August 23, 2017   
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Swachh Bharat


By Shivaji Sarkar

India is one of the fastest growing markets. Low data tariffs are pushing smart TVs. The Asian Development Bank has predicted higher 7.2 to 7.6 per cent growth. This is all good news amid the spiraling sensex, which crossed the 30,000 mark. Well, many say that the stock market is overheated, stocks over valued and one needs to invest with caution.

Gradually, the Indian economy is having resilience. Despite large and almost Rs 12 lakh crore NPAs of public sector and big private banks, it needs to do away with impediments. ADB President Takehiko Naka finds India on a better plain with GST and new bankruptcy law but he softly says it has to go beyond China and wants a further smoothening process. The recent International Monetary Fund is equally jubilant but sees that India has yet to come up with some more steps. It is, of course, a never ending process.

India has become more business friendly with many steps undertaken but its untamed high cost of private education is a major problem. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan of Prime Minister Modi has given a unique awareness for cleanliness. But except the New Delhi Municipal Corporation in the National Capital Region (NCR) none others have really got the honours to be clean in a latest survey.

The survey carried out by the Quality Council of India did spot assessment of 17,500 locations in 434 cities. It sadly found that all townships around NCR are not clean, neither Ghaziabad nor Noida nor Gurugram. They scored the lowest scores! Incidentally, Modi’s constituency Varanasi is the lone city from Uttar Pradesh to figure in the top 100 cleanest cities followed by Aligarh at a distant 145th rank and Jhansi at 166th rank. Gonda in UP was adjudged the dirtiest city in the country and was ranked 434th in the list. UP, the country’s biggest State, has 25 cities in the bottom of the list. Meerut, near Delhi and in NCR, is the fifth dirtiest city.

The Centre allocated Rs 20,000 crore in the 2017 Budget for the mission but considering the population, volume of garbage, required effort and manpower, this is simply not adequate. The figure is much higher than previous years but a country that has not cared for the cleanliness for decades, needs more funds, which are not easy to find in resource-hit country.

Though international agencies avoid direct comment on the sensitive issue these do reckon it for overall business destination, but weighs against it. Are there ways to solve it? Even in dirtiest Gonda, there are localities which stand in contrast. To say that things are too bad is not a solution. The non-clean surroundings affect mood, movement and generation of business and other related activities.

While clean roads are reckoned in, bad roads are not talked about. In the NCR, there is culture of digging roads, even the arterial ones, only after a road is constructed – an age-old problem. The Swachh Bharat mission has to take note of it. Unless the roads are smooth, without potholes and dug up areas, which are far too common, the mission’s success will remain limited. Roads and their maintenance are keys to the mission. It is just not the sanitary staff or availability of water that cleans up the roads and surroundings.

Swachh Bharat has to include the city and rural roads, lanes, walkways as the foundation to achieve the goals. Road planning, signals and easy movements are also part of the mission. Slow roads as it is all over in NCR and many other places across the county are the biggest impediments for early success.

So is expensive education. The culture of high-end schools is impoverishing many parents. Some pay fees which is almost equal to ones’ earnings. It also affects productivity and quality of education. The nation has yet not been able to find a replacement for this expensive system. An affordable, that certainly means inexpensive, schooling would change the economic scenario.

It is no secret that foreign investors loathe coming to India with their families as they feel it would affect their children’s education. Expecting them to be in a position to pay the high exorbitant fees is not only unethical, it is impractical too. The country is in a limbo when it comes to freeing education from the clutches of high-end exploiters.

No less is the problem of so-called private super specialty hospitals. The Government has launched programmes to bring down the prices of stents and other medical aid. But somewhere the nation has not been able solve the problem of health care that has become too expensive and unaffordable. The culture of health insurance does not suit even small population. The Government estimates 57 crore people are eligible for health insurance. Of them, the total insured are not more than 5 crore. Better and easier health care is being mulled but accessing it is not easy.

India’s rapid growth has been accompanied by increasing spatial disparities within. The country’s megacities have continued to grow, fed by a steady stream of migrants from the countryside. The spatial evolution of India has continued to favour districts with high levels of employment density. This is especially the case in services. The evidence in manufacturing is more mixed. In the services sector, agglomeration forces still dominate dispersion forces in high-density areas. In other words, these high-density clusters of economic activity continue to be India’s engines of growth.

This is a problem too. Since activities are high in these areas, migration is soaring leading to further congestion. Though the areas remain centre of activity, these become less attractive to visitors. These also have to be decongested in a planned manner. It is easier said than done as the cost involved is too high. A solution, however, has to be worked out.

Swachh Bharat thus is a wider concept than what the nation has perceived so far. It is just not cleaning the cities. The concept is wedded to having a better environment in every sphere of life. The target is just not the individual but a holistic system that could give fillip to the economy and lead to overall development of the nation.

‘Make in India’, self sufficiency, global supremacy, good health and environ are all linked up. India’s development can become faster and all-inclusive with a little care, which the present political dispensation in the eyes of the people is capable of. – INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)