Ensuring adequate standard of living

Development means not only an expansion of the economic cake but also working for distributive justice.

Development means increased employment and incomes to poorer sections combined with augmentation of production and access to necessary goods and services. This means not only an expansion of the economic cake but also working for distributive justice. We have to concede that development is both an instrument and an aim. This is long recognised in India’s development experience and the theory and practice of politics-- removal of poverty. The famous 1938 National Planning Committee of the Indian National Congress had said: ‘the aim was to ensure an adequate standard of living to the masses, in other words, to get rid of the appalling poverty of the people. To ensure an irreducible minimum standard of living for everybody the national income has to be greatly increased by 200-300 per cent in the first 10 years’. This increase in national income will not only provide goods and services to the needy but also entail increased productive employment and wages and collection of taxes. 

Water is an important development enabler. There are 52 percent of people in urban Delhi who have no piped water connection; the 2011 census tells us about the 13.9 million households in slums in the country and are without water, toilets and drainage. All these people are struggling to become more productive but are handicapped because a lot of their energies, time and resources are wasted on providing for their families water to drink, cook and wash themselves. 

Additional income

On the other hand, the very process of providing potable water facilities to these 13.9 slum households will entail considerable productive employment to all people including the poor; indeed a case of fulfilment of the ideals of development. In fact, according to nationally accepted norms, each such slum household is proposed to be provided with a tenement 20 square meter large including toilet and bathroom. The process of this provision entails a lot of employment and demand in the construction and related industries; also the tasks of topographical survey, provision of rainwater harnessing and conservation etc. will mean a lot of additional employment opportunities and incomes.

Large scale canal irrigation is increasingly and interminably beset with controversies. They are almost said to be unviable. Here too, restoration of tanks in rural and urban India, combined with efforts towards topographic restoration and conservation will enable agricultural development including augmented fertility of land and a lot of employment and incomes in the country’s backward regions.

Provision of electricity adequately and reliably in all regions of the country is another enabler of development. The working time of people in even remote areas will become increased and they will be enabled to use the newly emerging tools to accomplish their work less strenuously. Women may be enabled to prepare condiments to the local market during nights and children may study for more hours and improve their skills and abilities. 

According to a recent report, the number of households without electricity has come down to 33  per cent from 45 per cent. This has enabled more people to use tools and become more productive and earn incomes and pay taxes. Provision of electricity additionally and harnessing solar and other non-conventional energy sources is not only an enabler of individual development but helps better living for more people.

Augmenting road and transport facilities is another enabler of development, particularly in rural and relatively backward areas. People will be better enabled to go to markets as sellers and buyers, to hospitals for better medical aid, to training institutions for improving education and skills. These certainly will entail improvements in abilities to work at more accessible places and earn more and more regularly. 

These roads and availability of cargo and passenger vehicles will attract more people to the transport sector and will mean improved incomes and facilitates for ferrying children to better schools; all the enablers of development. Particularly in Karnataka, the practice of giving cycles to girl school students has enabled them to go to school regularly, contributing to increased average years of schooling. Since this cycle is a consumer durable, it has reached other women too and they in turn have turned to reach work places by cycle, particularly urban housemaids. 

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