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

Budget Highlights – Education Sector

The much awaited Union Budget 2017 was presented by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitely on 1st February 2017. Education is one of the key components for driving economical growth and acts as impetus for government schemes such as Make in India, Digital India and Skill India. Government should devise schemes to boost other sectors such as Automation, Artificial Intelligence, Textile, Energy etc. apart from focusing on the IT and applied IT sectors.

It is extremely important to pay attention on improving the quality of educational institutes for creating skilled workforce, ready to join the industry. The key budget highlights of the Education sector are as following –

  • In year 2017, citizens will gain access to SWAYAM, a massive open online courses (MOOC) platform. This education portal, will be introduced with 350 online courses and will be providing high quality e-content to all the colleges and universities free of cost.
  • Job-creating packages for textile sector
  • Good quality institutions which will possess better quality and education
  • 100 international centres will be launched across the country for providing assistance to the youth seeking jobs outside India
  • PM Kaushal KendrasPM Kaushal Kendras to be extended to 600 districts
  • 5 crore youth to be trained under Sankalp programme launched by government
  • Quality and market relevance will be noted in vocational training
  • Special scheme for employment has been launched in the textile sector
  • National Testing Agency will be conducting major entrance examinations
  • CBSE will be freed from conducting examinations, and will focus majorly on academics
  • Skill strengthening to be implemented from this year with a budget of Rs 2,200 crore
  • Greater autonomy will be provided to major institutes
  • UGC will be reformed for higher education, colleges and institutions will give more autonomy
  • Two new AIIMS to be opened in Jharkhand and Gujarat
  • Big employment opportunities to come up in tourism sector
  • Government will provide education through digital platform and the country will be turned into an electronics hub
  • Additional opportunities for employment of women to open up through model shops and establishment bill
  • The BHIM app has been downloaded 17 million times, and special cash back scheme for BHIM users

The main highlight of the budget in education sector was the introduction of 350 online courses and big employment opportunities to be introduced in textile and tourism sectors.

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

FIINOVATION OBSERVES – WORLD SOCIAL JUSTICE DAY

World Social Justice Day is observed annually on 20th February for promoting efforts to tackle global issues such as poverty, unemployment, gender equality and exclusion to create an equitable society for all. It promotes social justice, solidarity, harmony & equality for marginalised communities, women and immigrants. The theme of World Justice Day in 2017 is “Preventing conflict and sustaining peace through decent work”. On this day many organisations including the United Nations and International Labour Organisation present plans and issue statements regarding the promotion of social justice. Additionally, campaign groups, trade unions and volunteers are also invited to mark their support on this day.

In 2007, the World Day of Social Justice was introduced in the UN agenda. It urged governments to focus on three important aspects;

a) reaffirmation of commitments made in Geneva Development Summit 1995,

b) recalling the commitment to promote national and global economic systems based on the principles of justice, equity, democracy participation, transparency, accountability and inclusion and

c) reaffirming the commitment made in the 2005 World Summit Outcome to full and productive employment and decent work for all, including for women and young people.

Keeping focus on these aspects will remove the barriers that people face because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.

Equality is the basic fundamental right of every society and in order to achieve the same, governments have created a framework for action to promote social justice at national, regional and international levels. The governments accept the fact that holistic economic growth can be achieved only by promoting equitable distribution of income, resources and providing everyone an equal opportunity for growth and development irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, culture or disability. They promote the belief that only social justice can help in achieving the peaceful coexistence within and among the nations.

United Nations also promotes social justice as part of their global mission to achieve equality for all. The recent adoption of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization by the International Labour Organisation is one example of the UN system’s commitment to social justice. The Declaration focuses on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, fundamental principles and rights at work.

Fiinovation through its association with corporations for CSR and Sustainability initiatives, have always promoted social justice. It believes that there are serious challenges in front of us, including financial crises, insecurity, poverty, exclusion and inequality within and among societies and considerable bottlenecks to further social integration and full participation in the economy. The road ahead would be to incorporate social integration activities within the social development programmes to boost equitable growth in the country.

“With exclusion and inequality on the rise, we must step up efforts to ensure that all people, without discrimination, are able to access opportunities to improve their lives and those of others.” – Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

MOBILE APP HELPING WOMEN IN SLUMS FOR SMOOTH PREGNANCY

As per the estimates by WHO (World Health Organisation), 5,29,000 maternal deaths occur in the world every year. Out of these around 1,36,000 or 25.7% of total deaths happen in India. Every five minutes, one Indian woman die during pregnancy and child birth.

In a statement released by WHO, it was stated that, “Two-thirds of maternal deaths occur after delivery and postpartum hemorrhage being the most commonly reported complication. The incidence of emergency postpartum hysterectomies is about 83/100,000 with a maternal mortality of 17.7 per cent and a perinatal mortality of 37.5 per cent”.

India carries the burden of around 17 per cent of the global maternal deaths and post-partum haemorrhage, accounting for as high as 37% of the maternal deaths. This situation will prove to be a major hindrance for India in achieving the goal of a healthy and developed nation.

