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Photograph by Ajaya Behera/Gram Vikas.

India’s Gross Domestic Product fell to 4.5 per cent for the quarter ending July-September 2019. Advisories galore on the need for financial sector and tax system reforms, divestment in ailing public sector enterprises, measures to stem the agricultural distress and boosting investments in real estate and MSMEs and solving problems across sectors to revive the economy.

However, there is little emphasis on fixing the problem of women’s labour force participation.

While India’s overall labour force participation rate for the working age population stood at 42.74% in February 2019 (CMIE), it was only an abysmal 10.97% for women. It is the lowest in the world. …

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Photograph by Ajaya Behera/Gram Vikas. More of his work here.

This is an excerpt from my conversation with Joe Madiath, the Founder-Chairman of Gram Vikas on what the practitioner experience is in dealing with the state and influencing policy from the ground. This is not a commissioned piece. I did this interview purely out of self-interest in learning as I got back to seriously engaging with thinking around public policy from the start of this year. This was more like a conversation that was sprung on Joe, when he least expected it and he indulged my curiosity.

Q. Gram Vikas’ work and the conscious, steadfast engagement with the government over the last 40 years has resulted in many state and national policies being informed by work that happened within the rural, poor communities in Odisha. What was the beginning of Gram Vikas’ engagement with the government and influencing public policy?

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‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’​ doodle by Mavis D’Silva for Arre —

There are points in history, where all of us, even those not explicitly interested in issues of ‘social justice’ are forced to think of those. India today is in such a time.

On 12 December 2019, the Parliament enacted the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) into law. The CAA paves the way to fast-track citizenship for six undocumented minority groups — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis — from neighbouring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. CAA explicitly leaves out muslims even if they are persecuted minorities from these countries.

Protests broke out across the country, from early December, signalling the citizenry dissent against the legislation’s divisive agenda and attack on the principles embodied in the Indian Constitution. …


Priya Pillai

Learning and writing on public policy.

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