‘Rich’ India, poor Bharat
S. Madhusudhana Rao
If we go by the numbers revealed in the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), our aim to make the country prosperous as a whole is not possible in the near future. In fact, our journey is long and bridging the ever widening gap between rural and urban India as pointed out in the survey is arduous.
The census, said to be most exhaustive, had been conducted between 2011 and 2013 when the UPA government was in power. Though the ‘caste’ factor was included in the census ostensibly to identify the most deprived sections of society, the central government which released preliminary results of the survey on Friday did not disclose caste-related data. The BJP government might have thought it prudent not to open Pandora’s Box in regard to caste. Such bid could turn the issue into a hot potato and spin out of control.
While every collection of data in the SECC can be discussed at length and analyzed bit by bit, the overall picture that emerges is despite tall claims being made by governments at the centre and in states about rural development, poverty eradication, welfare benefits, etc. nearly half of rural India has remained in deprived conditions.
The survey has used seven main parameters – housing, nature of work, daily/monthly income, status of earning member in the family, literacy and dependency – and a host of other indicators to arrive at conclusions. Out of a total number of 17.91 crore rural households, 48.5 per cent (8.96 crores) are found deprived on one count or the other; in some cases, they are more. What it means in simple words is while half of India lives in towns and cities with modern facilities and services, the other half lives in villages and hamlets, often deprived of basic facilities and essential services.
When we extrapolate the socio-economic census data, it is clear that urban side is the primary beneficiary in the country’s development process. Ironically, only urban centres of growth are showcased in government publicity material whereas what’s going on in their backyard will be cleverly camouflaged.
It is imperative, therefore, that the Modi government needs to rework its development plans through the reconstituted planning commission NITI Aayog, focusing on rural India, that is Bharat. The socio-economic survey data could be an important tool in the hands of governments to formulate their future plans and chalk out strategies for the uplift of weaker sections of society. Now, the task should be easier with the identification and mapping of deprived segments in various states.
It’s a well-known fact that the funds allotted for rural development through various state and central schemes had been misused and misappropriated earlier by individuals and groups. Allegations galore that some well-off people had included themselves in welfare schemes to avail subsidies and derive other benefits. These and other such irregularities had marred the UPA government’s flagship programmes that were aimed at alleviating rural poverty.
Since most of the rural rejuvenation plans have been given a facelift or are born in new avatars under Modi dispensation, the SECC statistics could come handy for deep and wider penetration of rural areas with specific projects for targeted beneficiaries. What is required is action on the survey findings. Delay in taking note of them will further alienate the rural population and it will have serious repercussions for the country in general and economy in particular.
Already, discontent among farmers and socially and economically backward communities is brewing and migration from rural areas to towns and cities in search of work has been going on unabated. As a result, social unrest and urban crises are staring in the faces of state governments.
Long ago, Mahatma Gandhi had noted rural prosperity holds key to India’s development. True to his words, if one half of the country is not taken along with the other half, it is foolish to think we are progressing. Our growth rate aims and dreams of a trillion dollar economy don’t make any sense for the rural population if it is denied the fruits of economic development.