Rural

Five Point Program

We can summarize the implications of inter-state growth and poverty research for government planning and programs in a five point action program for pro-poor growth:

National Road Grid

Roads are both literally and figuratively the pathways to the growth of agriculture, services and industry.  Connect every village (habitation) with all-weather, paved/ metaled roads of specified standard in five (10) years.  Road connectivity is particularly important in the poorer States and regions, where growth has not picked up.  The existence and quality of the roads should be monitor able by a web enabled information system.

Remove controls and restrictions on trade and transport at the State and local level.  Plan for the provision of land on the sides of district roads and block road junctions so that economic activity, such as trade, hotels, restaurants and repair facilities can spring up. Plan National and State highways keeping in mind that underpasses and/or parallel local roads may have to be built in many places as economic activity spring up on the sides.

Public Health & Planning

For every village, plan and install an appropriate low cost drainage, septic tank system.  The impact of eliminating open defication, in terms of health and nutrition can be enormous.  Help develop local consultancy/design firms that can Plan and organize such systems and organizations that can compete with each other to build/install these systems across the country.  Train local youths for maintaining such systems in co-operation with Panchayti Raj institutions and NGOs.

Water Management

There is an urgent need to improve the comprehensiveness and quality of water planning and management at every level (Centre, State, district, town, panchayat, and smallest farmer).  Water harvesting, water shed development, recharge of water bodies and aquifers, must be planned and implemented in every nook and corner of the country. Education and demonstration of models with the active participation of NGOs can play an important role.  Dams and canals have a place in cutting down the flow of water into the sea, recharging aquifers and supplying dry areas and parched towns.  Tube wells in depleting aquifers must be discouraged through proper pricing of electricity and perhaps even the pricing of water coupled with grant of per farmer water credits.

Education and Skills

Universal Primary education is too readily identified with universal enrolment and low drop-out rates, rather than the ability to count, read, write and explain at the primary completion level.  Before declaring victory and moving on to target universal secondary education we must ensure that every young person (25 or below say) meets the global standard of Primary education. Government must set up testing, standards and certification systems that can determine if these standards have been met.

 The only way to ensure this is to empower every youth with a debit card, which allows him/her to purchase primary education from any school including any government school.  The set of authorized uses of the debit card will be fully funded by the government.  The funding of the government school and part of the administrators/teachers’ pay must be linked to the total debit card receipts (monthly fees paid through the debit card).   These schools must also be graded by an independent education rating agency, relative to the private schools, so that students/parents have the information to make choices.

Every youth, rural or urban, after completing primary education must also have access to the six thousand or so globally identified skills.  This requires a massive joint effort by government, NGOs and private skill providers.  Government must provide funding for the poor while all possible private and foreign expertise and experience is attracted to India to provide training in all these skills in the next five years.

Telecom Connectivity & Mobile banking

The USO fund must be used to ensure that the mobile footprint covers 99% of India in the next five years.  Open access to physical infrastructure and land lines (including telegraph and electricity wires) and fibre optic networks must be ensured in rural areas for attaining universal access to internet in the next 10 years.

The mobile network must be leveraged by RBI to lift restrictions on a Universal Unique ID (UID) based, mobile banking accounts system for the poor.  Internet system must be leveraged for provision of education, training, health, agricultural development.

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