Details of Discussion
It was observed that Karnataka needs to focus on manufacturing in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector to improve the productivity of enterprises and integrate them with markets across the country. Several participants felt that for the manufacturing sector to develop to its full potential there was need to support sectors such as water, energy, roads and rail. Several participants pointed out the importance of the informal sector which at present was the biggest growth trigger and generated much more employment than the formal sector. More research on the potential of the informal sector was needed. It was mentioned that the health and education sectors had also suffered from poor infrastructural support. In the power sector, a participant pointed out, the scarcity of water had affected thermal power plants. Provision of drinking water supply was also a problem in many areas. Another participant mentioned that the energy sector was receiving substantial subsidy at the cost of other sectors like health.
A participant observed that buildings with infrastructure for special groups like the disabled, the elderly and the ailing were almost missing. The needs of children who required special facilities in education were also neglected. The speaker added that the phrase 'inclusive growth' could not be justified without an effective barrier-free environment for these groups. To do so, it was vital to include this aspect in the curriculum for civil engineers and architects.
A participant observed that urban growth was inevitable in India. A trillion US dollars would be needed for urban development over the next two decades to meet the needs of a rapid urbanizing population. However, it was suggested that allocations should go primarily to local governments and that transparency in public expenditure should be strengthened.
Urban health facilities were very poorly structured and the high cost of treatment often led to impoverishment. It was mentioned that an average family today spent more on health care than on education. One participant in fact observed that if it came to a choice, the World Bank should support health infrastructure rather than education. It was also pointed out that as health professionals did not want to go and settle in rural areas, it was necessary to train local people as paramedics to meet the immediate requirement of villages.
Referring to the Bank's country program of 2013-2016, a participant expressed surprise that there was no special mention of 'Health and Nutrition' and wanted to know whether the Bank was moving out of this critical sector.
Mention was made of the fact that modern healthcare services had become corporatized. It was observed that a PPP model in the health sector could be promoted, but targeted subsidy to protect the poor was necessary. It was suggested that the Bank's future outlook on supporting healthcare services should include preventive medicine (apart from curative medicine) and the promotion of alternative medicine systems like Ayurveda and Homeopathy.
Agriculture and related issues
In the agriculture sector, there was need to provide further support to the farmer in terms of improving crop insurance schemes and storage facilities. Technical assistance to farmers to help them become creditworthy was also important as agriculture, particularly in rainfed areas, was perceived as risky business by bankers. It was mentioned that there were several cases of sustainable agricultural practices doing well in the state and these needed to be further disseminated. It was observed that since the green revolution nothing innovative had been done in the area of agriculture, though the sector was facing problems of low productivity, lack of linkage with credit facilities and the market, as well as inadequate irrigation facilities.
One participant observed that the agriculture sector needed productivity, profitability and self-esteem for the farming community. This alone would make a difference and halt the process of rural youth moving out to urban areas for lowly-paid jobs.
One participant pointed out that the private sector had completely taken over education in the state. The state government was abrogating its responsibility to educate citizens, particularly the socio-economically weaker sections. Private sector schools were focusing on English, Mathematics and Computers and it was found that even children from low-income families preferred to attend private schools. Government schools had buildings but not enough students; they also lacked adequate classrooms. In the rural areas, many schools did not have toilets for girls, leading to high dropout rates among female students after class III. Moreover, the education policy followed in the state had created pressure on government schools to show 100 percent pass results.
One participant, quoting a study, mentioned that Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) was successful in some matters, such as providing disabled-friendly infrastructure and remedial teaching. However, there was little progress on many other counts. It was pointed out that the obsession with enrolment numbers created a false impression of universal schooling. SSA's enrolment assessments done at class I and again at class VIII failed to capture actual class attendance, particularly of girls who dropped out after class III or IV due to a variety of reasons.
Another participant, highlighting the poor quality of education in Karnataka, stated that the percentage of students passing the primary and middle school dropped drastically at the board levels (class X and class XII) from over 90 percent to 57 percent, because students could not cope at the higher levels due to a weak academic foundation.
On the question of vocational education, a participant mentioned the problem of duplication of resources and the need to optimize their use. Moreover, the youth had low levels of motivation due to many government doles and subsidies. It was also stated that a kind of user fee should be imposed on private industry which recruited technically trained youth from government institutions and training programs, without investing in trained manpower.
Sustainability of World Bank Funded Projects
Several participants spoke of the lack of sustainability of Bank projects. They gave examples from various sectors where, after the project ended, things reverted to their earlier state. Special strategic planning cells created for project management disappeared after the project closed and many efficiently run structures were merged with government departments, leading to a loss of the earlier systems of efficiency and transparency. Examples were given of District Primary Education Program (DPEP) and India Population Project (IPP) in Karnataka, where the complete setup created under these projects failed to continue in the same manner after the project was over.
Some speakers suggested the need for stronger decentralization and community participation, apart from better planning of the Bank's exit process. A participant however cautioned that even decentralization was by itself not the panacea for fighting corruption as corruption could simply shift to a different level. The example of the Bhoomi Project in Karnataka, where kiosk owners started taking money for services rendered, was cited to highlight this point.
A participant explained that Karnataka did not appear to have its own focused development program and depended on funding agencies to design programs and projects which expectedly folded up after the project was over. This was in sharp contrast to the policies of Kerala where certain flagship programs (e.g. house building for the weaker sections) did not depend on funding from external agencies, or even the central government, as the state government was strongly committed to these programs.