IEO plans to study maternal mortality, rural electrification2 min read . Updated: 23 Oct 2013, 11:25 PM IST
Ajay Chhibber says the IEO wanted to find out why maternal mortality remains so high in India
New Delhi: The government’s new Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) plans to study government schemes that aim to reduce maternal mortality and provide electricity to rural households, its director general Ajay Chhibber said on Wednesday.
Chhibber said the agency was aiming to complete its first few evaluation reports in time to provide material for evidence-based policy for the new government after the 2014 general election.
The IEO had a commitment from the government that its reports, once completed and signed as final, would be shared simultaneously with Parliament, the Prime Minister and the public, Chhibber said. He was speaking at a conference on the experience of impact evaluation, organized by the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, a US non-profit organization.
To be sure, plans to evaluate government schemes other than the public distribution system (PDS) are at a preliminary stage, said a government official aware of the development, on condition of anonymity.
The IEO’s reports could be important to policymaking as India has slipped badly on its targets to reduce maternal and child mortality under the globally agreed United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
A government report released last June showed that the maternal mortality rate in India is 212 deaths per 100,000 live births and infant mortality is 47 per 1,000 live births. The figures suggest India will miss its 2015 MDG targets of 109 for maternal mortality and 44 for infant mortality.
Chhibber said the IEO, launched in August under the Planning Commission, wanted to find out why maternal mortality remains so high in India.
The IEO in August said its first task was to study the PDS in partnership with specialized institutions in order to provide baseline information for the roll-out of the food security law, due to begin next year. The law aims to provide 5kg of rice, wheat and coarse grains a month to every eligible person at ₹ 3, ₹ 2 and ₹ 1 per kg, respectively. About 67% of the population, or 800 million needy people, will be eligible.
The third task for the IEO would be to look at rural electrification. “There are still substantial parts which are not connected and those that are connected either get sporadic power or free power," Chhibber said. As a benchmark, he cited the example of Vietnam, which has been able to provide electricity to 96% of its villages and collect charges from 99.8% of consumers.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government launched its rural electrification scheme, the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana, in April 2005 aiming to electrify about 120,000 villages by 2009. About 107,000 villages have been electrified as of July. However, electrification simply meant villages were provided electricity connections—even if they were not provided with power.