In India, poor kids are illiterate despite 4 years of education: Unesco report, Times of India

Manash Pratim Gohain,TNN | Jan 29, 2014, 05.10 AM IST

NEW DELHI: In India, even after completing four years of school, 90% of children from poorer households remain illiterate. And this also holds true for around 30% of kids from poorer homes despite five to six years of schooling.

Besides, only 44% of rural students in the Std V age group in Maharashtra and 53% in Tamil Nadu could perform two-digit subtraction. And it will take another 66 years for poor young women of the country to achieve universal literacy.

These are among the many alarming findings in Unesco's 11th Education For All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report to be released on Wednesday, which says that despite progress, most EFA goals are likely to be missed by 2015. According to the report, the pace in achieving universal primary education, lower secondary education and youth literacy is woefully slow for many countries in the region, especially for the disadvantaged. With respect to India, it said while the richest young women have already achieved universal literacy, the poorest are projected to do so only by 2080.

Reporting on the trends in financing education for all, the report states: "Around the world, governments are grappling with ways to reallocate their education budgets to those children most in need. Allocations per child still do not adequately reflect the costs of delivering quality education to the marginalized." In its India analysis, the report says that in Kerala, one of the wealthier states, education spending per pupil was roughly $685. In Bihar, the figure stood at just $100.

The report suggests that new EFA goals after 2015 should set a target for all countries to allocate at least 6% of GNP to education and at least 20% of total government expenditure on education. Though India is among 10 countries that have made the fastest progress in reducing the number of children out of school in recent years, this expansion has also created a learning crisis — a phenomenon apparent in many parts of the world, resulting in 250 million children not learning the basics globally, one-third of whom are in South and West Asia.

Progress is too slow, and particularly for the disadvantaged. Performance in mathematics remains a problem area. In rural India, wide disparities were seen between the richer and poorer states. Even within the prosperous states, the poorest girls showed lower skill levels. In the wealthier states of Maharashtra and TN, most rural pupils reached Std V in 2012. But only 44% of these in Maharashtra and 53% in TN could perform two-digit subtraction.

Besides, widespread poverty in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh affects the chances of children staying in school until Std V. In UP, only 70% of poor kids make it to Std V, while almost all from rich households are able to do so. In MP, 85% of poor pupils enter Std V, compared to 96% of rich children.

One of the reasons for the learning crisis is teacher governance, with the report saying that "absenteeism varied from 15% in Maharashtra and 17% in Gujarat — two richer states — to 38% in Bihar and 42% in Jharkhand, two of the poorest states."

Don't curb legitimate mining. Investment must be made in exploration and development of natural resources to eradicate poverty & unemployment

Article by Mr. Anil Agarwal, Chairman – Vedanta Group
Published in Hindu Business Line on January 23, 2014
India has enough potential to produce worth USD 400-500 billion in natural resources like oil & gas, gold, silver, iron ore, copper, coal, calcium, rock phosphate and others. It is bound to generate substantial revenues, more than 50%, for the government, which will be helpful in developing infrastructure for the country. This will also create employment for 10-15 crore people, by way of setting-up over 1000s of new Large, medium and small scale industries towards processing of natural resource. GDP will improve, deficit will reduce and a win-win situation for all. Investment in exploration is must for our future generation. The model may be revenue sharing or whoever pays higher Royalty.

The natural resource sector has been passing through a challenging phase in India. Blanket bans and clearances delays have brought this sector in a non-sustainable position today. Even with abundance of rich mineral reserves and resources, we are not able to capitalize it for our economic strength. 

The history is evident, not every country has rich mineral resources, and the countries blessed with such natural resources have utilized them for their overall growth, for the development of people, securing employment and their livelihood, eradication of poverty and stabilizing their economies.

At one point, countries like Brazil, Canada, Australia and those in Latin America were on par with India when it came to utilization of natural resources. Today, these countries have moved far ahead and we have remained stagnant. In India, the fall of GDP growth can be attributed largely to the sluggish growth of natural resource sector.

On one side, the available resources are not being utilized and on the other side, the tussle of legitimate and illegitimate mining has put blanket bans on mining. The outcome has crippled the industries, economies of these States and livelihood source of millions of people.

One of the most sought after global mineral resource, bauxite – a raw material for making aluminium, still remains un-explored and un-utilized in India. Our country is blessed with 4th largest rich bauxite deposit in the world, about 3000 million tonnes, but unfortunately the country has not witnessed opening of any large bauxite mine in the last more than 35 years. Investments in exploration of Gold and copper mines are awaiting, in spite of the Supreme Court judgment to open up the sector. 

Having our own reserves and resources, and than spending billions on their import makes no sense. We can keep these reserves for another 100 years, but ultimately, their sustainable and optimum utilization is necessary for the country and for the mankind.

