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Narendra Modi’s turf flops on education, health
NEW DELHI: One key issue in the upcoming general elections is state governments’ track record, with Gujarat receiving the most attention because it is BJP PM designate Narendra Modi’s biggest publicity plank. Gujarat’s economic growth, its prosperity and its efficient administration are being showcased across the country.
A closer look at two important aspects of people’s lives- education and health – shows up an unexpectedly dismal picture in Gujarat. Dropout rates in schools are unacceptably high at 58% compared to the national average of 49%. For dalits the dropout rate increases to 65% and for tribals, to 78%. Pupil-teacher ratios are higher than the national average, especially in senior classes – at intermediate levels there are 52 students for every teacher in Gujarat compared to the national average of 34.
Shockingly, enrolment of boys in Class I has dropped by 24% over a decade, although it has increased by 11% for girls. Some of this can be explained by a country-wide effort to remove fictitious entries reflected in a nationwide decline of about 4% among boys. Dalit enrolment in Gujarat has dropped by 27% compared to a national increase of 1% while adivasi enrolment has inched up by 5% compared to a national increase of 9%.
Higher education seems to be in doldrums as Gujarat’s gross enrolment ratio (GER) of 17.6 is lower than the national average of 20.4 and much below equally advanced states like Tamil Nadu (38.2) and Maharashtra (27.4). GER is the proportion of 18-23 year olds studying in higher education to their total population.
Gujarat’s healthcare delivery system appears to be floundering. Shortage of doctors at primary health centers (PHCs) is 34% but shortage of specialist doctors like pediatricians and gynecologists at community health centers (CHCs) reaches a jaw-dropping 94%. Infrastructure itself has not yet been built – 21% of sub-centres, 19% of PHCs and 11% of CHCs do not exist. In tribal areas, 70% of X-Ray technicians and 63% of pharmacists are not posted, while there is a 100% shortage of specialist doctors.
The results of this disarray in health are evident. Gujarat’s infant mortality rate — number of children dying before they reach one year age — was 38 in 2012. This is lower than the national average of 42 but much higher than similar states like Tamil Nadu (21) and Maharashtra (25). In rural areas, infant mortality in Gujarat goes up to 45, almost the same as the national average of 46. In some western Gujarat districts, infant mortality is as high as 55.
The mortality rate for girls under 5 years is 37 in Gujarat compared to the national average of 34. Maharashtra’s rate is 21 while Tamil Nadu’s is 20. This appears to be more a case of discrimination against the girl child rather than a health issue.
Maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is 122 for Gujarat, well ahead of the national average of 178, but well behind Kerala (66), Maharashtra (87) and Tamil Nadu (90). MMR is the number of women dying from child birth-related causes per 10,000 live births.
The cause of this mediocre performance of Gujarat in education and health is partly due to not spending enough on these crucial aspects. Since 2001-02, Gujarat government spent only 13.2% of its total expenditure on education compared to the national average of 14.8% for all states. Equivalent states spent much more – Maharashtra (18%), Tamil Nadu (14 %).
Similarly, Gujarat government was stingy about healthcare, spending just 3% of the total expenditure on it on an average. Tamil Nadu spent 4 %, Maharashtra 3.5% but even states like Jharkhand (4.8%) and Rajasthan (4.5%) were ahead.