Smart cities — not at cost of villages
Posted October 24, 2015on:
The smart talk about the smart cities sounds good to the ears of the urban elite and pushes further into the background the miseries of the vast majority of the people living in the villages. Over the past couple of decades, there have been more talk of institutions of higher education and big, expensive nursing homes and less of primary level education and primary health centres. The emphasis is more on increasing amenities in the cities than in the rural areas.
The glow of the modern world of Sensex, globalisation and economic liberalisation starts fading as one moves away from the urban conglomerates into the interior in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, for instance. It almost vanishes in the villages which remind one of the times of Prem Chand; only a new class of exploiters called the contractors has been added to that of tyrannical landlords.
A vast majority of those living in villages have no provision of drinking water even today. They trek to fetch water from shallow streams several kilometres away, or drink muddy water from the ponds and survive, if they can, the host of diseases like gastroenteritis and dysentery. They have no access to medical facilities. Lack of education keeps them immured to superstitions. There are no avenues of gainful employment for them.
Lakhs of crores of rupees provided by the State and Central governments and foreign agencies like UNICEF, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank have been spent in the past six decades or so in the name of welfare of the rural people but actually have been pocketed by the politician-bureaucrat-contractor “syndicate” which has become so powerful that even the judiciary cannot do much about it. A mind-boggling amount has been spent as part of the tribal sub-plan for the uplift of the tribals but the majority of the tribals continue to live in the same primitive conditions at the mercy of the elements.
A mention of naxalism may not be out of context here. In the early 1990s, when the signs of naxalism were first witnessed in the Bastar district, the then BJP government of the State constituted a committee to study its causes. The finding of the official committee was that the naxalism had grown out of the endless exploitation of the tribals by the police and forest department personnel and the tribals in the Bastar district had greater confidence in the Naxalites than in the government officials.
What the people, particularly in villages in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and many other States need, on priority basis, is drinking water, medical facilities, means of livelihood, education for their children and roads connecting the villages to the “civilised” world — and, of course, an end to the exploitation and extortion by the police, forest, revenue and other sundry department officials. This may be possible only if there are honest politicians and bureaucrats — and that seems to be a tall order under the present system.