THE MORE things change for rural India, the more they seem to remain the same. Successive generations of Indians have dreamt that their lives would be transformed by the Green Revolu- tion, food sufficiency, high yield technologies, liberalisation and so on. But miracles have eluded us so far. Even transparent and rule-bound global trading hasn’t helped.
From the eighties’ Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) to the latest National Rural Employment Programme (NREP) our ruml development plans have tackled extreme poverty but thiled to boost narning capacities. Sueenssive f lunum 1)ovelopment Reports have recommended that the rural poor need to be equipped with resources and skills for livelihood options outside the cycle of subsistence agriculture, which needs investment in rural infrastructure. The World Development Report’s definition of infrastructure includes public utilities like power, telecom, water, sanitation, and public works like roads, irrigation and drainage and transport like roads, railways, waterways and airports.
There is sufficient consensus among economists that high GDP growth rate does not necessarily promote human development by widening opportunities and choices for the marginalised sections. Even political and social freedoms lose their meaning if a citizen has no access to markets for his needs or for his goods and services. P Satish, a Nabard official has quoted several village based surveys in a recent paper to demon- strate that rural purchasing power and agricultural productivity are directly linked to transport, irrigation and research infrastructure.
A significant part of expenditure on agricultural research, infrastructure and healthcare has to come from government resources. R Radhakrishna who heads Mumbai-based Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research believes that public and private investments are complementary though private capital cannot substitute public investment. He outlines India’s biggest concerns as decline in public investment, including in R&D, policy distortions and the challenges of limits to growth imposed by land and water resources.
The table below the graphic quantifies hail every million rupee spent on roads and agriculturalR&Dsignificantlyreducespoverty liedhy environment, clean water and good sanitation affeet quality of life and longevity, the two biggest markers of human development. A 2007 field study by Chandigarh-based researchers, B K Pattanaik and Madan Mohan Singh, concludes on the basis of various health surveys that as high as about 70 per cent of rural mortality can be attributed to poor environmental conditions. Their study of a ‘total sanitation’ village in Kapurthala district shows that participation of the community, women and self-help groups play a more important role than just money The findings further underscore the importance of inelusily policies and good governence.
NCAERCs Rural infrastrature Report 2006, recommends a multi-pronged stratergy for the cash strapped Central and State governments.It recommends that 1ho Private Providers take care of telecom and power but a system of incentives, limited ownership and user charges be promoted for sectors like roads, drinking water and sanitation. In the case of the last mile of road connectivity, it recommends provision of building roads by village communities through targeted subsidies. It calls for dismantling legal barriers that prevent local investment in rural areas. The current legal system forbids village or town-leyel transporters, networks of telephone exchanges or water distributors from operating legally Manmohan Singh’s most ambitious initiative, Bharat Nirman, addresses many of these concerns but one hopes it does not meet the fate of the earlier rural development programmes that ended up as examples of inefficiency, corruption and bureaucratic meddlesomeness.
50% is rural India’s contribution to GDP but rural per capita income is 56% less than urban average as 25 lakh crore will be the size of Indian rural market in 20 years; four times the current urban market size The government’s plan for developing rural infrastructure over 4 years (2005-2009) . It is estimated to cost Rs 1,74,000 crore.
ROADS: Build 1.5 lakh km all weather roads for habitations over 500 people in hilly areas and over 1000 in other areas.
TELEPHONE: Equip 66,822 villages with telephones. Connect 14,183 remote villages by digital satellite phones
IRRIGATION: Create 1 crore hectare of irrigation potential. Restore 10 lakh hectare potential by renovation and modernisation of schemes.
DRINKING WATER: Cover 55,067 uncovered and 2.8 Iakh partially covered habitations. Give potable water to over 2 lakh villages.
HOUSING: Construct 60 lakh houses for the rural poor.
POWER: Electrify 1.25 lakh villages by grid supply.
ACCELERATED RURAL WATER SUPPLY PROGRAMME-1972-73 Accelerated the coverage of drinking water. Failed due to inadequate funding and lack of technical capacity of Zila Parishads to operate and maintain water supply and sanitation facilities .
INTEGRATED RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME-1980 Provided rural poor subsidy and bank credit for productive employment. One-time provision of credit without follow-up, sub critical investments, over-crowding, and lack of market linkages weakened the scheme.
INDIRA AWAAS YOJANA-1985-86 Aimed to give free housing in rural areas, especially to SC/STs and bonded labourers. Failed due to limited coverage, resource constraints and leakages to undeserving candidates.
EMPLOYMENT ASSURANCE SCHEME -1993 Provided rural employment during lean agricultural season. Unsuccessful due to corruption and uneven distribution.
RADHIEKA MITTAL RETURNS TO RURA GOVERNMENT SPENDING Returns in rupees No of poor reduced (Per rupee spending) (Per million rupee spending) Roads 5.31 123.8 R & D 13.45 84.5 Irrigation 1.36 9.7 Education 1.39 41 Power 0.26 3.8 Soil & water conservation 0.96 22.6 Health 0.84 25.5 Anti-poverty programme 1.09 17.8 1 out of ten people on the planet is an Indian villager 2 km is the average distance from a village to an all weather road
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