The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme is one of the world’s largest programmes for early childhood care and development. Now, a new study suggests that nutrition and health counselling delivered under the programme’s auspices is one of the best possible investments that can be made by any government.
This timely, non-partisan report is by India Consensus, a partnership between Tata Trusts and Copenhagen Consensus, which has undertaken a first-of-its-kind analysis of 100 government programmes. These were identified by NITI Aayog for their role in supporting India’s efforts to achieve the Global Goals.
The Global Goals have a dizzying array of 169 targets, such a long list that no country on Earth can achieve all of them. That’s why the unique India Consensus economic analysis approach is vital: it adds new knowledge about costs and benefits. This way, it can be clearer which programmes achieve the most good for every rupee spent.
Researchers have identified twelve programmes that have phenomenal benefits for every rupee spent. Among the top programmes is nutrition and health counselling.
Empowering the mother
As a behavioural change intervention, nutrition and health counselling is relatively low cost for every person that is reached. It’s important to note that this programme does not provide food, but instead provides information to the mother, making it more likely that the child will receive more and better food. And that in turn leads to lifelong benefits.
Many studies have now demonstrated that these benefits can be large. Improving the nutrition and health outcomes of the children of mothers reached makes this a highly cost-effective intervention.
Two analyses were undertaken in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, looking at a sixyear campaign of nutrition counselling and hand-washing. The average cost of counselling sessions for each woman was estimated at â‚¹1,177 and â‚¹1,250 for Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan respectively. Based on previous studies, it is estimated that counselling leads to a 12% reduction in stunting. This leads to better cognitive skills.
Quantifying the benefits
Quantifying the increase in earnings shows that the per unit benefit for Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan comes to â‚¹71,500 and â‚¹54,000.
What these figures mean is that the investment generates returns to society worth â‚¹61 and â‚¹43, respectively, for every rupee spent. While the analysis will differ for other States, these results show that nutritional counselling is a phenomenal investment. It’s relevant to note that these figures take into account the challenges of nutrition counselling: it’s a relatively difficult intervention to implement and ensure that every person is reached. But even if India’s implementation problems were worse than other countries studied by researchers, it is unlikely to make the investment less impressive. The takeaway point is that, among all the ways that the Indian government is spending money to achieve Global Goals targets, adding additional resources to nutrition counselling would be a phenomenal investment.
The preliminary results of this analysis show that there are many policies that can achieve amazing outcomes. If India were to spend â‚¹50,000 crore more on achieving the Global Goals, focussing on the most phenomenal programmes identified so far by India Consensus would create extra benefits for India worth â‚¹20 lakh crore — more than the entire Indian public consumption.
With returns like this at stake, there are compelling reasons to look favourably at approaches including nutrition counselling.
Copenhagen Consensusis a project that seeks to establish priorities for advancing global welfare using methodologies based on the theory of welfare economics, using cost–benefit analysis. It was conceived and organized by Bjørn Lomborg, the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and the then director of the Danish government's Environmental Assessment Institute.
The project is run by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which is directed by Lomborg and was part of the Copenhagen Business School, but it is now an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organisation registered in the USA. The project considers possible solutions to a wide range of problems, presented by experts in each field. These are evaluated and ranked by a panel of economists. The emphasis is on rational prioritization by economic analysis. The panel is given an arbitrary budget constraint and instructed to use cost–benefit analysis to focus on a bottom line approach in solving/ranking presented problems. The approach is justified as a corrective to standard practice in international development, where, it is alleged, media attention and the "court of public opinion" results in priorities that are often far from optimal.
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is a government programme in India which provides food, preschool education,primary healthcare, immunization, health check-up and referral services to children under 6 years of age and their mothers. The scheme was launched in 1975, discontinued in 1978 by the government of Morarji Desai, and then relaunched by the Tenth Five Year Plan.
