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Social vulnerabilities haunt Telangana

Social vulnerabilities haunt Telangana
Highlights

The formation of  the separate State of Telangana represents an aspiration for a decentralised model of development, innovative public policies to promote the standard of living, knowledge and longevity by removing inequalities and vulnerabilities. Such a paradigm of development calls for a significant improvement in the human development indices. 

The very demand for separate State of Telangana emerged out of the feeling of perceived neglect and wide social and economic inequalities. The persistence of inter-district and intra-regional social and economic inequalities would pose serious challenge to the integrity of the new State, as inequalities negate the very purpose for which the new State is carved out, much to the agony of other regions of the united State.

Around 60-64 per cent of total expenditure is spent on social sector in all districts of Telangana, except Karimnagar and Nizamabad, wherein the share is below 60 per cent. Thus the allocation to social sector is more or less same across the districts and over a period of time. But, the human development index values across the districts vary much. This shows that the outlays alone do not suffice. What matter are outcomes. Outcomes can be improved only through effective and good governance practices

The formation of the separate State of Telangana represents an aspiration for a decentralised model of development, innovative public policies to promote the standard of living, knowledge and longevity by removing inequalities and vulnerabilities. Such a paradigm of development calls for a significant improvement in the human development indices.

The report entitled ‘Human Development in Telangana State’ prepared by Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS) for the Government of Telangana takes stock of the human development profile of the state. Human development is the expansion of people’s freedom to live a long, healthy and creative life, thereby providing a more meaningful account of the living standards of people as compared to economic development indicators. State Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao always claims that Telangana is a rich State.

Therefore, it is much more interesting to analyse the richness of people’s lives as reflected in the human development indices. There has been a significant improvement in the human development indices across all the districts in the State, despite significant inter-district variations. The relative rankings of different districts have undergone change during the periods of study – 2004-05 and 2011-12.

The districts like Hyderabad, Rangareddy, Warangal and Karimnagar retained the top four ranks in both the years. This reveals the greater imperative to diffuse the process of development through a decentralised approach. The very demand for separate State of Telangana emerged out of the feeling of perceived neglect and wide social and economic inequalities.

The persistence of inter-district and intra-regional social and economic inequalities would pose serious challenge to the integrity of the new State, as inequalities negate the very purpose for which the new State is carved out, much to the agony of other regions of the united State. The ranks of the bottom two districts in 2004-05 – Nizamabad and Medak – changed to 8 and 10 respectively in 2011-12. The rank improved from 7 to 5 for Khammam, while the rank of Nalgonda slipped from 5 to 7.

The situation in the impoverished district of Telangana – Mahbubnagar – has further worsened during this period as its rank declined from 8 to 9. The severe backwardness of districts like Medak and Mahbubnagar, despite their geographical proximity to the state capital raises fundamental questions over the model of development in Telangana pursued during the regime of united State and the policy needed for the new State.

The concentration of development and opportunities in and around the State capital emphasises the vital importance of decentralisation of development. But, there is a ray of hope in this milieu, too. The data reveals that the districts with low value of HDI in 2004-05 improved their HDI value faster as compared to the districts with higher HDI values.

This provides the potential for bridging inter-district inequalities. It is estimated that Hyderabad and Rangareddy continue to retain their positions as the first and the second highest in terms of HDI even in 2015-16. Medak and Mahbubnagar remain as bottom two districts in terms of HDI even in 2015-16.
There is a close relationship between public expenditure on social sector and levels of human development. Around 60-64 per cent of total expenditure is spent on social sector in all districts of Telangana, except Karimnagar and Nizamabad, wherein the share is below 60 per cent. Thus the allocation to social sector is more or less same across the districts and over a period of time. But, the HDI values across the districts vary much.

This shows that the outlays alone do not suffice. What matter are the outcomes. Outcomes can be improved only through effective and good governance practices. Districts like Rangareddy, Khammam, Warangal, Adilabad and Nalgonda should have to improve their education spending as part of their overall social sector spending. The spending on education is the lowest in Rangareddy district.

A report entitled ‘Status of Millennium Development Goals in Telangana State’ prepared by CESS also reveals the more or less similar picture in terms of various development indicators in the State. The report says that significant achievements have been made on many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets in the Telangana state.

However, the progress has been uneven across the districts and ethnic groups. This calls for a renewed focus on vulnerable groups and backward districts to achieve sustainable development goals. The poverty in Telangana State declined from 44.2 per cent in 1993-94 to 8.8 per cent in 2011-12. The consumption inequalities register a reduction among the poor. But, addressing malnutrition among the children remains a big challenge in Telangana.

The State is yet to achieve total net enrolment rate at primary stage. The estimates suggest that the State may achieve this distinction in another two years. However, the bigger objective post 2015 would be ensuring universalisation of secondary education. Though gender parity has been achieved at both primary and secondary levels of education, a significant gap persists among socially disadvantaged groups. Rural areas have been lagging behind in enrolment at the secondary level, which needs key focus.

The full immunisation remains a larger concern in the State. The State has to concentrate on reducing Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Under 5 Mortality Rate (U5MR). In fact both IMR and U5MR rates are relatively very high among socially marginalised groups like scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, thus child safety and development remains the major challenge.

Children should, therefore, be the policy focus of any talk of building a golden Telangana. But, unfortunately the KG-to-PG scheme still remains a pipedream. The Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) also remains a major concern in Telangana. The major cause of worry in the State is access to drinking water. The State has a dubious distinction of half of the population having no sustainable access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Even the slum improvement is also an area that deserves urgent focus.

Besides, forests and biodiversity improvement can strengthen the environmental sustainability in the State. The social indicators like child and mother care, drinking water and sanitation, addressing the social vulnerabilities remain major challenges for the State of Telangana. But, the contrast is sharp. The state has made a significant achievement in providing telephones and cellular phone connectivity.

Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao himself emphasised that growth has no meaning and even lacks legitimacy if the deprived sections of the society are left behind. But, the social landscape of Telangana presents grave challenges that can only be addressed by adopting policies aimed at distributive justice.

To summarise, the target of reducing absolute head count poverty has been partially achieved in Telangana. But, hunger and malnutrition remain major challenges for Telangana which claims to be one of India's richest States. Estimates indicate that spread of HIV/AIDS in Telangana has already been halted and even reversed in eight of the ten districts.

There are reports of resurgence of Malaria in some districts of Telangana, which is a matter of concern. The resource-rich State should adopt a public policy that focuses on lives and livelihoods of the people to improve social indicators significantly and bridge inter-regional inequalities and address social vulnerabilities.

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