Majority of women dying and facing complications during pregnancy and childbirth are from the lower income group and neither they are aware about reproductive health nor have the money to consult the doctors or afford appropriate healthcare facilities.

In order to improve the healthcare conditions of pregnant women for safe child birth, better health post delivery, the Maharashtra based NGO has started free mobile voice call service known as mMitra for giving free consultation to the women during their pregnancy. A voice message has been regularly sent to the enrolled women, reminding them continuously about the mandatory medicines, tests and scans required during their pregnancy.

Nearly 1.30 lakh women from the Nalasopara slum area of Maharashtra have enrolled for the service. Women have enrolled for this service and were guided through short voice messages like regular health checkups, ultrasounds, diet, etc. Many women have claimed multiple benefits from the service like better health, “uneventful” delivery which means without any complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure or bleeding during the childbirth. Inspired by the benefits, they are also encouraging the many other women in their area to register for the services.

The initiative is the brainchild of Dr. Aparna Hegde, alumna of a Sion Hospital in Mumbai. “The success of the initiative shows that there was a great need for an information medium. Women are now demanding iron and folic acid from hospitals, which was always available for free but they had no knowledge about it.

During a study conducted by the same NGO it found that there is a 36% increase in the knowledge of women listening to the voice messages consistently and 47% increase in women knowing about the three family planning methods. Looking at the success and popularity of the programme, the NGO is planning to extend services to other states of India like Delhi, Assam, UP, etc. to educate and help women during pregnancy and childbirth as well as maintain good maternal health post childbirth.

Fiinovation urges the leading hospitals and health consultancies to extend support for such initiatives through their CSR funds and technical expertise for creating a huge impact in the lives of millions of young women, focused on reducing maternal mortality rate and achieving universal access to the reproductive health care.

Manisha Bhatia


FIINOVATION REVIEWS: WHY INDIA NEEDS TO REVISE ITS ABORTION LAWS

The recent landmark judgment given by the Supreme Court of India allowing a woman to terminate her 24-week old pregnancy has opened up the doors of discussion on obsolete pregnancy laws, need to increase awareness about abortion and change the pregnancy laws as well as end stigma prevalent in the country. On Monday, Supreme Court relaxed the 20-week legal ceiling on abortion, allowing a woman to abort her 24-week baby diagnosed with Anencephaly, a life-threatening congenital defect in which a baby is born without the parts of the brain, skull and scalp.

India’s Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act legalises abortions upto 20 weeks only under certain circumstances such as threat to mother’s or child’s physical or mental health or if the unborn baby is diagnosed with severe physical or mental abnormalities or both.

As per the data revealed by the Union Ministry of Health & Welfare and World Health Organisation, there are 56 million induced abortions in the world every year from which around 22 million are unsafe abortions. The practice leads to 47,000 deaths and an estimated 5 million women develop some form of disability. In India, 10 women are killed everyday due to abortions as an estimated 6.8 million choose unsafe methods of abortion due to lack of knowledge and laws. Being responsible for 8% of the overall maternal deaths, unsafe abortions is the third biggest reason of the women dying due to child-birth related causes in India. Lack of skilled medical staff is also another big reason for women falling to the prey of unhealthy abortion practices. The weak and marginalised section of the society suffers the most due to lack of knowledge and stigma associated with the medical practice.

“Vulnerable groups including women with disabilities or mental health problems, rape and incest survivors and widows and single women who may need more support because of the tremendous social stigma may prevent them from seeking legal abortion services in the early stage of pregnancy”, says Mumbai-based Dr. Nozer Sheriar, former secretary-general of FOGSI (Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecologist Societies of India), who was also part of the Union Health Ministry’s expert panel that drafted the amendments.

Looking at the appalling figures and gaps observed in abortion laws, the Union Health Ministry has proposed certain amendments from relaxation in law to increasing the number of skilled workforce. “The amendments are women-centric as opposed to the provider-centric provisions in the MTP Act. The proposed bill aims to give each woman control over decision-making related to her life and body,” said a Union Health Ministry official.

The key changes proposed by the expert panel recommends widening the network of service providers through training so that nurses, village health workers and Auxiliary nursery midwives (ANMs), ayurveda, unani and homeopathy practitioners can use the medical methods to terminate the pregnancies by relaxing the norms from 20-week to 24-week for the “vulnerable” groups who may have delayed in seeking services due to lack of knowledge or stigma. After the completed training, the ANMs can terminate pregnancies upto 7 weeks, nurses and alternative practitioners upto 9 weeks through drugs. However, the surgical abortions can only be done by the registered physicians.

Other proposed amendments include the inclusion of confidentiality clause which will be helpful for the PROCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, which requires all the pregnancies involving minors should be reported to the police. The clause under the Act states that minors need consent from their guardian before seeking abortion. It also recommends to change the restrictive terminologies and make a uniform law for “women” irrespective of their marital status and changing the preference from “husband” to “partners”.

Fiinovation also supports the proposed amendments as they are in-line with the changing scenarios and will provide incredible benefits to women in advancing their rights on their own bodies and health. The lack of support and relaxation in norms have often forced women to resort to desperate measures falling to unsafe abortion methods leading to numerous health problems.

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