Rather dismal scenario

first_imgThe Socio-Economic and Caste Census, the first since 1932, was released by the Government of India on Friday. Suffice to say, it presented a rather bleak picture of rural India, indicating that one out of every three families living in its villages is landless and depends on some form of manual labour for livelihood. The only positive one can take from this exercise is that it is the first paperless census conducted on hand-held electronic devices, possibly paving the way for further digitalisation of our public records.  The census, carried out in 640 districts, also revealed that 23.52 percent of rural families have no literate adult above the age of 25 years, indicating a poor state of education.  Also Read – ‘Playing Jojo was emotionally exhausting’Speaking to the media, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “It’s going to be a very important document for all policy makers both at central and state governments. This document will help us target groups for support in terms of policy planning.” The fundamental point here is that such data will allow policymakers, both at the State-level and Centre, to establish a convergent, evidence-based plan to tackle rural poverty, taking into account India’s grassroots governance structures. In light of this new data, the Centre and the States will have to address fundamental concerns surrounding the recently proposed Land Acquisition Bill.  Also Read – Leslie doing new comedy special with NetflixWith only a 15 percent share in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, the Indian agriculture sector employs 60 percent of its population. Arguing for the Centre’s Land Bill earlier this year, Union Minister Arun Jaitley had said that the government has to bring people out of agriculture and create jobs in the manufacturing sector. This is probably the most succinct argument the Centre has presented for the bill. In order to achieve this transition to manufacturing, however, people from the rural agricultural sector need to acquire the requisite skills. If not, the only possible avenue for poor farm labourers is manual labour in the construction sector.  Basic education and healthcare standards in the rural sector are at an all-time low. Public healthcare expenditure only amounts to 1.19 percent of India’s Gross Domestic Product, when compared to China (3 percent) and Brazil (4.9 percent). It is well below the 5 percent figure recommended by the World Health Organization. Although Prime Minister Modi has inaugurated a host of insurance schemes for the rural poor, it cannot make up for the terrible lack of public health infrastructure that currently exists in India. There is no better form of insurance for the rural poor than a functioning public health care system. Education spending, meanwhile, has been lower than the world average. Only 3.3 percent of its GDP has been spent on education, compared to the global average of 4.9 percent.  The Centre, unfortunately, has not taken any productive steps in addressing the malaise. Instead in the last Budget, the Centre cut down education spending by 16 percent. In addition to better rural education and healthcare, there needs to be a nation-wide initiative to digitalise and update all land records so that the farmer can receive adequate and timely compensation for the plot they sell. Following West Bengal’s example, State governments must digitise and update all their land records. The Centre’s latest census, therefore, reminds us on the urgency required of India’s push towards manufacturing the integral role education must play.last_img

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