India is marching towards prosperity with GDP tending to grow to double digits, foreign exchange reserve exceeding $200 billion, manufacturing sector growth going beyond targeted 12%, and almost all sectors booming. Is its impact limited to the prosperity only in urban India? Will the rural prosperity remain only in policy papers, wish lists, and dreams of people like our President, PM and some more, and bypass villages?
The latest NSS survey brings hope. Rural India is very much participating in the India’s growth story. Here are some data provided by latest NSS reports. Between 1993-94 and 2004-05:
1. Per capita consumption of edible oils rose by 30% in rural areas, and 18% in urban India.
2. The proportion of rural households using cooking gas rose six-fold, from 2% to 11.7%, while the urban proportion doubled to 59%.
3. The proportion of rural households using electricity rose from 34% to 54%. The urban proportion rose from 74% to 94%.
4. Purchases of readymade garments rose by 75%, and of hosiery products threefold, in both rural and urban areas.
5. Refrigerator use increased from 1% to 4% of rural households, and from 12% to 32% of urban households.
6. Between 1999-00 and 2004-05, the proportion of TV households rose from 19% to 26% in rural areas, and from 59% to 66% in urban.
Growth has not bypassed rural areas. Between 1999-00 and 2004-05, poverty declined from 26% to 22%. That is, 44 million people rose above the poverty line.
The NSSO has data on the poorest of the poor: those who say they go hungry in some or all months of the year. Between 1993-94 and 2004-05, the proportion of rural households hungry at some time in the past year fell from 5.5% to 2.6%. More than half the once-hungry in rural areas ceased to be so. (In urban areas hunger almost vanished: the proportion of hungry households fell from 1.9% to 0.6%.) Surprisingly, the consumption expenditure of rural Bihar stands at Rs 699 per month, higher than the national average of rural consumption expenditure, which is Rs 559 per month.
However, I get the shock of life when I come to know of the performances of certain states that are perceived to be better ones. In 2004-05, the percentage of rural households reporting “not enough food every day in some months” was the highest in West Bengal (10.6%). Orissa (4.8%) came next. How is that West Bengal hungrier than even Bihar?
Of hungry rural households, the saddest are those that were hungry in every single month of the year. West Bengal is this list too, though the worst performance in this respect came from Assam (3.6%) followed by Orissa and West Bengal (1.3% each.) What does it speak for the government, the ruling party and the people of West Bengal? How can the left parties claim the success of their model when they perform so poorly even after the three decades of leftists’ continuous rules in West Bengal? Why do the people fail to realize the inadequacy and inefficiency of Leftist governance?
The rural prosperity is visible too. And I can vouch for it because of my recent cross-country travel through roads in part of UP and Bihar.
However, surprisingly though, any one with whom I talked hardly prefers to live in villages. I found many of the households from my own village building houses in Varanasi and some in Sasaram. Out of all the reasons, perhaps the personal enmity and envious atmosphere are the main. And the reason may be poorer security and threat of kidnapping that has become an industry in itself. But when I went a little more in depth, the switch over to urban living is on count of the two other factors too: to ensure a better medical treatment in case of emergency and to get the children educated. On both the count, the villages are still far behind. And unless the education system at primary and secondary level in rural India wherever the facilities are already existing, is overhauled, and teachers are made to work and effectively involved, the migration will continue and the dream of PURA (Providing Urban facilities in Rural Area) will remain unfulfilled.
My Choicest Readings April 15, 2007
1. When backward is forward by Dipankar Gupta
2. 60,000 IT professionals in US return home
3. Future bleak for MNC-owned BPOs set up for wrong reasons: study
4. The aggressive Indian by Raj Liberhan
5. Eight Indian firms among S&P`s challengers to global majors
6. Ajit Balakrishnan: India`s Grapes of Wrath
7. Want a promotion? Get China on your resume