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Audit Objections

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  • Shaji John K
    TODAY S INTERVIEW Audit Objections [ TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2003 12:00:36 AM ] A minute s proceedings in the Lok Sabha in 2000-01 cost the exchequer an estimated
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 14, 2003
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      TODAY'S INTERVIEW
      Audit Objections

      [ TUESDAY, JULY 15, 2003 12:00:36 AM ]

      A minute's proceedings in the Lok Sabha in 2000-01 cost the
      exchequer an estimated Rs 15,700. India has the
      world's most privatised health care system. Central government
      spending on health has declined in GDP terms over the last decade.
      These and other `facts' form part of the first Social Watch Report
      compiled by the Delhi-based National Centre for Advocacy Studies
      (NCAS). Former NCAS director John Samuel, who co-authored
      the inaugural report, spoke to Tanu Thomas K:



      What is the significance of this report?



      It is the first report of its kind on governance and development —
      part of a larger initiative to make governance in this country more
      transparent, accountable and participatory. The report evaluates our
      performance in four key arenas of governance — Parliament, public
      policy, judiciary and local self government. It is part of
      a nationwide effort to revitalise democracy and
      development at the grassroots level.



      The report says that per capita allocation for medicine and public
      health, in real terms, is ``too small''. Has there been a reduction
      in the health sector budget over the past few years?



      Public expenditure on health in India is one of the lowest in the
      world. As a percentage of GDP, it has declined from 1.3 in 1990 to a
      mere 0.9 in 2002. While the Centre's allocation on health sector has
      remained stagnant at 1.3 per cent of the total budget over the last
      decade, in the states it has declined from 7 to 5.5 per cent. Indian
      healthcare is one of the most privatised in the world. The ongoing
      trend of reduction in public expenditure on health would deprive
      most adivasis, Dalits, landless labourers, and particularly poor
      women and children, of the right to healthcare.



      The contribution of Central government to the total public health
      expenditure is just 15 per cent now. The National Health Policy 2002
      proposes that this figure be increased at least to the level of 25
      per cent of public spending by 2010. However, in the budget
      proposals for 2002-03, the total allocation for health (both plan
      and non-plan) was only marginally higher at Rs 24.27 billion
      compared to the allocation of Rs 23.54 billion in the 2001-02
      budget. So there is a clear gap between rhetoric and reality.



      Why is the money spent on education not delivering?



      Despite the rise in literacy rate from 18 per cent in 1951 to 65 in
      2001, every third illiterate in the world is an Indian. Of the
      around 200 million children in the age group of 6-
      14 years, only 120 million are enrolled. Even by conservative
      estimates, more than 60 million children are
      out of school.



      Though the 86th constitutional amendment guarantees the right to
      education, there is no effort to increase the budgetary allocation.
      There was not even a mention of the Act nor any specific proposal
      towards this in Budget 2003. Plan per capita allocation on education
      has declined from 30 paise per head in 2002-03 to 18 paise in 2003-
      04.



      Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the allocation for elementary
      education has increased from Rs 5 billion in 2001-02 to Rs 15.12
      billion this year. But such an increase will not ensure compulsory
      education for even a small percentage of the 60 million out of
      school.



      The report talks of time and money being wasted in Parliament. What
      would, in your opinion, ensure that Parliament works more
      efficiently?



      Parliament lost a substantial amount of time to disruptions last
      year. In the Lok Sabha, more than 100 hours, in Rajya Sabha, 85
      hours. There is declining interest in budgetary discussions. Between
      1952 and 1979, the Lok Sabha devoted an average of 23 per cent of
      time on the budget. This has declined to about 10 per cent now. I
      feel there should be more allocation for Parliament but this should
      be towards competent research and capacity building support for the
      MPs. There is also a need to develop a public Parliamentary
      Performance Index to monitor the MPs' performance. A citizens'
      report card in each constituency will force them to be
      more responsible in Parliament.



      Regarding the government's water policy, you have only mentioned one
      angle — privatisation...



      We need to make a distinction between water as a right and water as
      a commodity. The attempt of the World Bank and the IMF is to reduce
      water into a commodity. This takes away the people's right to safe
      and accessible drinking water. There are ethical and
      environmental problems when an essential natural
      resource gets privatised and distributed as per
      the purchasing capacity of a buyer in the market. Efficient and
      economically viable use of water cannot be achieved through the
      mortgaging of rivers and lakes to MNCs.



      What is the future of the Report?



      Future editions will seek to strengthen citizenship at the
      grassroots level, by focusing on institutions at
      the panchayat level. It will also include within its
      ambit civil society institutions such as the media and
      the corporate sector. There is an increasing threat to our democracy
      from various sources. Such reports can go some way in ensuring that
      the spirit of the Constitution is kept alive.
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