The socioeconomic inclusion of rural India – a major challenge for modern India.

Development is a multi-dimensional phenomenon. Some of its major dimensions include: the level of economic growth, level of education, level of health services, degree of modernization, status of women, level of nutrition, quality of housing, distribution of goods and services, and access to communication. In India, the progress of socio-economic development among major states is not uniform. This study examines the existing variability of inter-state development and thereby identifying the indicators responsible for the diversity in development. Instead of studying the variability of a particular variable across states, a composite index based on several indicators has been developed using principal component analysis and states are arranged according to the indices derived using four broadly accepted components: (a) economic production and economic condition or in other words level of economic development; (b) common minimum needs; (c) health and health-related services and (d) communication. The findings of the analysis support the general perception about the states. The states in India are marked with wide disparity in socio-economic development. The factors, which are found out to be more important for the overall development process, relate to basic needs like education, availability of food, minimum purchasing power and facilities like safe drinking water, health care infrastructure, etc. It is also found that enrolment ratio cannot be raised unless minimum needs of the common people are satisfied. Therefore, true development requires government action to improve elementary education, safe drinking water facilities and health care, and to remove barriers against social minorities, especially women. The role of social development such as literacy (and particularly of female literacy) in promoting basic capabilities emerges as the prerequisite to overall development.

These results clearly emphasize the role of well-functioning public actions in improving the overall living conditions of the people. Although economic growth in the sense of expanding gross national product and other related variables is one of the most fundamental input to the overall development process, the basic objective of development should focus on the expansion of human capabilities which has been neglected for long in India.

By 2030, 40% of Indians will be urban residents. However, there will also be more than 5,000 small urban towns (50,000-100,000 persons each) and more than 50,000 developed rural towns (5,000-10,000 persons each) with similar income profiles, where aspirations are fast converging with those of urban India. The figure below illustrates urban-rural population distribution in India in 2005, 2018, and 2030 projected. Three critical “access” barriers currently constrain the aspirations of those living in rural areas in India. First, constrained physical connectivity ; second, lack of digital connectivity ; and third, limited financial inclusion. While incomes may have begun to rise in rural India, this may not translate into commensurate growth of productivity and inclusion, unless the urban-rural divides are reduced. Given the approximately 60% share of rural population in 2030, this is a critical imperative not only for the government, which serves its people, but also for businesses which are looking for new opportunities and new growth markets in India. A high priority is infrastructure development, both physical and digital, to enable rural dwellers to access the products and services matching their incomes, needs and aspirations. The government already has flagship programmes such as Digital India, which envisions transforming the country into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy centred on key programme pillars, such as broadband connectivity and universal access to mobile connectivity, and professed roles, such as “faceless, paperless, cashless”. With sustained, efficient execution, such innovative programmes in digital and financial areas, along with the proposed improvement of physical infrastructure (road connectivity to nearby urban centres and reliable power supply to all rural households), will be key drivers to ensure inclusive growth in India, truly bridging urban-rural divides across multiple levels.

Various factors, such as the level of literacy, female education, nutritional standards, infant mortality, morbidity, employment, income distribution, public distribution system, political commitments etc., and their corresponding interactions, contribute to these striking variations among states inn the livelihood of common people. It may be mentioned that broad state-level comparison may not be able to capture fully the extent of diversities among various indicators characterizing several facets of development. Nevertheless, state-level indicators are of prime importance as far as the state is a crucial and political unit. A wide range of relevant fields of actions, including health and education, are constitutionally defined as ‘state subjects’, to be handled by the individual states rather than the central government, or as ‘concurrent subjects’, involving both state and central governments.

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