Ram Rattan Sharma
In India seventy percent of our population lives in villages, but the developmental schemes, for the development of rural segment are not given the required priorities. Our economy is developing fast, industries and big corporates are going globalised, with liberalization, tremendous changes are being felt in IT, manufacturing service sector, but no body thinks of the rural development. Then what all this progress and development means? Benefitting 30 percent of the total population, already developed and above poverty line does not mean actual development. While visiting a village we find even today that houses made of mud, bamboos and grass, have no protection against rains, storms, moisture and fire. Supplying of adequate drinking water is a tedious problem in which house wives and girls are devoting a sizable part of the daily routine. Illiteracy particularly among the girls is main peculiarity of our rural India. A few states tried to enroll and attract children in schools with the incentive of mid day meal scheme, but all the same universalisation of elementary education is still a dream and there is no let up in the number of annual drop outs .Rural poverty and illiteracy has given our country the dubious name where highest number of child labourers in the world are on the job to feed their bellies .
Health care is just rudimentary and few doctors are willing to work in rural areas.Villagers are mostly dependant on Vaids, or other RMPS for their medical needs. Lack of proper infrastructure like roads, transportation, electricity, water, proper housing and educational schools demotivate a person ,whether a doctor, engineer or any other educated person to go to village and stay there with his family. High rate of migration from villages to nearby cities or metros is also the result of lack of proper infrastructure in rural areas. These migrated people build slums, jugghies in cities to live. As in cities they could find jobs and could earn to fill their starving stomachs.
The Government has realized the gravity of the situation and has taken some important measures to develop infrastructure in the countryside. The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana launched in 2000, seeks to provide road connectivity through good all weather roads to all unconnected habitations having a population of more than 1000 persons by the year 2003 and those with a population of more than 500 persons by the end of the tenth plan .Huge investment has been made so far in the water supply sector. According to govt. sources more than 15crore rural habitants have been coverd by the provision of drinking water facility under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Odaya Yojana, it was proposed to tackle quality related problems like fluorides, arsenic and iron contamination, blackishness and also sustainability of drinking water sources.
The states are also being encouraged to promote schemes of water conservations, rainwater-harvesting, groundwater recharge in respect of regions where programmes such as desert development programmes, drought prone area development programme are running .Indira Aawas Yojana was launched in 1985 to provide dwelling units to the people below poverty line, belonging to Schedule Castes, Scheduled Tribes freed bonded labourers and others. Since 1995-96 benefits under the schemes have also been extended to widows or next of kin of defence personnel killed in action, service men and retired members of paramilitary forces.
As per the reports 80 lac houses have been constructed under Indira Awaas Yojana up to 2001. Other schemes for rural housing include Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana, credit cum subsidy schemes for rural housing and Samagra Awaas Yojana. Swarana Jayanti Gram Swarojagar Yojana were also launched on April 1, 1999 to support the family income of rural poor. The scheme aimed at establishing a large number of micro enterprises for individuals or group or self help groups, in order to bring every assisted family above the poverty line.
The point is, inspite of many programmes launched earlier and presently what real impact, quantitatively and qualitatively these have on the progress and prosperity of rural areas. We have to evaluate each programme, funds involved therein and the result derived. The most challenging task is to see whether the funds have been properly utilized. It is quite ironical that before the panchayats were made self sufficient and strong we have been accusing the bureaucrats for their corrupt practices, now the corruption has gripped the panchayats also and it has destroyed the very concept of rural democracy rural republic as envisaged by Gandhi Ji. The funds are swindled away by the local leaders and officials who are supposed to implement them in the right spirit.
Though lot of initiatives have been taken by the government to improve the economic condition of the rural people and providing infrastructure to boost the rural economy, yet much more is needed keeping in view the peculiarity of our rural areas in the field of education, electrification, drinking water, health and hygiene sector etc. The implementation is to be properly checked to bring the required result.
(The author is former Dy. Librarian University of Jammu)
Ram Rattan Sharma