Look at the economic condition of a State where manufacturing has seen blanket ban. 

Iron Ore mining ban in Goa has put the Goa economy in deep economic crisis. In Goa, it is a matter of survival for over one-third of the state’s population. The iron ore mining ban has paralyzed almost 20,000 trucks. But the biggest loss is to the economy which is now touching over Rs. 25,000 crore. 

The livelihood of over 100,000 people is at stake. Even if the mining starts today, it would still lead at least 40,000 jobless. Thousands of people are employed in mining operations which include regular and contract employees. All are sitting idle. It is not just a loss to the miner; even thousands of ancillary industries associated with iron ore mining are on verge of closure. 

The Goa Chief Minister too shared his concern that ‘the economy of the country is in doldrums because import-export balance of the country is disturbed. Restriction on iron ore mining can be attributed as major reason for decline of the economy.’

Until mining bans came into force, India produced about 200 million tonnes of iron ore and about 50% was exported, making India the world's 3rd largest exporter of iron ore. The ban has declined the export from 117 million tonnes in 2008-09 to 18 million tonnes in 2012-13. The condition of exports is further deteriorating, to 14-15 million tonnes, in current financial year. 

The exports have been so much dented and the loss of revenues has been so massive, that, once the mining resumes in Goa, the companies will be required to go full-fledged and increase as much iron ore production to recover as much possible lost ground. 

The loss of over $6 billion on account of the ban on iron ore export from Goa alone has been one of the major factors responsible for compounding the current rupee crisis.

The situation is so critical that Goa Government has approached the Central Government for relief. In a written reply to the Lok Sabha on 6th December 2013, the Mines Minister Mr. Dinsha Patel stated that State Government of Goa, citing the economic hardships and loss of employment due to the ban on mining in the State of Goa, has requested the Central Government for (1) enhanced central financial assistance, (2) special relief package to the cooperative banks so that they do not become sick, and (3) a moratorium on repayment of borrowings from banks, waiver of interest and restructuring of loan packages. 

No one advocates for illegitimate mining but the legitimate mining must grow. Don't curb legitimate mining. Investments are necessary in exploration and development of natural resources to eradicate poverty and unemployment. 

When Goa mining delegation met Prime Minister and asked for help, the PM said, ‘while environmental concerns should be sincerely addressed, all should remember that poverty is the greatest polluter’. Union Finance Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram statement on iron ore mining 'to find a way to export iron ore and restart iron ore mining' also gave solace to people. Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Anand Sharma too spoke on removing the ban by stating that 'we don’t want ban to continue and all mining activities are not illegal' and stressed upon iron ore export.

Amidst all this, the entire economy of Goa has shaken up. The entire economic life-cycle has come to a stand still. Paralysis in iron ore mining in Goa is hurting industries and people sentiments.

India enjoys the richness of iron ore reserves like that of Australia and Brazil but the difference in production and outlook is un-measurable. Where Australia has doubled its production to 500 million tonnes and Brazil has too doubled its production to 400 million tonnes, India production has gone down to less than 50% to 100 million tonnes, and even struggling to sustain this level, though our country has the immense potential to produce much more. 

For a developing nation like India, it is only pertinent to capitalize the available natural resource, in most sustainable manner, by bringing in large investments and through simplification of policies and procedures. This is the only sector that has true potential to make India an economic powerhouse.

Anil Agarwal
Chairman, Vedanta Group


The country clearly needs a liberal economy, with the government and industry on the same side of the table


Delhi Edition - 7th January 2014 - Page - 7

Industries have always played a fundamental role in building a progressive nation. They play a crucial role in the creation of jobs, building infrastructure, alleviation of poverty, increasing exports of the country and, in the process, decreasing imports. The increased focus of industries on the development agenda is also helping the government to achieve its social agenda.

India has always been proud of being a democratic country. A combination of young and not-so-young entrepreneurs, who have infused billions of dollars of funds and global technology, has helped give millions of unutilized human resource employment, to build the India of today and for tomorrow. Let us accept that industrialisation and manufacturing is here to stay in India, and is a large contributor to the economy.

The year 2013 was reminiscent the era of 1990s when India faced its second economic crisis, but also saw the dawn of the liberalization of the economy. Opening up of foreign investment, liberalization in industrial policies to give impetus to growth, disinvestment of under-performing public sector companies, and similar policies were seen as an opportunity to give a much-needed boost to the economy. The formula worked in favour of India and the country not only came back to its growth path but also became one of the most preferred destinations for foreign investors.

Today, India needs strong global confidence in relation to its policies, commitments and government support. At one point, justice could even be denied, but justice delayed paralyses the industry and the economy.