Tenth five year plan also linked ICDS to Anganwadi centres established mainly in rural areas and staffed with frontline workers. In addition to fighting malnutrition and ill health, the programme is also intended to combat gender inequality by providing girls the same resources as boys.
A 2005 study found that the ICDS programme was not particularly effective in reducing malnutrition, largely because of implementation problems and because the poorest states had received the least coverage and funding.During the 2018– 19 fiscal year, the Indian central government allocated â‚¹16,335 crores to the programme. The widespread network of ICDS has an important role in combating malnutrition especially for children of weaker groups
The following services are sponsored under ICDS to help achieve its objectives:
6.Nutrition and Health information
Last month, the United Nations released the 26th revision of World Population Prospects and forecast that India will overtake China as the most populous country by 2027. The only surprise associated with this forecast is the way it was covered by the media. Is this good news or bad news? Is it news at all?
Is this news? Not really. We have known for a long time that India is destined to be the most populous country in the world. Population projections are developed using existing population and by adjusting for expected births, deaths and migration. For short-term projections, the biggest impact comes from an existing population, particularly women in childbearing ages. Having instituted a one-child policy in 1979, China’s female population in peak reproductive ages (between 15 and 39 years) is estimated at 235 million (2019) compared to 253 million for India. Thus, even if India could institute a policy that reduces its fertility rate to the Chinese level, India will overtake China as the most populous country.
The element of surprise comes from the date by which this momentous event is expected. The UN revises its population projections every two years. In 2015, it was predicted that India would overtake China in 2022, but in the 2019 projections it is 2027. The UN has revised India’s expected population size in 2050 downward from 1,705 million in 2015 projections to 1,639 million in 2019 projections. This is due to faster than expected fertility decline, which is good news by all counts.
Like it or not, India will reign as the most populous country throughout most of the 21st century. Whether we adjust to this demographic destiny in a way that contributes to the long-term welfare of the nation or not depends on how we deal with three critical issues.
First, do we need to adopt stringent population control policies? History tells us that unless the Indian state can and chooses to act with the ruthlessness of China, the government has few weapons in its arsenal. Almost all weapons that can be used in a democratic nation, have already been deployed. These include restriction of maternity leave and other maternity benefits for first two births only and disqualification from panchayat elections for people with more than two children in some States along with minor incentives for sterilization.
As demographer Judith Blake noted, people have children, not birth rates and few incentives or disincentives are powerful enough to overcome the desire for children. Ground-level research by former Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Nirmala Buch found that individuals who wanted larger families either circumvented the restrictions or went ahead regardless of the consequences. As one of her informants noted, “The sarpanch’s post is not going to support me during my old age, but my son will. It does not really matter if I lose the post of sarpanch.”
Second, if punitive actions won’t work, we must encourage people to have smaller families voluntarily. There are sharp differences in fertility among different socio-economic groups. Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for the poorest women was 3.2 compared to only 1.5 for the richest quintile in 2015-16. To get to TFR of 1.5, a substantial proportion of the population among the top 40% must stop at one child.
In western societies, low fertility is associated with the conflict that working women face between work and child rearing and the individual’s desire to enjoy a child-free life. Not so for Indian couples. In India, couples with one child do not consume more nor are women in these families more likely to work. My research with demographer Alaka Basu from Cornell University shows that it is a desire to invest in their children’s education and future prospects that seems to drive people to stop at one child. Richer individuals see greater potential for ensuring admission to good colleges and better jobs for their children, inspiring them to limit their family size. Thus, improving education and ensuring that access to good jobs is open to all may also spur even poorer households into having fewer children and investing their hopes in the success of their only daughter or son. Provision of safe and easily accessible contraceptive services will complete this virtuous cycle.
Population and policy
Third, we must change our mindset about how population is incorporated in broader development policies.
Population growth in the north and central parts of India is far greater than that in south India.
