Education and health continue to be priority areas for the State government in the matter of social upliftment.
THE development index of any State can be measured by the improvement in its social sector. Under the present State government, Madhya Pradesh has made significant strides in this sector, especially in health and education.
Education is being given the highest priority not only at the primary and secondary levels but also at the higher education level. A number of innovative measures have ensured that the desired results are achieved. A significant step in this direction has been the introduction of the concept of guest teachers in order to tide over the problem of teacher shortage in schools. The arrangement will start with schools run by the Tribal Welfare Department. Guest teachers are taken against vacant teaching positions in schools. There would be two categories of teachers - immediate and temporary. There would be a panel of five guest teachers - preferably retired ones - in every institution and their appointment would be valid only for that particular academic year. The panel will be prepared in consultation with the head of the institution and the president of the parent teacher association (PTA). An honorarium will be paid to each guest teacher through the PTA.
The guest educators have been divided into two categories - lecturer grade and teacher grade. The first will be paid an honorarium of Rs.50 a class and the second Rs.40 a class. Also, the honorarium will be paid for a maximum of four classes a day; the maximum payment will be Rs.4,000 for a Category 1 teacher and Rs.3,200 for a Category 2 teacher. Also, they would be allowed to teach for a maximum of 20 days a month. To maintain the quality of teaching, there would also be a provision for the head of the institution to evaluate the work of the guest teacher. The State government is keenly awaiting the results of this experiment.
A number of other innovative schemes are already in operation - such as the distribution of free cycles to girl students of ninth standard from rural areas, free distribution of uniform to girls up to eighth standard. The mid-day meal scheme has also ensured increased attendance of students in primary schools. The government has committed itself to constructing pucca buildings for all primary schools by next year. It has taken up the construction of residential schools and hostels, especially in the tribal areas, to ensure that tribal youth have access to better educational facilities.
In the field of higher education, the government has gone for tie-ups with foreign institutions. The government recently received proposals from the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) for establishing training institutes in Bhopal and Jabalpur. Approximately 500 students will benefit annually from this programme.
The Secretary-General of MDIS, R. Thevendra, who called on Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, informed him that training in the field of technical education, information technology, health education and management is given by the institute in nine countries with the cooperation of different universities. The Chief Minister has promised the MDIS full cooperation from the government; it was he who invited it for investment in Madhya Pradesh, during his visit to Singapore. The State government would provide land at concessional rates .
He said efforts were being intensified to make Madhya Pradesh an educational hub. The government has taken steps to open a new agricultural college at Ganjbasoda village in Vidisha district. The construction of the college building, at a cost of Rs.60 crore, has already begun and 40 students have been given admission. Classes will commence in July.
The Madhya Pradesh government tries to ensure that its education remains oriented towards employment generation. Entrepreneurship development programmes are being accorded top priority in both urban and rural areas. Vocational courses and training for youth have been introduced on a massive scale anticipating increased manpower requirement in sectors such as food processing, organic farming, biotechnology, IT and agri-business. The government also has plans to connect urban and rural economies and markets by developing a well-built infrastructure. This would create a lot of employment opportunities.
In the field of health care, the State government has taken special care to cover women and children. The State's budget for the welfare of women and children has gone up to Rs.590 crore this year. Of this, it has allocated Rs.300 crore (Rs.190 crore more than the previous year) to provide nutritious food to undernourished women and children. The main beneficiaries would be children, adolescent girls, and expecting and nursing mothers, who would get supplementary nutritious diet from mother and child welfare centres called anganwadis. This would not only improve the socio-economic condition of women in the State but boost the physical, mental and intellectual development of children who suffer from malnutrition.
As for infrastructure in the health sector, a lot has been done to improve services. It was woefully inadequate as it had not been conceived keeping in mind the health needs of a growing population. The government has increased the budget for medical services by 42 per cent this year. It proposes to equip sub-health centres in far-off areas with adequate paramedical staff. Doctors are being appointed on a contract basis for rural areas.
Areas such as Bundelkhand have extremely poor health care infrastructure, which mars the delivery of quality health services. The government has made budgetary provision for setting up a new medical college at Sagar in the Bundelkhand region. The upgrading of primary health centres (PHCs) into community hospitals, construction of buildings for 10 district hospitals, expansion of the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana, financial aid to expectant mothers for institutional delivery, launch of mobile health care units in areas densely populated by tribal communities and so on are some of the concrete initiatives now yielding good results.
The State has achieved a number of milestones in the health sector. For example, since infant and maternal mortality rates were high in the State, the government launched cash incentives to encourage women to go to hospitals for delivery; over three lakh women have availed themselves of this scheme since it was launched in August 2005. Maternal mortality has come down to 379 per lakh from the earlier 498 per lakh and infant mortality from 82 to 70. The percentage of delivery in hospitals has increased from the earlier 26 to 51 now.
For Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe people living below the poverty line, the government launched the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana in December 2004, to provide free medical services to them. Over three lakh people have benefited from this scheme so far. In order to provide quality medical education, the government has increased the financial assistance to all the five medical colleges in the State; this will cover expenses for the recruitment of personnel and for providing better infrastructure facilities.
An innovative scheme to benefit the girl child has been the introduction of the Ladki Laxmi Yojna. Under this scheme, a certain amount of money is reserved for girl children at the time of their birth, which will be given after they attain 21 years of age. A sum of up to Rs.1 lakh is given subject to certain conditions one of which is that the girl should not be married off before the legal age for marriage. This scheme aims at reducing the number of child marriages, improving the gender ratio and ensuring a good education and good health for girls.
In order to promote education and check the dropout rate amongst S.C./S.T. girls, a literacy encouragement scheme is being implemented.
