In the present day context of a changing economic scenario, increasing population pressure on resources and hence, the livelihood of poor people, has emerged as an important challenge especially in the remote rural areas.
For a government which thrives on the mandate of working for the aam-aadmi; certainly, the statistical figures which say that 82% households in rural India have no access to basic amenities, is a big disappointment.
Moreover, for the Congress-led UPA government serving its second consecutive term in the office, the disappointment is not so much on the misses in policy, but the image it has acquired of a government that has lost momentum and direction in working for the “inclusive” growth of the rural India.
Agreed, that the UPA government had to serve its first term by taking into stride the uncertainties of the coalition politics, but the hurdles that its ally parties created were against the proposed economic reform initiatives and not against development of the common people.
The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) study on Housing Conditions and Amenities in India, 2008-09, reveals that just 18% households in rural India have access to basic amenities such as drinking water and electricity. Further, the social groups – STs (75%), SCs (76%) and OBCs (69%) – in rural areas don’t have sanitation facility in their households.
Bathroom facility was not available to nearly 64% of the rural households. In urban areas, only 22% of the households were deprived of bathrooms. Further, nearly 65% rural households had no latrine facility as against 11% for their urban counterparts.
The government survey highlights that only 30% of rural population had access to safe drinking water and 55% depend on tube well or hand pumps to meet their drinking water requirements. In fact, 15% of rural people were still looking for dependable source of water.
The significance of this fact can be further underscored by a recent statement by the Planning Commission head Montek Singh Ahluwalia that water crisis is a more serious issue than energy crisis and that the government is in the process of reviewing its water policy while some of its key elements could be incorporated in the 12th Five Year Plan.
Some important indicators of housing condition at a glance
|Percentage of households with ‘tap’ as major source of drinking water||30||74||43|
|Percentage of households with ‘tube well/ hand pump’ as major source of drinking water||55||18||44|
|Percentage of households who got sufficient drinking water from first major source||86||91||88|
|Percentage of households who had access to drinking water within premises||41||75||51|
|Percentage of households with no latrine facility||65||11||49|
|Percentage of households with electricity for domestic use||66||96||75|
|Percentage of households who were residing in own dwelling||95||62||85|
|Percentage of households who were residing in hired dwelling||3||30||11|
|Percentage of households who lived in pucca structures||55||92||66|
|Percentage of households who lived in semi-pucca structures||28||6||21|
|Percentage of households who lived in katcha structures||17||2||13|
|Per capita floor area (sq. mt.)||8.39||9.45||8.67|
|Percentage of households with availability of separate room to each married couple||75||76||75|
|Average monthly rent (Rs.) payable for hired dwelling (excluding employers’ quarter)||560||1149||1045|
|Percentage of households who undertook residential construction* during last 365 days||12||4||10|
|Average number of residential constructions* undertaken per reporting household during last 365 days||1.02||1.01||1.02|
|Average cost (Rs.) per residential construction*||32000||69000||37000|
The incidence of poverty is another aggregate which reflects the prevailing conditions of poor livelihood scenario and lack of basic amenities in the rural areas. The SCs/STs, who constitute the bottom layer of the pyramid, remain backward in economic and social development and vulnerable to various forms of discrimination including in areas such as education, healthcare and social security measures.
Most of the migrant laborers are employed in the unorganized sector where the lack of regulation compounds their vulnerability and ability to bargain. Poor migrant laborers often suffer from longer working hours and poor living and working conditions.
In a nutshell, the UPA government has scored several brownie points on heralding an era of economic reforms – which is a positive aspect. But, in the broader process, it has failed to transform the lives of aam-aadmi in its bid to sustain double-digit growth for the country.
Can a reform process be called a transformation until it touches the lives of ordinary people?