Without people’s participation policies only exist on paper: Dr Syeda Hameed

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Participants at the UN-High Level Panel Tehelka Photo
Members of India’s ground level panel
Photos courtesy: Praxis

Who understands the fringes of development better than those living on it?

Fourteen individuals from across marginalized communities came together in Delhi from different corners of India to form a ground-level panel and give their recommendations to a UN- High Level Panel on the post 2015 development agenda. The members of the panel belonged to different marginalized communities including Dalits, tribals, religious and sexual minorities, differently-abled people, children and the elderly and was brought together by Praxis, a civil society organisation committed to making marginalised voices heard.

In July this year, the United Nations released its report on the eight Millennium Development Goals ( MDGs) for 2015. The eight MDGs – ranging from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education – were a milestone in global and national development efforts. However, there has been an ongoing debate about the lack of people’s participation in framing these goals. In an attempt to make the framing of the next set of MDGs post 2015 a more participatory process, the UN has now invited suggestions from people from the ground.

“Promises of roti, kapda, makaan, Roji, swasthya and Shiksha are being repeated in different forms since 1950s. We want action now. We want goals to be written in such a way that they address all barriers that prevent everyone realise these promises,” says Raghunath Sada, a panel member from Darbhanga district of Bihar. As this sentiment echoed amongst the other members on the panel, the others shared experiences from their communities and put forth 15 action oriented goals in response to the high level panel’s 12 goals.

“The subjects that experts make policies on are our realities,” says 17 year old Amrita Naik, a member of the ground-level panel. Amrita was 11 when she lost her mother and her father wanted to get her married off. “ Although I escaped the fate of most girls in my tribe, child marriage is a common phenomena amongst the Kandha tribe, “ she adds. The goals that they established included establishment of a corruption-free state and society, promotion of equity, establishment of robust accountability mechanisms, creation of institutional spaces to promote people’s participation in local governance and policy-making processes, an end to stigma and discrimination. Social Activist, Aruna Roy who was also present at the panel discussion emphasized on the need to mechanisms for accountability. “ A vote is the equivalent of taking sovereignty on loan for 5 five years. Institutional mechanisms to get marginalized voices heard are a need of the hour.”

Aruna Roy addressing the panel
Aruna Roy addressing the panel

The participants’ goals also included abolition of traditions that uphold discrimination, facilitation of collectivization, awareness and sensitization of citizens, promotion of a safe and secure home environment, promotion of interests of agricultural labourers, poor farmers, peasants, tribals and slum dwellers and their rights, protection of the environment, enforcement of mechanisms to prevent tax evasion by corporates, creation and rigid implementation of systems that protect workers’ rights, and promotion of gender equality and safety in public spaces. Drawing from her experience, Vineetha who spoke about the discrimination against the transgender community says, ” Transgenders in India need to be given an identity and not just doles. ”

The participants also wrote to the Prime Minister hoping that their suggestions also get incorporated into the national policy.

Dr Syeda Hameed, member of the Planning Commission, who was present at the panel discussion in which the ground level panel put forth its views says, “ Without people’s participation policy’s only exist on paper.” She feels that the issue of gender equality, minimum wages and accountability of the government were burning issues that need to be addressed.

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