By P. Alli:
The constitutional goal of the attainment of an egalitarian socio-economic order in a democratic set-up of the country is yet to be achieved as the persistence of disparity in various forms at the inter-state, inter-district and also at the intra-district levels counteracts the planned process of economic development. With the commencement of the 11th Plan, a widespread perception that prevailed all over the country is that disparities among states and regions within the states, between urban and rural areas and between various sections of the community, have been steadily increasing in the past few years and that the gains of rapid growth witnessed in this period have not reached all the parts of the country and all sections of the people in an equitable manner (Paradoxically, it is the natural resource-rich areas which continue to lag behind).
Some section of the society seem to be hailing the government’s huge spending on social sector programmes and being actively involved in a planned process of redistribution but failed to view the pitiable situation of the vulnerable and marginalized section of this Nehruvian concept of planned democratic country.
I am trying to pinpoint the very same haunted region — KBK districts of Orissa which seems to be virtually sidelined from the new “inclusive model” of development. Despite the fact that quite a large number of development endeavours have been put in place by the state, the Centre and various non-government organizations, the moot point that lingers around is whether one should target poor people or the backward regions. This is because relatively prosperous people also inhabit such backward districts. When we generalize and argue that geographical regions as a whole is disadvantaged, there is always the probability of not-so-deserving people becoming recipients of subsidies and subsidies to backwards districts predominantly accruing to better-off segments.
And there is also the probability of poor people in not-so-backward districts being ignored. Had the successive governments been able to identify and target the poor properly, we should avoid any generalizations on backward districts. It is because the poor cannot be identified easily, that the government uses short-cut of identifying backward districts and assuming that most people in backward districts are poor. Moreover, the ‘enclave’ nature of development in backward areas, although generates its effects throughout the length and breadth of the country, such effects are found to be of trivial nature in project periphery and in many cases those are outweighed by the backwash effects.
However, despite large amount of investments made in part, considerable unintended neglect have been noticed in certain key sectors like nutrition, health, food security and education that have tremendous bearing on the qualities of life of certain groups of people or a group of people living in these regions. In this context, malnutrition, starvation and hunger continue to be a widespread problem in Orissa, even though there has been significant improvements in food production and advancement in science during the last fifty years.
However, people in this particular region are said to have died of starvation, mainly because they did not have enough income to buy food (due to dwindling purchasing power). This does not mean that everyone in this region is starving. Because the food is controlled by the rich and as such only the poor go hungry. These poor people do not have much to exchange, and they cannot demand very much, and may thus lose out in competition with others whose needs may be a good deal less acute, but whose entitlements are somewhat stronger. Is this the success story of the Central government’s comprehensive Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) Policy that some of the researchers are talking about?
The writer is a Research Scholar from the Department Of Economics at the Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapalli.