Basic amenities still a daydream for hundreds of villages

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Basic amenities still a daydream for hundreds of villages

Saturday, 22 April 2017 | MANAS JENA

The poor and marginalised sections living in rural interior parts are denied basic amenities in spite of dedicated schemes and budgetary allocations. Still there are many villages and hamlets where basic amenities are a day dream.

Basic amenities are essential foundation for a decent living and it enhances economic growth and quality of life. The scope of basic amenities include safe drinking water, sanitation, housing, all weather road to village, electrification, fuel, connectivity, healthcare centre, school, playground and recreational facilities and many more. There are non-negotiable conditions for living but for last sixty years of planned development intervention, the Government has neglected this aspect without any substantial achievement even today. Unless these basic issues of the poor and the marginalised sections are not solved, it is difficult to ensure inclusive growth. The long time negligence of the Government towards a section of people in a democratic setup questions our very concept of nationhood and the ongoing development process.

Basic amenities are linked to qualitative and developed human living and the modern State has to ensure this out of public finance through dedicated institutional arrangement. But this process has not produced the desired result, especially for the deserving majority of the poor and marginalised in States such as Odisha. The negligence in public investment for developing basic amenities for last sixty years has widened rural and urban gap as a result of which mostly the rural poor are migrating to urban areas for a better living. Studies found that lack of basic amenities has wider impact over working condition and the trend shows that the work culture in rural areas has been deteriorating with increasing health problems along with lack of improvement in education and skill. The social life and living condition in rural areas and its change process are linked to availability of basic amenities.

The living condition of common people reflects the socio-economic, political and environmental development of a country. Mercer’s annual worldwide quality of living survey ranked Singapore as highest ranking city in the Asia pacific region. The quality of living in Indian cities has been poor in comparison to global standard. Among the Indian States, the quality of living and availability of basic amenities is widely unequal. States such as Kerala, TN and AP are comparatively better than Odisha which ranked near to the bottom of the list of the India Today survey 2016.

It is important to note that 2011 census shows huge inequality in availability of basic amenities between rural and urban areas and there is further inequality among different social groups. The availability of piped water, electricity and toilets are not provided to more than one third of the rural household. It shows our public investment in rural areas is not inclusive of poor and marginalised and it failed to address the basic requirement of the common people to bring change in their life.

The condition of the people in rural parts of the backward States such as Odisha is in worst condition. The Dalit and Adivasi hamlets, primitive tribal groups in forest areas, fishing community habitations in coastal areas, forest dwellers, small and marginal farmers, sharecroppers, agricultural workers, household with traditional occupations, milk farmers, mining and industrial areas and slums with casual mining labourer  have no facilities of basic amenities in their habitations. They have to struggle every day to collect water for bare needs and managed with available minimum. They use open space for defecation, burn kerosene oil or locally available fuel wood for food preparation and lighting the house. Their habitations are in isolation and segregated without proper sanitary facility, animal shelter space, linking road, drainage line and waste management facilities. The dependence of poor and marginalized on public space has been sinking day by day with changing rural settings. The village forest, water bodies and other common space are getting changed and scantily available these days. The public amenities developed out of public fund mostly available to dominant sections of the village and, by and large, everywhere social exclusion restricts the free access of the socially marginalised groups.

The situation of women, children and elderly people and sick persons in family is worsening further. This has an overall impact over the working hour of the men and women in family for earning and other productive engagement. Globally it is understood that any human development must begin with making available of basic amenities for life but why our Government, corporates and communities have not paid adequate attention to the basic human needs and still people continue to suffer.

The corporate philanthropy in India has not done much in creating basic amenities for the poor and the marginalised. The Companies Act 2013, clause 135 and scheduled 7, speaks about corporate social responsibility. It has created scope of philanthropy by corporates and spending for creating basic amenities, specially targeting the poor and the marginalised.

The communities in rural areas have to change their mindset relating to basic amenities. They should not wait for Government for a long time and where ever possible, the communities should build amenities out of their community fund to make it more sustainable. It is found that mostly people spend on customs, cultures and maintaining traditions but usually do not invest in basic amenities. The poor and the marginalized communities should go for creating community assets such as water bodies, public toilets, community space for recreational events and plantation out of community fund. They should make efforts for the implementation of various Government schemes in their hamlet. The role of Panchayatiraj institutions is most important in the whole planning and implementation process. The Panchyatiraj institutions must focus more on developing basic amenities in the hamlets of the poor and marginalised by utilising resources available out of Central and State Government schemes for rural development such as MGNREGS, Dindayal Upadhya Rural Electrification, lPG cooking gas for poor women, water and sanitation schemes, Swachha Bharat sanitation programme, toilet, BASUDHA and Mukshya Mantri Adibandha Yojana of State Government, hamlet linking road, drainage line, garbage pit, Prime Minister Awas Yojana etc. The recommendation of 14th Finance Commission has created scope for increasing public spending in rural areas. It is told that each Panchayat will avail minimum Rs 80 lakh per year for the community development work of the panchayats. These schemes of basic amenities need to reach to the needy in convergence through involvement of the poor and marginalised in the planning and a transparent implementation process. The political parties, CSOs, community leaders and others must get engaged with the community to bring change in quality of living.

With increase in population and sinking of common space and privatisation of resources such as water, forest and land, water bodies, rivers, pastures, coasts and public land, the difficulties have been multiplied. like the Smart Cities, there has been attempt by the Government to build Smart Villages. But these villages should be inclusive of the poor and the marginalised.

 

(manasbbsr15@gmail.com) 

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