in reality and rights of the citizen are crushed For instance North Korea, conducts elections like other democratic countries, but people there have only one representative to chose from and majority of the power remains in the hand of a single family passed on from generation to generation. Civil society today is one of the pre-condition of democracy as it fills-up the gaps left by the authority or the government. Civil society is a voluntarily group of citizen of the country, whom all work for the welfare of the state without any profit motive and does not have any political affiliation and intentions. The civil society helps in fixing accountability of the government, while it is also self conscious about its own responsibilities and spreads the same awareness among other citizens. Different civil societies play vital role in building a strong nation. Charitable organisations help uplift the deprived section of the society while activist groups spread awareness about the ill practices in the system, academic groups try to promote good education in the society, while the cultural groups try to preserve our good ancient heritage and practices to avoid cultural imperialism. In a democratic system where everyone has the freedom of expression and beliefs, conflicts between the government and citizens are bound to happen. In this scenario, the civil society plays a vital role of a mediator between the citizen and the government to resolve the conflict.

In a country like India which has diverse cultures and religions, the civil society has to play an even bigger role to ensure that the voice of every section of the society is heard. The Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), which also comes under civil societies, are playing a big role in developing those areas and aiding people who have been overlooked by the government. Many laws increasing the transparency in the system have been passed on the recommendations and pressure of civil society, bills like Right to Information, Jan Lokpal bill and NOTA are some examples. Civil society has to play a big role in a democracy, especially in the developing nations, where the disparities are greater than the developed nations. The stronger these societies are, the more the power is equally distributed among the government and the citizens. Equal distribution of powers promote active participation from the two sides in the progress process. Thus, a robust civil society is essential to maintain a balance in a democratic environment.

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