The Future of DFID's Programme in India - International Development Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by One World Action

1.  One World Action creates opportunities for the world's poorest and most excluded women and men to transform their own lives, and challenges the policies that make and keep them poor. Women's empowerment is central to all we do. For over 20 years we have supported the most marginalised people to hold their local and national governments to account, enabling them to have more control over decisions that determine their ability to fight poverty. We do this by working directly with partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We focus on inequality and exclusion because they create poverty, hamper growth, weaken governance and cause conflict. One World Action has been working in South Asia since it began in 1989 and currently works with partners in India supporting marginalised sectors of Indian society to overcome poverty and inequality. This submission is based on recommendations and analysis from our India programme and partners.


There are two India's...One that engages the wishes and desires of 250 million people, and the other that is a starkly different reality for the 750 million Indians who are left behind. Government data indicates that nearly 70% of the Indian population currently fall below a poverty line of 2,400 calories per day, and 80% below Rs 20 per day (33p).

The focus on economic growth has come at the cost of strengthening the institutions of democracy. With the poor and landless increasingly viewed as obstacles to growth, government policies appear to have effectively closed the door on these citizens from engaging with the rest of society. The result is that despite a constitution that enshrines rights for all citizens Indian democracy has begun to look increasingly fragile.

DFID in India: Doing More with Less. Human Rights Law Network, Middlesex University,
and Dalit Solidarity Network, UK, November 2010

2.  In India, while economic growth has been remarkable—the past 25 years have seen one of the greatest spurts of GDP per capita in modern history—the country remains home to 1/3 of the world's undernourished children. Increasing disparities within states along lines of caste and gender have resulted in highly uneven development, undermining progress on meeting the MDGs - for example MDG1 (to eradicate hunger) will not be met in India until 2043 based on current progress. The gap between the richest and the poorest is widening, and access to resources, livelihood opportunities and basic services remains grossly unequal.

3.  The Coalition Government has placed a high priority on recognising the role of women in development, with a top-level commitment to putting women at the "front and centre of all our efforts." It has stated its "determination to erode these vast inequalities of opportunity around the world today." It has also pledged to help the poorest people in the world and champion justice, freedom, fairness and prosperity. This ambitious and just vision for change—backed by a promise to increase aid levels to 0.7% of national income by 2013—has the potential to bring about far-reaching changes for the poorest women and girls, their families and communities in India. However a change of emphasis is urgently needed. The failure over the last 10 years to invest in tackling systemic gender inequality and exclusion that makes and keeps people poor has steadily undermined progress on all the MDGs. This is a major factor why poverty has proven so much more intractable than anticipated. The tendency has been to focus on alleviating the symptoms or consequences of poverty rather than the underlying causes. So, for example, attention has focused on girls' low school enrolment and attendance rates, but without adequate investment in challenging the gender inequalities which underpin and perpetuate these adverse trends. DFID needs to build on the lessons of the past and prioritise eliminating the exclusion, inequality and lack of power which condemn people to lives of poverty.


If you are not considered to be human, human rights do not apply to you.

Moni Rani, Director, Dalit Women's Forum

4.  160 million people in India continue to experience discrimination based on their caste. Caste discrimination remains one of the most severe and forgotten human rights abuses of the 21st century. It leads to extreme poverty and powerlessness which contribute to exploitation and violence against the "untouchables"—the Dalits. The majority of India's Dalits live in extreme poverty, without land or opportunities for better employment or education, and are amongst the world's poorest and most excluded people. A report by the Institute of Development Studies reveals that Dalit children have mortality rates that are 33 to100% higher than the population as a whole and that 45.2% of households among the overall population has a drinking water source, but for Dalit households this figure drops to 27%.

5.  Development must be equitable and inclusive. Meeting the MDGs in India will require targeted actions to reach those who are discriminated against and to amplify their voice and agency within development processes. Poverty in India is caused by inequality, discrimination and a lack of power—development interventions must tackle these underlying causes, not only "mop up" the consequences. "Quick fixes"—particularly those that focus on the easiest-to-reach groups—do not achieve effective nor equitable results and is not money well spent. Longer term results, including gender equality, must not get squeezed out in efforts to identify easy-to-measure outcomes as quickly as possible.


6.  The majority of women in India lack access to human, social and financial capital, experience exclusion from participation in decision making processes that shape their lives, and face barriers to accessing crucial resources and basic services which are theirs by right. Most severely affected are women and girls from discriminated against groups—Dalits, Adivasi, women living with HIV, disabled women and older women—who cannot participate equally, realise their potential, nor claim their rights. This discrimination has tangible outcomes and hampers poverty alleviation initiatives. Dalit women face particularly severe economic deprivation, high levels of illiteracy, and are extremely vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Despite this, they are often invisible in policy responses and interventions designed to achieve the MDGs. Dalit women are one-and-half times more likely to suffer the consequences of chronic malnutrition compared to other women. This is because of the exclusion of large numbers of Dalit women and their children from access to quality heath services and nutritional schemes. The school drop out rate for Dalit girls in India is higher at every stage of education than for the general female population and for Dalit boys—over 83% of Dalit girls drop out of school at the secondary stage, if they reached this stage.