What should we do about the old policies aimed at not rewarding States that fail to control population growth? These policies include using the 1971 population to allocate seats for the Lok Sabha and for Centre-State allocation under various Finance Commissions. In a departure from this practice, the 15th Finance Commission is expected to use the 2011 Census for making its recommendations. This has led to vociferous protests from the southern States as the feeling is that they are being penalised for better performance in reducing fertility.
There is reason for their concern. Between the 1971 and 2011 Censuses, the population of Kerala grew by 56% compared to about 140% growth for Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. A move to use the 2011 Census for funds allocation will favour the north-central States compared to Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
However, continuing to stay with a 1971 Census-based allocation would be a mistake. Cross-State subsidies come in many forms; Centre-State transfers is but one. Incomes generated by workers in one State may also provide the tax revenues that support residents in another State. The varying pace of onset and end of demographic transition creates intricate links between workers in Haryana today and retirees in Kerala and between future workers in Uttar Pradesh and children in Tamil Nadu.
Demographic dividend provided by the increasing share of working age adults is a temporary phase during which child dependency ratio is falling and old-age dependency ratio is still low. But this opportunity only lasts for 20 to 30 years. For States such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu which experienced fertility decline early, this window of opportunity is already past.
As the United Nations Population Fund estimates, over the next 20 years, the window of opportunity will be open for moderate achievers such as Karnataka, Haryana and Jammu & Kashmir. As the demographic window of opportunity closes for these States, it will open for Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other States that are the last to enter fertility transition. This suggests that workers of Bihar will be supporting the ageing population of Kerala in 20 years.
The focus areas
In order to maximise the demographic dividend, we must invest in the education and health of the workforce, particularly in States whose demographic window of opportunity is still more than a decade away.
Staying fixated on the notion that revising State allocation of Central resources based on current population rather than population from 1971 punishes States with successful population policies is shortsighted. This is because current laggards will be the greatest contributors of the future for everyone, particularly for ageing populations of early achievers. Enhancing their productivity will benefit everyone.
It is time for India to accept the fact that being the most populous nation is its destiny. It must work towards enhancing the lives of its current and future citizens.
During the run-up to the Paris climate change meeting in 2015 (COP-21) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, each country decided the level and kind of effort it would undertake to solve the global problem of climate change. These actions were later referred to as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
India made a number of promises that would lead to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, or mitigation, and actions to adapt to living in a warmer world, or adaptation. Many of its described programmes and plans were intended to enable India to move to a climate-friendly sustainable development pathway. Primarily, by 2030, there will be reductions in the emissions intensity of the GDP by about a third and a total of 40% of the installed capacity for electricity will be from non-fossil fuel sources.
India also promised an additional carbon sink — a means to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere — of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by the year 2030.
Trees and other vegetation fix carbon as part of photosynthesis and soil too holds organic carbon from plants and animals. The amount of soil carbon varies with land management practices, farming methods, soil nutrition and temperature.
Enhancing green cover
India has yet to determine how its carbon sink objectives can be met. In a recent study, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has estimated, along with the costs involved, the opportunities and potential actions for additional forest and tree cover to meet the NDC target. Given that forest and green cover already show a gradual increase in recent years, one might use this increase as part of the contribution towards the NDC. Or one might think of the additional 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent sink as having to be above the background or business-as-usual increase.
The additional increase in carbon sinks, as recommended in this report, is to be achieved by the following ways: restoring impaired and open forests; afforesting wastelands; agro-forestry; through green corridors, plantations along railways, canals, other roads, on railway sidings and rivers; and via urban green spaces. Close to three quarters of the increase (72.3 %) will be by restoring forests and afforestation on wastelands, with a modest rise in total green cover.
The FSI study has three scenarios, representing different levels of increase in forest and tree cover. For example, 50%, 60% or 70% of impaired forests could be restored. The total increase in the carbon sink in these scenarios could be 1.63, 2.51 or 3.39 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030, at costs varying from about â‚¹1.14 to â‚¹2.46 lakh crore. These figures show that the policy has to be at least at a medium level of increase to attain the stated NDC targets.
