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Thorny Transition: Women's empowerment and exposure to violence in India

March 13, 2015

This paper examines the relation between women's empowerment in India and the risk of violence. It starts by situating women's exposure to violence in the context of a gradual growth in female mobilization and freedom-from-violence rights, yet recognises that this is happening in the context of unfavourable social norms. The two conflicting trends produce a paradox that runs through the paper: women's empowerment has at times also resulted in greater risks of violence and harassment.This paper provides statistical data and evaluation reports from government and civil society interventions. Its secondary data comes from a series of interviews with government officials, academics, journalists and activists.

Achieving Healthcare for All in India

March 13, 2015

The current debate around Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in India is playing for high stakes. This paper reviews the main issues covered in the debate and considers whether the Government should take a proactive role in ensuring access to healthcare for all, or support the flawed status quo. The debate has polarised positions on a number of fundamental questions. How should healthcare be funded? What should be the role of public and private providers? How should the private sector be regulated? This paper outlines responses to these choices and shows how any resolution could determine whether healthcare becomes a reality for all Indians, or whether a majority of citizens will continue to pay an unbearable price for poor quality services.

The Changing Role of Civil Society in a Middle-Income Country

March 13, 2015

This case study from Oxfam India reviews some of the issues arising from India's recent evolution to a middle-income country and offers solutions from across a wide range of India Experience. 35 interviews with academics, leaders of marginalised communities, social movements, NGOs, donors and representatives of the corporate sector provide insights and answers to questions on social and economic issues, on the role of civil society, and on interactions between major stakeholders such as civil society, the government and the corporate sector.

Implementing the Forest Rights Act: Addressing a historical injustice

March 13, 2015

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) estimates that almost 400 million people in India depend on forests for sustenance and complementary income; these populations are among the most vulnerable and are generally considered extremely poor communities. Indian laws have considered forest dwellers as 'encroachers' and have criminalised their livelihood activities - collecting forest produce, farming, grazing of animals, and using water bodies - and has further restricted the dwellers' rights. In 2006, the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dweller's (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (also known as the Forest Rights Act) recognised customary rights over ancestral land and has received mixed reviews and seen various levels of success. This paper reviews the successes of the Act, and considers areas where it has been less effective. Specifically, while the Act grants individuals, families or communities the right over their own land, in its first six years, while the government received 3.5 million claims, only 39.7 per cent had resulted in land titles being granted.

The Proposed Land Acquisition Bill: Putting livelihoods first

March 13, 2015

This paper provides a coherent policy response to the tough social questions raised by compulsory land acquisition in India. With conflicts escalating and governments failing to enact a law protecting the livelihoods of affected people, the proposed Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011 is a major step forward. This paper identifies some of the loopholes in the Bill which need to be addressed in order to respond adequately to the sensitive nature of India's land situation. The Bill as it stands can make conflict more intractable by covering unchanged practices in a new law.

The Right to Free and Compulsory Education: Delivering the promise of the law

March 13, 2015

In 2009, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) established the government's obligation to guarantee eight years of free, quality education to all children aged 6 to 14 years. Since its enactment, the landmark legislation has promoted considerable progress, but has failed to deliver on its full promises. This policy brief outlines how political will to ensure time-bound implementation has been inadequate; and how reforms are required to enforce compliance, institutionalize mechanisms of grievance redress, support community oversight, and ensure social inclusion.

Understanding India's Global Engagements

March 13, 2015

This working paper questions India's role in global affairs and explores what drives and shapes its international engagement by focusing on its global policies (specifically food security and agriculture) and its stance in climate change negotiations with other developing countries. It also looks at India's role in the G20 and the potential for the emergence of other development-related issues in this global forum.

Why India Needs the Women's Reservation Bill

March 13, 2015

Nine out of ten parliamentarians in India are men. Such dismal figures reveal the lasting grip of unfavourable social norms. Six decades have gone by since India's Independence brought hopes that democracy would make gender representation more equal. Since the 1990s, reservation has opened up access to local bodies for women. Major parties have since championed a Bill that would extend reservations to the Lok Sabha, and the state legislative assemblies; the proposed law even made it through the Rajya Sabha. This paper explains why, after two decades of delay, it is time to pass the Women's Reservation Bill. The paper provides a breakdown of the Bill alongside charts and graphs representing quotas for Indian women. It provides evidence from both the local level and from other countries to challenge the most frequent criticisms of the Bill, and to addresses some of the foreseeable roadblocks in its implementation.

When Women Farm India's Land: How to Increase Ownership?

October 30, 2013

Women have long played a crucial role in India's agricultural production, and the trend that sees men shifting to non-farm activities further increases their responsibility. The situation of women cultivators is one of tremendous vulnerability: without land titles, they are not recognised as farmers, and thus are not able to access credits and government benefits. This policy brief outlines avenues to address the gap between the reality for many rural women and their entitlements.

India: Moving Towards Equal Opportunities for All?

October 22, 2013

Decades of rapid and unequally shared growth in India are adding new dimensions to old disparities along gender, caste, religious and tribal lines. But this trend stayed at the margin of public debates until recently. Discussions about inequality seemed to evolve in fragmented territories: economists debated about the comparability of inequality measures; policymakers discussed the right balance between growth and inclusiveness; women, Dalit, Muslim and Tribal activists fought for their entitlements under the policies set up to compensate for a history of suppression.Several recent works of synthesis connect the dots of evidence. They outline a coherent narrative around a wide spectrum of issues--estimates of income distribution, stark disparities in human development outcomes, policy choices and patterns of exclusion. These various dimensions build a solid ground to ask more pressingly: how does the trend impact on India's society and its system of governance?

Making Post-2015 Matter for Socially Excluded Groups in India

August 8, 2013

Will the post-2015 goals make a difference for those who are left behind by India's social development? As the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) gets closer, the challenge of addressing inequality in the new framework is increasingly debated. This paper examines the issue from the perspective of four groups in India that face acute poverty and social exclusion: women, Dalits, Muslims and Tribal people. It draws on their situations to offer insights into an emerging consensus in the broader discussion around post-2015: the importance of addressing inequalities and putting human rights at the heart of the framework; the central role of domestic policies; and the necessity of involving those whom the framework aims to serve.

Development after 2015: Ten Goals to Make a Difference for Those Left Behind in India

April 5, 2013

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have been a great laboratory for poverty reduction, with major successes and frustrating failures. These fifteen years of experience have provided us with the knowledge to do better in a deeply changed world.This paper summarises the outcomes of consultations and studies around the question: what new framework will make a difference for groups in India that face acute poverty and social exclusion? The question brings several challenges to the forefront -- addressing inequalities and exclusion; impacting on the politics of poverty in sovereign nations; financing the goals in a context where the role of aid is diminishing.The paper proposes to address these challenges in 10 goals that build on the current framework but will help make a difference for those at the very bottom.See also: Making Post-2015 Matter for Socially Excluded Groups in India