Under the scheme, S.C./S.T. girl students seeking admission to 9th and 11th standards will be paid an encouragement amount of Rs.1,000 and Rs.2,000 respectively in two equal instalments in July and January. But girls whose parents/guardians are income-tax payers would not be covered under the scheme. Information as regards the girls entitled for the encouragement amount would be forwarded by the principals of the schools to the Assistant Commissioner of the district concerned/district coordinator, Tribal Welfare Department, by October every year.
Girl students are required to submit their parents' income certificates for the purpose and it is mandatory for girls whose parents are in government service to get the income certificate signed by their respective department heads. The encouragement sum would be disbursed through banks.
A remarkable feature of the present government's tenure has been the integrated development of both rural and urban areas. Under the watchful eyes of the Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh's villages are undergoing a silent transformation.
The Chief Minister notes that the development of a State like Madhya Pradesh, where about 70 per cent of the people are dependent on agriculture for livelihoods, cannot take place without the development of the rural areas. Hence the focus on building roads to connect villages; constructing buildings to house PHCs, community health centres and primary schools; and improving the infrastructure in schools. About 50,000 teachers are being appointed in rural schools. Free health facilities for the needy, cultivation of medicinal plants, food processing units, IT initiatives, better irrigation facilities and road connectivity are all part of the government's integrated development plan for the rural areas.
In the field of rural development, the State government's collaboration with the government of the United Kingdom has yielded good results; the collaboration has been renewed until 2012. The Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK government recently approved the second phase of the Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Project (MPRLP). The five-year phase starts from July. (The three-year first phase began in June 2004.) A budgetary provision of Rs.357 crore has been made for the second phase. About two lakh poor families will benefit from various livelihood enhancement activities in this phase.
In the second phase, the MPRLP will cover 3,000 additional villages from the eight predominantly tribal districts of Badwani, Dhar, Jhabua, Mandla, Dindori, Anuppur, Shahdol and Sheopur in addition to the 822 villages covered in the first phase. The second phase strategies and action plans are being given the final shape.
The DFID, during its annual reviews, has appreciated the performance of the project especially the transparency in the operation of the Village Fund, and the community participation in decision-making. The project's salient features include maintenance of the Village Fund by gram sabhas, priority to the poorest families, integrated management and sustainable harnessing of local resources, creation of job opportunities in villages, strengthening of the rural economy, empowerment of gram sabhas, and rural entrepreneurship development. The planning for the second phase concentrates more on social protection of poor families.
During the first phase, as many as 21,171 gram sabha meetings and over 27 community-level meetings took place on livelihood issues. Besides, 9,239 self-help groups (SHGs) and livelihoods promotion groups were empowered and old ones revived and linked to micro enterprise development.
Initiatives in the first phase have inspired the gram sabhas to utilise the Village Fund with discretion. Financial transparency has provided poor families direct access to the Village Fund. It has given rural farmers easy access to improved seeds and other farm inputs. They are attaining self-sufficiency in quality seed production. Small farmers have been encouraged to take up the cultivation of organic vegetables.
Under this project, over 10,000 hectares of land has been brought under irrigation through the construction and renovation of new and existing water resources. Animal husbandry and livestock development initiatives at the micro level have benefited a large number of poor families. Over 900 cattle health camps have been organised. Women panches and sarpanches in remote villages have been encouraged to participate in development planning.
But this has not meant that urban areas have been left out. Since urban people demand quality services and better infrastructure, most of the cities in the State are going metropolitan and are therefore confronting the problems associated with metro cities. Quality roads and good connectivity, regular water supply and quality supply of electricity are some of the expectations of the urban population that the government is striving to fulfil. The government, with help from the private sector, is striving to provide greater access to housing and civic facilities. Measures have been adopted to improve the urban civic administration so as to make the cities livable. Special projects are in the process of being implemented in major and medium towns to improve their roads, drinking water supply and sewage disposal systems.
The urban poor and people living in slums have also received special attention from the government. A provision of Rs.149.33 crore has been made in the current year's State Budget for the construction of 14,400 houses for the urban poor under the integrated housing and slum area development programme. The Union government recently approved 23 projects proposed by 20 local bodies in the State. It also released Rs.45.77 crore for the implementation of various projects which require a total fund of Rs.197.21 crore. This, combined with the State's grant, brings the available project fund to Rs.58.87 crore.
According to Minister for Urban Administration and Development Jayant Malaiyya, there are projects worth Rs.49.11 crore pending before the Centre and of these, four involving Rs.13.2 crore, were approved by the Centre in May. He said new projects worth Rs.330 crore had been received for approval from various local bodies in the current year. The proposals would be forwarded to the Union government after the empowered committee approves them. Moreover, a target has been set up to arrange a sum of Rs. 832 crore for development works, including the balance sum for projects sanctioned earlier, as well as the sum for upcoming projects under the Five-Year Plan 2007-12. The sum will be utilised for the construction of 37,651 houses for the urban poor and the development of basic facilities in slum areas, apart from the development of public utility works.
The Integrated Housing and Slum Area Development Programme was initiated in December 2005 with the objective of developing basic facilities as well as housing in urban slums. The programme has been implemented in all the cities except those coming under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. The project fund is provided in the form of grant by the Union and State governments in the ratio of 80:10; the remaining 10 per cent is borne by the implementing agencies and beneficiaries.
Concentration of livelihood-centric initiatives in areas populated by tribal communities is the government's main focus. The development methods and practices adopted in the past 10 years show that tribal communities could not reap the benefits of government-sponsored welfare activities owing to poor literacy. Hence the government is concentrating on poverty reduction initiatives, educational empowerment of the younger generation, and formation of SHGs.
Special incentives to meritorious students for taking up higher studies and also programmes for leadership development and academic grooming of tribal students are given emphasis. There is a special emphasis on providing better health and education facilities in tribal areas.