Calcutta, Sept. 9: The government today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the preparation of a human development report for the state.
This is the first time that such a report would be prepared for the state. “The report would contain information on the state of education, health and livelihoods of the people of Bengal,” said Dr Brenda Gail McSweeney, UNDP’s resident representative and coordinator in India.
McSweeney and chief secretary Sourin Roy signed the MoU in the presence of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and finance minister Asim Dasgupta. Planning Commission, state planning board members and several UNDP officials were also present.
After emerging form the chief minister’s chamber, McSweeney said the report would examine gender issues like opportunities for women in all facets of life. “In this area, we have had positive responses from West Bengal, where the record has been fairly good,” she said.
McSweeney said it is likely that Amartya Sen would be approached for his assistance in the preparation of the report. The Nobel laureate had helped in preparing the Global Human Development Report. “We would be very happy if he participates in this as well, especially when he is from the state,” McSweeney said.
Bhattacharjee welcomed the move to draw up a human development report for Bengal. “Inputs from the report, which is expected to be completed by next May, will be utilised in the formulation of the tenth Five-Year Plan,” he has reportedly said.
“The report will bring out the weaknesses of the state. The whole truth should be brought out so that proper responses can be lined up,” he said.
The chief minister has also sought special efforts for the uplift of the backward Sunderbans area. “I would like the project to conduct special work in this region.” Some of the remote parts of the Sunderbans have very limited access to health, education and employment.
The report would be prepared with the help of universities in the state and NGOs. The UN programme has had similar collaborations with five other states, starting with Madhya Pradesh, where the third human development report is now being prepared. “In response to the findings of the first report in 1995, the Madhya Pradesh government had doubled its spending on social services,” McSweeney pointed out.
The report will also contain “cutting-edge thinking” from established names like Jayati Ghosh of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Krishna Dey, an economist from Santiniketan working with the UN. The project will be funded by the state, the Planning Commission and the UNDP.