Gujarat IAS cadre ex-bureaucrat regrets poor state performance in education, health


Former state health commissioner Dr Amarjit Singh, Gujarat cadre IAS, made a civil society consultation in Ahmedabad an occasion to come down heavily on Gujarat's performance in social sector. Quoting official data, he suggested that, despite economic growth, Gujarat remains one of the worst performers in the social sector. Not only does the state have one the highest out of school girls in the age group 15-16, 24.9%, he said, children’s learning levels too are extremely poor.
Recalling his visit to a school during the Gujarat government-sponsored Gunotsav festival for improving quality of education when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was state chief minister, Dr Singh said, he went to a Jamnagar school, which was in good condition. Finding the photographs of national leaders hanging on the wall, he asked children who they were. None of the children could identify Sardar Patel or Mahatma Gandhi.
Dr Singh said, he talked with the principal of the school as to find out what was the reason. The principal replied, most children belonged to the backward bharwad community, which has no inclination to learn. This suggested caste bias is extremely strong in Gujarat schools, he added.
Suggesting that things have turned worse for healthcare, Dr Singh – who is currently on a post-retirement job as chairman of the Gujarat Real Estate Regulatory Authority – quoted National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data to say that severely undernourished children in Gujarat have gone up from 5.8% to 9.5% in a decade. By sharp contrast, he added, Delhi’s AAP government was doing exemplary work in health and education sectors.
Organized by Vadodara-based NGO Sahaj, and supported by several women’s groups,  Prof Jharna Pathak of the Gujarat Insitute of Development Research (GIDR) told the consultation on gender, health and women’s issues in Gujarat, that while cases of rape (from 1.71% to 3.3% of total crimes) have gone up, the conviction rate remains poor – 25% for rape and 4.1% for all crimes against women. Data suggested that incidents of cruelty by husbands and sexual harassment have gone down, but this could be because of lack of reporting to the police.
Despite the talk of gender budgeting, it was pointed out, allocation for women remained poor. For instance, women’s helpline was allocated Rs 56 crore in 2018-19, but spending has been just Rs 17.5 crore. The allocation for safety of women is also down from Rs 29 crore to Rs 19 crore.
While most activists and experts complained about lack of data on social sector, Dr Tannistha Samanta, assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, regretted, quoting Helpage India data, that Ahmedabad has one of the highest old age abuse cases. In a comparison of 23 cities, Ahmedabad’s 46% elderly people experienced abuse, second only to Mangalore, 47%.

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