Author: Ranjani K. Murthy, April 1 2014      The UNDP [United Nations Development Programme]  states that development can be inclusive - and reduce poverty - only if all groups of people contribute to creating opportunities, share the benefits of development, and participate in decision-making (UNDP, n.d). This assumes that the interests of all groups converge and there is no trade-off between the growth of the privileged groups and the marginalised - on the basis of race, caste, class, ethnicity, religion, abilities, sexual orientation and gender identity. This assumption needs to be challenged. There is a need for the marginalised groups to develop (poverty-reduction, equity and fulfilment of human rights) at a faster rate than the privileged ones; but a sustainable one.

What has promoted Just Development in the past?

Policies and legislation that promote substantive equality is central for enhancing just development.  That is they should not just promote formal equality or equality of opportunities but also address the underlying disadvantages preventing marginalized groups from making use of these opportunities (Kapur, 1993).

An example is the cash for work programme ‘Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme’ in India. It guarantees 100 days of employment per rural household per year by law, failing which unemployment allowance is to be paid. The Scheme reserves 33% of employment for women and provides creche at work place, work at a distance of less than 5 kilometer, equal wages for women and men, (recently) tools that are suited to the height and weight for women and lighter work for pregnant women and people with disabilities. Priority is given to works like roads and works which give lasting employment and reduce women's drudgery - like water harvesting, drought proofing and forestry. Lands of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and poor households are to be developed, and toilets and houses for these household are to be constructed in convergence with other government schemes. The programme is not fool proof. Absence of toilets and sanitary towels at work sites, prevalence of sexual/caste based harassment and lack of crèches in some sites are concerns. Nevertheless overall it is one of the fair programmes of the Indian government, which is bridging the gap between the Caste Hindus and marginalized groups (Murthy, forthcoming)

At the social and political level, reservations for women have helped though it is two steps forward and one back. Rwanda has 30% reservation for women in Parliament (in reality 64% of the members of the lower house are women) (Quota Project, n.d). In India, there is 33% reservation for women at local government level (in some states 50%) and proportionate representation for scheduled castes and tribes. However, quotas do not ensure that marginalised groups really participate. Instances of women acting as proxies for men and scheduled castes for the upper castes are known. Yet elected women are not totally dis-empowered. Social participation of elected women has been enhanced in parts of Bangladesh at the sub-district level with some of them being invited to join 'Shalish' or local mediation mechanisms which are usually male led. In particular elected women are invited by Shalishes to resolve cases of violence against women (Nasneen and .Tasneem, 2010). This is yet to be formalised through policies or legislation.

What factors impede Just Development?

Several factors have come in the way of just development? Firstly, development is equated with 'high growth' and adding issues of 'justice and equity' on the periphery. This does not work. There has been, for example, a real estate boom in several countries, in urban and peri-urban areas. With the exception of few countries/counties (e.g. Shanghai in China) few have passed a 'house' ceiling Act or policy which puts a ceiling on number of houses that a household can possess or banks can give loans for. As a result housing prices have spiraled, making them un-affordable for the bottom 30%, in particular in the growing urban areas. While the government constructs housing for slum dwellers in India, it is often far away from the city and further does not meet the demand. It is very difficult for women and girls to commute for work and education, and for women workers in the informal sector to juggle their unpaid work at home with paid work in the informal market. Institutional rules of not only the state, but also community, markets and household are a constraint.

A second factor impeding just development, is that the path of development has been service and manufacturing led. In rural areas in India, one of the concerns is the appropriation of agriculture land, land rich in minerals and common property resources for industrial, real estate development and tourism purposes by both national and multinational companies (Thervoy Youth, Women and People's struggle committee, 2011). At times these companies come and try and attempt to provide health and education services under the guise of corporate social responsibility.

Thirdly, the ability to pay, rather than need, defines the quality of health, education and child care facilities a household can access. Barring a few provinces in India, in both urban and rural areas there is inequality in the quality of health and education services accessed by the privileged and marginalized groups. The ability to pay defines the quality of services. In urban areas this extends to child care services as well.

At times growth in household income has adverse impact on women members. In India, greater education of women (normally not very poor) is not leading to their greater economic participation, with men and in-laws insisting that women staying at home earns the household greater honour (Murkherjee, 2013). Sexual harassment at work place, lack of flexible work timings and place and child/elderly/sick care support are other constraints to women's economic participation (Eyben, 2013).

To sum up while economic growth is necessary, what is the right "growth rate" for the goal of just development to be achieved merits introspection. Bangladesh has performed better than India on just development while the latter has attained higher growth rate in the past.

What can promote Just Development?

1. Adopt ‘Do No Harm’ Policy:
For example, pass legislation on house ceiling per household and legislation curbing acquisition of agricultural land and common property resources in contexts where there is land and food shortage.

2. Legislation and program which promote substantive equality:
For example, provision of bank loans for marginalized groups without collateral for education, housing, and land purchase, establishment of producer companies with a value chain approach and legislation on rights of marginalized to forests and common property resources.

3. Public financing and public/private provisioning:
There is a need for moving towards public financing for poor and provisioning by accredited public or private or public-private partnership health and education centers. Caste, class, gender and other diversity sensitivity should be part of the accreditation system. Accreditation body should include people's organisations.

4. Addressing unjust norms and practices:
Quotas are a must for marginalised in economic, social and political spaces. In addition changing norms that prevent them from using these spaces is essential.  For example, sensitisation of privileged groups (men, upper caste, majority community, religious leaders etc.), state provision of care, legislation prohibiting identity based harassment, mobilisation of marginalised groups etc.

5. Strategies to strengthen Accountability to marginalized:
Strengthening Constitutional, legal, policy and service accountability is a must. Not only must national governments be held accountable, but public-private partnerships  and the Bretton Woods Institutions. Strategies could include making translated white papers of Constitutional, legal and policy documents available to marginalized groups and getting their inputs, making Concluding Comments similarly available,  passing of legislation on right to participation, information and litigation etc (Murthy, 2007)


CNN Global News View, 2010, One-new-house policy hits Shanghai.

Eyben, R, 2013, Getting Unpaid Care into Development Agenda, Insights 31, January, 2013.

Kapur, R, 1993 “On Women, Equality and the Constitution”, National Law School Journal. Social Issue 1993. (Bangalore: National Law School of India University) 1–61.

Mukherjee, 2013, Women’s Empowerment and Gender Bias in the Birth and Survival of Girls in Urban India, Feminist Economics Research Notes, Volume 19, Issue 1.

Murthy R.K., 2007, Accountability to Citizens on Gender and Health, Background paper prepared for the Women and Gender Equity Knowledge Network of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health, WHO, Geneva.

Nasneen and Tasneen, 2010, A Silver Lining: Women in Reserved Seats in Local Government in Bangladesh, IDS Bulletin Volume 41 Number 5 September 2010.

Quota Project,n.d, Rwanda.

Thervoy youth, women and people's struggle committee, 2011, Tale of A Village's Struggle For Survival,, 14 July, 2011, last accessed 29th March, 2014.

UNDP, n.d, Inclusive Development, last accessed 29th March, 2014.