Grassroots Interventions for a Brighter Future
Rishabh Borkar – Student, Kautilya
Two years back, the Covid19 Pandemic unfolded. The pandemic brought to the forefront the vast inequalities that exist in our world. India has made significant strides towards outreach of digital services in terms of payments and service delivery, and soon amidst the lockdowns, digital transfers emerged as a savior for the masses. Multiple waves of the deadly virus made it evident that public health expenditure needs to be given a substantial share of the GDP.
The pandemic exposed the abysmal state of the public health infrastructure in India. However, the government has several public schemes related to health and nutrition such as,PM POSHAN Abhiyaan, which was earlier known as the mid-day meal, to ensure the nutritional enrichment of children belonging to classes I-VIII in eligible schools. The main objective of the scheme is to reduce child stunting and child wasting, along with fulfilling the educational goal of encouraging students to come to school with the impression of having a nutrition-rich diet. Eventually, POSHAN 2.0 was launched, which is the umbrella scheme covering a wide gamut of stakeholders like children, adolescent girls, pregnant women, and lactating mothers. The objective of the project is to develop an ecosystem that is in complete synergy with the grassroots anganwadis for the perpetuation of immunity and well-being. Recently India’s position slipped in the Global Hunger Index to the 107 rank, behind countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. However, India vouched and pushed for a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly to declare 2023 as an “International Year of Millets.” highlighting the nutritional and health benefits of millet in our diet. Reiterating that health in itself is the most powerful capital to empower a nation for generations to come.
If health is the intangible capital for economic growth, then the tangible counterpart is money, hard currency in its true sense. People require some sort of credit not only for their daily needs but also to generate alternative sources of income, like small-scale businesses. Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, which was kickstarted in 2015, aims to fund small businesses through microfinance. The holistic vision of the scheme is the financial inclusion of the masses, especially those belonging to the bottom of the pyramid, and the last-mile delivery of financial services. Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India provides an illuminating example of the impact of grassroots initiatives. SEWA India began with the simple thought of empowering women to gain financial control over their lives. The idea of SEWA Bank was path-breaking as it allowed rural women predominantly employed in the informal sector to save credit in small amounts daily and borrow in meager amounts. Microfinance came to life through this simple grassroots initiative. Over the years, SEWA India has extended its services to cover health care, child care, insurance, and legal services to the rural women of India.
In the contemporary world, it is not enough to teach a person to fish; what if the road to the lake is blocked? Seamless connectivity and interoperability are paramount to ensure prompt service delivery. The initial phase of the lockdowns revealed the digital divide, especially in the hinterland of the country. As per the ITU world telecommunication report, only 43% of the population in India uses the internet. The National Family Health Survey Report, 2019-21, reveals there exists a wide gender gap in terms of internet usage. The reports reiterate that only 57.1% of the male population and 33.3% of the female population had access to the internet.
The education sector was in a dire state as it faced the brunt of the digital divide during the pandemic. The NSO report highlights the inequality between states, rural pockets, and income groups in terms of the penetration of digital services in India. The ASER report highlights that majority of students have been using smartphones for learning purposes. Bridging the digital divide in education remains a daunting task; however, the digital pathway led by the NDEAR (National Digital Educational Architecture) is incorporated under the National Education Policy 2020. The pioneering efforts laid down by Mr. Ranjitsinh Disale, who incorporated QR codes in textbooks for making lessons much more interesting, seem like tiny steps for a long, daunting journey of making education accessible to all. Education needs visionary efforts and continued commitment to bring everlasting change in a nation’s development trajectory.
India will be celebrating its 100 years of Independence by 2047. There will be a lot of adversities during these twenty-five years, but what matters the most is that we are passionately willing to lead the future generation in a developed, prosperous, and truly independent India through simple yet innovative solutions to everyday issues which the masses faced to bring about transformational change and empowerment.