Particularly in large urban infrastructure projects DFID needs to do more to make sure its programmes do not unintentionally exclude or evict the urban poor. Programmes and policies need to be developed to recognise, protect and support informal workers - which make up the vast percentage of India's workforce.

Sanjay Kumar, Self Employed Women's Association

7.  Many donors are lagging behind in promoting gender equality and women's leadership is also low amongst civil society organisations. DFID should ensure a good gender representation in any group they engage with and keep pushing for disaggregated data both along caste and gender lines, within their own programmes as well as the government and civil society organisations that they support.


8.  After nearly two decades of economic liberalisation the majority of the population in India live in conditions that are more fragile and insecure. Many farmers and agricultural labourers are facing an agrarian crisis as they become more exposed to international markets. The UK and India's economic goals should not be pursued at a cost to human rights and development. DFID needs to do more to work across Whitehall to influence other Ministries to ensure that trade, investment and security policies do not further exacerbate poverty and inequality in India.

9.  UK based extractive companies have displaced indigenous communities in India, devastated the environment in many areas and not provided adequate compensation. DFID should use its influence to ensure that all UK based companies are operating under existing legislation and to take action when violations take place.


10.  Effective development is only possible when the most excluded people have the voice and agency to influence the decisions which affect their lives. This is essential to creating an environment in which accountability is possible. DFID needs to do more to ensure that they consult and include people and communities in local and national decisions that affect their lives. DFID must seek to broaden the range of partners with whom it consults in the design, delivery and evaluation of its programme. In particular to:

  • Look beyond the larger NGOs and connect with civil society in a more tangible manner—eg Dalit organisations, Dalit women's organisations, human rights organisations, women's organisations, farmers' associations, people's movements and academic institutions.
  • Ensure clear transparent mechanisms for engaging with civil society at all levels without relying only on the internet. Issues such as when and where consultations are held, how far in advance they are planned, remuneration for time and travel, issues of language, who is invited, is consultation pitched at an appropriate level so that organisations can productively engage, all need to be carefully considered to ensure that groups are not unintentionally excluded.


11.  The widening gap between the rich and the poor, the exclusion of poor people from justice and services, and the continuing state sponsored land grabbing is creating devastating consequences. The Indian Home Minister recently admitted that 1/3 of the 620 administrative districts of India had significant levels of armed struggle. As a result large numbers of citizens of these districts are displaced and deprived of basic service provision by both the state and civil society. DFID needs to ensure its programmes address the critical needs of these communities.


12.  As DFID and other donors decrease their influence in India they need to look at other international mechanisms and processes by which the Government of India can be held to account (Conventions, role on Security Council etc). India is likely to become a "Middle Income Country" within the decade and the experience of other countries shows that once they achieve this status they receive less international attention yet still face massive inequality and exclusion. This particularly applies to India with daily coverage given to its economic success. DFID should use its influence to stress the needs and voices of the "Poorest India" in which the majority of people still live and will continue to do so for many years. This will also be important in engaging with the UK public who could well begin asking why is DFID still giving aid to India.


13.  Given the UK's renewed commitment to both meeting the MDGs and in standing firm on human rights in international relationships—both multilateral and bilateral - we would recommend that any future DFID programme in India:

  • Ensures that tackling caste discrimination is an integral part of all relevant multilateral and bilateral aid programmes, developing clear benchmarks, disaggregated data and indicators to monitor this.
  • Scales up and earmarks funding to explicitly address caste and gender discrimination and exclusion.
  • Continues to target technical and financial resources to interventions specifically aimed at strengthening the responsiveness of local and central government to address caste and gender discrimination and to implement existing international and national legislation (eg training on participation, social exclusion, strengthening data analysis).
  • Ensures transparent and participatory engagement of Dalit women and men in the design, delivery and evaluation of all programmes in India. Develop partnerships with Dalit led organisations.
  • Recognises caste discrimination as a priority human rights and development issue and takes every opportunity to raise the issue of caste sensitively and constructively with the Government of India and encourages them to fully implement and to make it possible for Dalits to use the Prevention of Atrocities Act (1989) and the related Rules (1995).
  • Takes action (within the UK and India) to push for the adoption of the UN Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent at the UN Human Rights Council.
  • Takes on the Ambedkar Principles and work to ensure that non-discriminatory employment principles are adopted by UK NGOs and foreign investors engaging with caste affected countries.
  • Leads the way in acknowledging social exclusion and in engaging with civil society. More can be done to challenge other donors, particularly ensuring that the multilateral organisations the UK supports take a strong and harmonised approach to tackling caste discrimination. Transparency about the inclusion of Dalits at all levels of activity and organisation should be a key indicator of good governance.
  • Competes its review of its Social Exclusion Policy and renews its commitments to addressing Social Exclusion.

November 2010

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Prepared 14 June 2011