Disregarding the role of various global and national factors, man-made or climatic, in slowing down of economy, we can convert a crisis into an opportunity. Recently in a meeting with Niti Aayog, I pleaded that we use this occasion for large scale disruptions in our system of developmental governance which in normal times may not get traction. Societal mood is generally less rigid when it tries to come out of slow down phase. It is however, true that even with a slowdown, it will still be one of the fastest growing major economies of the world.
What can we do gain still higher growth path. We need to make our workforce healthy and agile. Our productivity must increase. Without good health case, this cannot happen. There are young biotech and other entrepreneurs (like Accuster) who can provide around 40 diagnostic tests in less than 250 Rs at the community level. Can we get all the 250 million people engaged in MNREGS, a) tested for heath conditions, b) get them advice for preventive health, c) organise curative care through on line pharmacies (like pharma easy) and blend of both ayurvedic and allopathic doctors? One adverse health episode, give years savings of poor people are gone. Even today in rural India, almost half the people don’t have access to institutional finance and in eastern India, it more than sixty percent. The health insurance coverage is even marginal. All of them need to be covered under health insurance to cover at least a week or ten days of hospitalization if need be. They should also be given health card to get services from PHCs. Inventory of drugs in PHCs be pooled on line so that what is needed at one PHC in higher quality does not lie unused at another health centre and sometime get expired. We need to also give at least two herbal soap cakes to each worker for personal hygiene. The nexus between malnutrition due to high load of intestinal worms and poor hygiene has to be broken among children but also adults.
Do-It-Yourself kits for cleaning water using sand, charcoal, coconut fibre and pith, and other flocculants and cleaning agents must be made available to all workers. The pesticide industry must be obliged to ensure that every worker spraying toxic chemical is using safety gear and are looked after in every case of inadvertent hazards. All of their CSR funds must be allocated only and only for workers’ health care and safety of use of toxic chemicals by farmers.
Twenty million people travelling by train every day must be educated about preventive health, nutrition, small savings and other benefits of continuing education. In fact passengers should be encouraged to register for various life enhancing skill courses while buying tickets through Open Schools and University like IGNOU.
I have said it umpteen times but I will still repeat. All schools in 650,000 villages must be provide high quality multi-media, multi-language content made by brilliant students through a massive educational volunteers program at all IITs, IIMs IISERS and other institutions of excellence. It can be done by April next year. It may be accompanied by a national helpline as was started for farmers, managed by brilliant students ( who can even be paid per hour basis) to answer the questions not clear to children in government schools. Educational apartheid in vogue during the last 60 years will be overcome in one year.
All the tanks, farm ponds and water bodies will be desilted (and silt be distributed by village communities to enrich soil) by April 2018. Praying that monsoon is good next year, the experience of Saurashtra will be replicated all over the country. I have seen how Vidharbha suffers from drought when similar conditions have been almost completely prevented in Gujarat through on farm conservation of water.
I am sure that we can do a lot more but all these investments will generate massive employment, create demand for gods and service and increase the mass happiness index. In the process the economic growth will also pick up. More ideas next week. Get ready for Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Ignite awards nu Honey Bee Network, and National Innovation Foundation for children to be announced tomorrow, Oct 15, the birth day of revered Dr Kalam. What can be a greater tribute to his memory if children in all schools are assured a better future through free access to high quality material and free online tutoring to unleash their potential.