A recent study in Nature by Simon Lewis and colleagues provides insights into what works well with regard to green cover. Locking up the carbon from the atmosphere in trees, ground vegetation and soils is one of the safest ways with which to remove carbon. If done correctly, the green cover increase will provide many other benefits: it will improve water quality, store water in wetlands, prevent soil erosion, protect biodiversity, and potentially provide new jobs. The authors estimate that allowing land to be converted into forests naturally will sequester 42 times the carbon compared to land converted to plantation, or six times for land converted to agroforestry.
Another study in Science by Jean-François Bastin and colleagues estimates that it is possible to add 0.9 billion hectares of canopy cover worldwide, potentially mitigating up to two-thirds of historical greenhouse gas emissions. This would then prevent or delay the worst impacts from climate change.
Restoration type is key
Taken together, these studies indicate that while there is enormous potential in mitigating climate change through forest restoration, the amount of carbon stored depends on the type of forest restoration carried out. The most effective way is through natural forest regeneration with appropriate institutions to facilitate the process. Vast monocultures of plantations are being proposed in some countries, including in India, but these hold very little carbon; when they are harvested, carbon is released as the wood is burned.
Besides, some of the trees selected for the plantations may rely on aquifers whose water becomes more and more precious with greater warming. Such forms of green cover, therefore, do not mitigate climate change and also do not improve biodiversity or provide related benefits. India, therefore, needs first to ensure that deforestation is curtailed to the maximum extent. Second, the area allocated to the restoration of impaired and open forests and wastelands in the FSI report should be focussed entirely on natural forests and agroforestry.
While using a carbon lens to view forests has potential dangers, involving local people and planting indigenous tree varieties would also reduce likely difficulties. Instead of plantations, growing food forests managed by local communities would have additional co-benefits. Once natural forests are established, they need to be protected. Protecting and nurturing public lands while preventing their private enclosure is therefore paramount. Active forest management by local people has a long history in India and needs to expand to meet climate, environment and social justice goals.
Worker safety code Bill gets Cabinet approval
It seeks to merge 13 labour laws
A Bill that seeks to merge 13 labour laws into one code on occupational safety, health and working conditions that would apply to all establishments with 10 or more workers was approved by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, paving the way for its introduction in Parliament.
The Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019, which would impact “40 crore unorganised workers”, was approved at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said.
The Bill was the second of four proposed codes that aim to merge 44 labour laws, with the Code on Wages Bill, 2019 that was approved on July 3 being the first, Labour and Employment Minister of State (independent charge) Santosh Kumar Gangwar said.
Mr. Gangwar added that the Wages Bill, which covers minimum wages and other wage issues, would be introduced in Parliament in “two or three days”.
IAF to adopt ASRAAM missile for fighter fleet
It is currently undergoing integration
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is looking to adopt a new European visual range air-to-air missile across its fighter fleet.
The Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile of European missile-maker MBDA has been approved for Jaguar jets.
The IAF was looking to integrate it on the Su-30 MKIs and the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft as well, defence sources said.
“The ASRAAM has been chosen for the Jaguar and is currently undergoing integration. First firing is expected by yearend,” a defence source said.
It would be the first over-the-wing-launched missile in the IAF inventory. All missiles are now fired from under the wing.
The missile was shortlisted through a tender and MBDA is working with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited on the integration, which would later do further modifications. “HAL is in talks with MDBA for integrating the missile on the LCA and the Su-30MKI as well. It will be taken up after the Jaguar integration,” the source added.
ASRAAM is widely used as a Within Visual Range (WVR) air dominance missile with a range of over 25km.
HAL had built about 145 Jaguars for the IAF, of which around 120 are in service, and 80 jets will continue till 2025 to 2030.
A plan to get a more powerful engine has been long delayed.