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Challenges of the Indian Social Policies

In the 73 years of independence, India has successively launched four major programs which
have laid the foundation of the social policies; National Rural Employment Guarantee Act; the
Public Distribution System; Integrated Child Development Services and Midday Meals.
However, these schemes have faced various challenges and many of them have been due to
negligence, lack of accountability and failure of the administration.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005

The act guarantees employment as a legal entitlement. It provides livelihood security in rural
areas by providing minimum 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to
every adult member of a household. If work is not provided within the first 15 days of applying,
the applicants are entitled to an unemployment allowance.

However, the last 5 years have witnessed deliberate undermining of the Act due to insufficient
funds. Causing a delay in wage payments and suppressing the work demand. This led to
NREGA workers filling an FIR against Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on 28th February
2019 across the country. Demonstrations were staged against the violation of law by central
government in making MGNREGA payments. Initial allocation of FY 18-19 of Rs. 55,000 crore
was exhausted in January 2019, due to pressure, Rs. 6,084 crore were again released however
most of these funds went to pending liabilities leaving no funds for new demands. The
Government’s inability to provide funds for workers who have respectfully earned their wages
while they are funding bullet trains and statues seems highly ironic. This rather brings out how
allocations of resources are being plunged out of the most marginalised groups of citizens while
NPAs of corporates who looted banks are being compensated.

The Public Distribution System

The system provides subsidized prices to eligible households through a network of government-
regulated outlets. PDS has moved towards an inclusive view by the enactment of the National
Food Security Act, 2013 which enhanced its coverage, however, PDS has always been under the
weight of corruption. The difference between market prices and PDS issue prices create an
incentive for intermediaries who manage PDS outlets. Recently, linking of Aadhaar has been one
of the biggest policy failures. Nearly 4 crore people have been excluded from the list without any
verification due to Aadhaar linking. Many suffer from failures of the identification system and
are left to fend for themselves. Half of the hunger deaths reported since 2015 have been due to
Aadhaar. Again, most of the victims belong to the disadvantaged groups including Dalits,
Adivasis and Muslims.

Integrated Child Development Services

Integrated Child Development Services provides nutrition, health and pre-school education
services for children under the age of six years. It lays the foundation for psychological, physical
and social development of the child, reducing the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition
and school drop-outs. Services are delivered through child care centers known as anganwadis.
For younger children, take away home rations are provided. It also provides nutrition and health
services to pregnant lactating women and adolescent girls. There are nearly 1.4 million
anganwadis in India today, serving more than 200 million children. Despite these services,
ICDS since its inception has failed in producing any tangible results. Failure to raise awareness
among targeted group by ICDS has led to exclusion of children in 0-6 year’s age group,
expectants and nursing mothers. Lethargy is recorded on part of the workers in conducting
periodical surveys. Often, the government has failed to supply food material to anganwadi
centres in time. There is a noted lack of coordination between the health and women, and child
welfare departments. Lack of implementation affects women and children, who are marginalised.

Mid-day Meal Scheme

Under the Mid-day Meal Scheme, each school has to provide hot-cooked midday meal
containing 300 calories and 8-12 grams of protein to every child for at least 200 days in a year.
With the enactment of National Food Security Act, 2013, it has become an integral part of the
right to food campaign in the country. However, surveys reveal that mid-day meals have had
little impact on malnutrition among schoolchildren. Providing animal-based proteins within a
limited budget has constrained the performance of the scheme. The lack of budget allocation as
per the rising costs of food, and corruption has plagued this scheme. Lack of independent
monitoring in quality of the meals led to 23 school children dying in Bihar after ingesting
cooking oil that had formerly been used for storing insecticides in July 2013.
To conclude, various governments’ schemes and programmes lack effective implementation. The
lack of well formulated policies only affects the beneficiaries which are the most marginalised
section of our society. It is important that these policies be made more accountable and efficient
in order to move towards a path of inclusive social development.