One in five rural homes lacks access to drinking water, electricity & sanitation
Only 18% Have All Three Utilities, Sharp Drop In Agriculture’s GDP Share
TIMES INSIGHT GROUP
One in five rural households has none of the three basic facilities — drinking water, electricity and sanitation — while only about 18% have access to all three.
The India Rural Development Report 2012-13 released by Jairam Ramesh on Thursday shows that while rural poverty has reduced significantly from over 40% to just 26%, there is large variation in poverty reduction between regions, districts and social classes, with persistent pockets of deprivation.
The Union rural development minister said the significant shift to non-farm labour in rural areas has debunked the notion that the share of agricultural labour in employment has stagnated while the share of agriculture in GDP has fallen sharply to just 14% in 2011-12.
While agriculture remains the largest employer in rural areas, the proportion of people employed in non-farm labour went up from 32% in 1993 to 42.5% in 2009-10. Ramesh said non-farm employment could be stimulated only by rapid farm growth. The mandate of his ministry to ensure rural development could be hamstrung by the persistent agricultural crisis marked by a shrinking share in the GDP, lack of public investment and dependence on rainfed agriculture.
While the minister saw the increase in non-farm rural employment as a positive, a closer look at the data reveals that the proportion of self-employed people in agriculture, i.e. cultivators, is shrinking even as large numbers shift to non-farm jobs on insecure terms. Of the 42% engaged in non-farm employment, most are engaged in unskilled jobs such as construction and trade. Even among those engaged in manufacturing, most are casual labourers.
Increased fragmentation of land holdings has meant a halving of the average size of land holdings from 2.3 hectares in 1970-71 to 1.2 hectares in 2010-11. The proportion of marginal farmers rose from 9% to 22% and that of small farmers from 12% to 22% in the same period. Large land holdings — over 10 hectares — shrank from 30% of the total cultivated land to just 11%.
In the past decade, public investment in agriculture has remained stagnant at about 3% of the agricultural GDP and the consequent crisis in agriculture is reflected in growing farmer suicides. The numbers rose from over 10,700 cultivators in 1995 to over 17,000 by 2009, after which it fell to 13,700 in 2012. Indebtedness and crop failure have been blamed for most suicides.
Despite the hype about financial inclusion and extension of banking and credit to rural farmers, the proportion of rural households availing any banking services was just 54% in 2011. A look at the loans disbursed by commercial banks to farmers showed that marginal farmers accounted for the lowest disbursement — Rs 42,600 crore — while fewer medium and large farmers got over Rs 73,000 crore.
The efforts to expand rural physical infrastructure, including water, electricity and sanitation, have shown some results, though the minister admitted that sanitation remained India’s single biggest failure, with a large proportion of the rural population still defecating in the open, and childhood malnutrition and ill health being rampant.
Malnutrition caused also by poor calorie intake persists despite increasing monthly per capita expenditure. From 2,153 calories, consumption has steadily decreased to just 2,020 calories in 2009-10, indicating distress as most people would not be willingly consuming less.
Social infrastructure, according to the minister, is still not a positive story in rural India. Traditionally disadvantaged groups such as scheduled caste (SC) and schedules tribes (ST) are the worst affected by this. They also happen to have the highest proportion of the poor — 47% of ST and 42% of SC as compared to just 28% of the rest of the communities.
The report revealed that though the proportion of poor in all the communities has come down, the gap in poverty reduction between the various communities has persisted.
Despite high rural enrolment, the proportion of students in an age group attending school fell steadily from 78% at the primary level to just 29% at the higher secondary level in 2009-10. Learning levels were also poor with less than half the students in class Vbeing able to read letters and words and books of class I and II. Less than half the students in class VIII could recognize numbers and do addition and subtraction.
In health too, rural India fared badly, with over 28% not accessing treatment as they could not afford to. This proportion goes up to 37% for SCs and 32% for STs. Larger proportions of these two groups use government health facilities compared to other social groups. Hence, poor public health infrastructure hits them the hardest. Despite the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), rural healthcare suffers from a lack of qualified personnel at every level — from paramedics to doctors and specialists — and requires greater investment in physical infrastructure too.
To address such wide variation in access to facilities in rural areas, the report has recommended greater emphasis on inclusion, sustainability and effective delivery of services in planning for rural development.
Source:::: The Times of India, 27-09-2013, p.10, http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Client.asp?Daily=TOIM&showST=true&login=default&pub=TOI&Enter=true&Skin=TOINEW&AW=1380269603906