The year ahead, 2014, is being seen as one of hope and revival. The industry is looking forward to a speedy disposal of proposals and clearances. Agenda that could lead to not just creation of strong infrastructure but also result in massive employment generation leading towards eradication of poverty are being proposed. We will discuss a few salient features that could help India move pas the impasse of last year.

Disinvestment for growth
When companies like ICICI and HDFC can run world-class organizations without being owner-driven, why can’t the 250-plus state and central government-owned companies? These PSUs too can follow the example of the aforementioned private sector giants to create huge value for themselves. Why should the government house-keep these companies? It is time that 51% shares in the PSUs are sold to the public who will then hold the management accountable for company’s performance. Ultimately, the government should be looking to divest further, and hold 26%. More so, the government should divest to an extent where no one has more than 10% of the shares. This move alone can create at least 50 million jobs that will change the face of modern India.

Auction natural resources in the revenue-sharing model
No country in the world can develop without manufacturing. The contribution of manufacturing in GDP and GNP cannot be ruled out. At one point, countries like Brazil, Canada, Australia and those in Latin America were on a par with India when it came to utilisation of natural resources. Today, these countries have moved far ahead and we have remained stagnant. The fall of GDP growth can be attributed largely to the sluggish growth of manufacturing in India. Further, in states where manufacturing drives growth, the economy is in shambles, thanks to the artificial shortage of resources.

How long shall we hoard these natural resources? There has been no large bauxite mining in India in more than 35 years. Gold and copper mines are awaiting to be explored, in spite of the Supreme Court judgment to open up the sector. Having our own reserves and resources, and then spending billions on their import makes no sense. As much as 3,000 million tonnes of bauxite remains unutilized in India. How long shall it stay that way?

In Goa, it is a matter of survival for over one-third of the state’s population. The mining ban has paralyzed almost 20,000 trucks. But the biggest loss is to the economy, with the loss figure touching Rs.25,000 crore. The loss of over $6 billion on account of the ban on iron ore export from Goa alone has been one of the major factors responsible for compounding the current rupee crisis.

We can keep these reserves for another 100 years, but ultimately, their utilisation is necessary to benefit the very citizens whose interests we are purportedly protecting with the ban. So, auction these natural resources in the most transparent manner with simple policies and allow them to be used in the most sustainable manner so that it helps in strengthening and rejuvenating the economy.

End public sector-private sector discrimination
Discrimination between the public and private sector companies hurts business sentiments. Where ONGC has been allowed to explore shale gas, the private sector is still awaiting approvals. Even in iron ore, in spite of mining ban in Goa and Karnataka (Karnataka has now opened up partially), NMDC has been finding iron ore mining easy. In the transmission business, PGCIL is reaping the advantage being a public sector company while the private companies are struggling. The example of Nalco is even peculiar. Nalco is exporting alumina at a rate that is much lesser than the rate offered by domestic companies which are struggling for the want of this raw material used for making aluminium.

The public and private sector are both involved in building national projects so why such discrimination. Ultimately, the country is more important.

Commit to the interests of the future generations
India is home to the largest number of children in the world, and also home to the number largest malnourished children. Being a citizen of India, I feel it is my moral duty to ensure a secure future for these children. The 14 lakh government-run anganwadi centres need a complete transformation. Infrastructure, education, water and sanitation facilities, hand-pumps, solar energy for running teaching equipment, sufficient nutrition, and regular health check-ups are necessary for the future of these children. Bring in public-private-partnership (PPP) and let the corporates build a time-frame agenda to address these issues. The government sanctioned Rs.1,29,000 crore in the budget and this only shows its seriousness in dealing with this issue. It is a mammoth task and we need a well-crafted approach in a time-bound manner.

Promote liberal arts and tourism in India
A substantive part of the population in the US has adopted liberal arts as a full-time profession. In India, we are yet to be convinced about the liberal arts’ stability as a career. As we have grown into a culture of fear and uncertainty, we look forward to guaranteed employment. The world has moved ahead and adopted liberal arts as one of the most sought-after professional careers while in India, it still needs to be promoted.

Second, lately, India has been witnessing a fall in tourist numbers. A country which has been attracting about 6 million tourists every year has enough potential to attract 10 million. Rajasthan, Gujarat, southern and eastern India have been the most sought-after destinations for domestic as well as international tourists. Each of these regions have rich history, culture and heritage which attract about 3 million tourists ever year. There needs to be a concerted approach towards the promotion of tourism in India.

The world is looking at us and we have a lot to give to the people of India. One strong step and one decision is what the country needs today. Together, we can make a difference and we can build a nation. Both the government and the private sector need to sit on the same side of the table for development and for the people of India.

Anil Agarwal

Executive Chairman, Vedanta Group