Despite the state pursuing a welfare agenda, the disturbing reality is that a significant section among the poorest of the poor does not have access to Public Distribution System (PDS), according to the Social Development report of the Council for Social Development.
The economically most disadvantaged sections for whom the PDS matters most find it hard to access it. The educational and
Indicators of economic growth need not necessarily be the true measure of living conditions of the people. Of late, the concept of development is being redefined to include constructs like social development, human development, human happiness etc., to arrive at a much more meaningful assessment of the conditions of life of the people, especially the vulnerable sections of society. Such a reappraisal of concept of development is essential to have a proper focus for public policy and governance.
The Southern Regional Centre of the Council for Social Development (CSD) recently released the Telangana Social Development Report 2017 that would be a useful effort in this direction.
Urbanisation without inclusiveness
Though Telangana is still predominantly a rural state, there is a clear trend towards faster urbanisation in the state. The urban growth in the state has a skewed pattern with the number of towns almost doubled in a decade, nearly one-third of the state's population live in the capital city of Hyderabad. This resulted in the coexistence of prosperity and poverty in this city.
The concentration of economic activity and the market has certainly resulted in the emergence of a developed stretch of the city while it still has one of the highest levels of slum population. Hyderabad also figures among the top 10 million-plus cities in terms of the highest number of slum households.
The unprecedented concentration of population in the state capital has certainly imposed enormous pressure on the woefully inadequate civic infrastructure resulting in the proliferation of slums.
This demographic profile of the state has the following public policy priorities in terms of urban development. There is an urgent need for improvement of high quality social infrastructure in the burgeoning towns to ensure diversification of urban population.
The economic activity needs to be diversified into smaller towns. The emphasis on inclusive growth of state capital coupled with construction of satellite towns around the capital with suitable linkages with the city would ensure a balanced development of urban Telangana.
Crying need for care
Yet another notable demographic feature of the new state is the increasing share of elderly in total population, especially women. As the report itself suggests, this increase in elderly population has far-reaching implications for the provision of support services – both healthcare and social security. Even the share of the disabled population in the overall population is higher in Telangana as compared to the national average. Larger proportion of this disabled population resides in rural areas. The health and social security provisions should be high on the agenda of Government of Telangana, given this social profile of the state. The development has no meaning for a large section of the society unless protective freedom in the form of social safety nets is provided for.
More urbanised parts of the state including those in and around Hyderabad recorded lowest levels of Female-Male Sex Ratios (FMR) and Child Sex Ratios (CSR), higher proportion of women married below the age of 18 years.
This indicates that urbanisation need not necessarily associated with social or human development unless specific efforts in this direction are made. In fact, research also reveals that though higher levels of economic growth are essential to sustain higher levels of social development, the economic growth alone need not automatically usher in social development.
The Telangana state has overwhelmingly large proportion of women reporting widowed status, especially in rural areas. The CSD report calls for further study to clearly establish the causal factors for this relatively pathetic plight of women. However, anecdotal evidence points out that the widespread prevalence of liquor consumption leading to the death of male members of the family and higher age disparity between married men and women as possible explanation for a large proportion of widows.
The acute agrarian and rural distress has more debilitating impact on the marginalised communities due to humongous inequalities in accessing land among various social groups.
Dalits and tribals are the most landless sections of Telangana. The tardy implementation of land for dalits schemes is grim pointer to the gap between the public policy priorities and the social development profile of the state.
Not only this landlessness, 75 per cent of operational holdings of scheduled castes is marginal (below one hectare). The SCs are marginalised even in access to tenancy markets in the state. These facts put out by the Telangana Social Development Report underline the importance of resolving the land question among dalits. But, the implementation of land to dalits scheme continues to encounter headwinds.
Cropping intensity is relatively low among SCs and STs. The irrigation levels are also relatively low among the SCs and the STs. The agrarian question in a state like Telangana should be studied with special reference to dalits to evolve proper public policy response.
Mere social welfare programmes like sub-plan would not bring about a radical change in their socio-economic status. The livestock base is very small across all the social groups in the state, indicating the importance of the recent initiatives of Telangana government like sheep breeding etc.
The incidence of indebtedness is reported to be significantly high among all social groups in the state. The penetration of institutional credit among SCs is still negligible. Thus, the expansion of institutional credit structure is the paramount need in the state.
According to the report, although 96 per cent of youth in the state do not receive technical education, 62 per cent had educational attainments above the secondary level in 2011-12, making a strong case for skilling through well-conceived, sustainable programmes that are linked to employment opportunities and viable livelihoods.
Revive public education
The educational landscape of Telangana presents certain disturbing facts. The school completion rates are significantly lower in rural areas. There has also been an increasing shift towards private education. The importance of publicly-funded education in the lives of vulnerable social groups is underscored by the Telangana experience.
Despite the state pursuing a welfare agenda, the disturbing reality is that a significant section among the poorest of the poor does not have access to Public Distribution System (PDS), according to the Social Development report. The economically most disadvantaged sections for whom the PDS matters most find it hard to access it.
The report further notes that the ration cards meant for the poorest of the poor households are enjoyed by the richest households in rural Telangana. This indicates that there is much scope to include the deserving and exclude the non-deserving from the PDS in rural Telangana.
Public health priorities
The health profile of the state also represents certain striking facts. While the institutional births in Telangana are high, institutional births in public facilities are very low. Telangana has higher morbidity in rural areas than in urban areas. The acute prevalence of morbidity and greater dependence on private health care demands much higher levels of expansion of public health facilities, especially in the rural Telangana.
Better access to housing, sanitation, drinking water and other habitat services would contribute significantly to the improvement of public health facilities.