RURAL-URBAN GROWTH LINKAGES IMPORTANT FOR POVERTY ALLEVIATION

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The United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is being observed on October 17. 
The day presents an opportunity to acknowledge the efforts and struggle of people living in poverty to make their concerns heard. The day also reflects the willingness of people living in poverty to use their expertise to contribute to eradication of poverty. The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Working together towards a world without discrimination: Building on the experience and knowledge of people in extreme poverty.”
Cities have always been at the centre of economic growth, technological advances and cultural production. But their rapid growth has also brought negative impacts like urban violence and poverty, homelessness, overcrowding and health problems, pollution and waste.People move to the city for various reasons, mostly economic. The promise of jobs and comfort “pulls” people to cities. There are also “push” factors as natural disasters can cause extreme rural poverty and that “pushes” people to urban area in search of job.
Sustainable economic growth is fundamental in the fight against poverty. Economic growth can reduce poverty through employment and increased incomes. Policies and programmes that support economic growth are powerful pro-poor measures as they not only have direct employment and income benefits but can also increase the resources available for other pro-poor initiatives.
Key policy initiatives to promote sustained economic growth include those that seek to create conducive environment for private sector investment, promote local enterprise and self-employment, support infrastructure and social services development. Pressures of population and poverty often compound the threat of deforestation and the exploitation of resources. Effective poverty reduction strategies, therefore, need to be accompanied by measures that enhance productivity and quality of environment and natural resources. Besides, economic growth can effectively reduce poverty only when coupled with a comprehensive programme of social development.
According to the Planning Commission, “For rural areas, the national poverty line is estimated at 816 rupees per capita per month and 1,000 rupees per capita per month in urban areas.” This implies that a person whose consumption is below Rs 33.33 in urban areas and below Rs 27.20 in rural areas is to be considered below the poverty line. But the poverty line would be Rs 66.10 for urban areas and Rs 35.10 for rural regions, based on the 66th round of the National Sample Survey for 2009-10, which provides a more realistic marker for estimating both the poverty line and the population below it than the Planning Commission’s calculation.
The number of people living below the poverty line is estimated 217 million in rural areas and 52 million in urban areas in 2011-12 against 326 million and 81 million in 2004-05. Thus, the poverty rate has declined by nearly 17 per cent in rural areas and 12 per cent in urban areas. While these figures present a favourable picture on a macro level, the distribution of the success differs from State to State.
The Government has made efforts to reduce poverty, mainly through self-employment initiatives, rural public works, food subsidies and nutrition programs and increased spending for basic education and primary healthcare. Despite some progress, poverty remains widespread throughout India. Geographically, the poor are mainly concentrated in the eastern and central parts of the country, with the highest incidence in Odisha, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution support an increase in the responsibility from the States to the rural and urban local authorities as well as the mainstreaming of the poor and disadvantaged into the development process. However, in doing so, recognition is also given to the need for institutional strengthening and capacity building at the local level. Building a fair and equitable governance system and development process has thus become a crucial issue of poverty reduction.
Rural development has assumed global attention especially among the developing nations. It has great significance for a country like India where 65 per cent of the people live in rural areas. Rural development in India is one of the most important factors for economic growth. Agriculture contributes nearly one-fifth of the gross domestic product. To increase the growth of agriculture, the Government has planned several programmes. Agriculture, handicrafts, fisheries, poultry and dairy are the primary contributors to the rural economy.
The Union Ministry of Rural Development is the apex body for formulating policies. The introduction of Bharat Nirman in collaboration with the State Governments and the Panchayati Raj Institutions is a major step towards improvement of the rural sector. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 was introduced by this Ministry to improve the living conditions in the rural sector. Over the years, the Central Government has launched a number of poverty alleviation programmes like the Nehru Rozgar Yojana, Urban Basic Services for the Poor and Prime Minister’s Integrated Urban Poverty Eradication Programme.
Poor urban planning and management can have crucial results for the urban economy. Poorly-managed urban settlements cannot keep pace with urban expansion, and slums will grow, bringing with them poverty and social unrest. It is important that the governments at the national and local (municipal) levels of cities and towns and rural areas, recognise the potentials of rural-urban development linkages and the positive role they can play in poverty alleviation.
It is now widely recognised that there exists an economic, social and environmental interdependence between urban and rural areas and a need for balanced and mutually supportive approach to development of the two areas. Rural-urban linkage generally refers to the growing flow of public and private capital, people (migration and commuting) and goods (trade) between the urban and rural areas. Adequate infrastructure such as transportation, communication, energy and basic services is the backbone of the urban-rural development linkage approach. Adequate investments in infrastructure, particularly transportation infrastructure, also improve rural productivity.
Besides, good governance is vital to poverty reduction as it directly supports participatory pro-poor policies, facilitates sound macroeconomic and public expenditure management, ensures accountability, encourages growth of the private sector, promotes effective delivery of public services and helps establish a rule of law.

BETTER FUTURE FOR ALL DEPENDS ON WOMEN’S EDUCATION

The United Nations General Assembly declared October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child to recognise girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. This year’s theme is “Innovating for Girls’ Education”.
Education is a fundamental right of every human being. It lays the foundation for the development of society. Women are an indispensible part of a society. The future generation’s development mainly depends on the education of women. So, education of women is realised to be the most essential part for the society’s development. It can help every woman educate her children to be good managers of the family as well as active members of the society.
Females constitute about 50 per cent of India’s human resource, but lack of education snatches their chance to be part of the county’s’ progress. Due to this, there is a considerable gap between male and female literacy rates in the country.
India’s literacy rate grew to 74.04 per cent in 2011 from 12 per cent at the end of British rule in 1947. Although this was greater than a six-fold improvement, the level is well below the world average rate of 84 per cent. There is a wide gender disparity in the literacy rate in India and the effective literacy rates (age 7 and above) in 2011 were 82.14 per cent for men and 65.46 per cent for women. Kerala has the highest female literacy rate (92% as per the 2011 census) whereas Rajasthan (52.7%). Odisha has a female literacy rate of 64.4 per cent and male literacy rate of 82.4 per cent.
Poverty is the root cause of many problems in India and also of low female literacy rate. More than one-third of Indian population is living below the poverty line. More than 50 per cent of girls in India fail to enrol in school and those who do are likely to drop out by the age of 12. Another contributing factor is the rapid population growth. Most Indian households have a number of children whose needs are much higher than their earning capacity. This leads to the neglect of girl education and puts more emphasis on the education of the boy child. This becomes as an impediment in the education of the Indian woman.
Though Government is putting efforts to make primary education free, parents are still not ready to send their girls to school. This is connected with the accessibility to schools. In most of the rural areas, lack of easy accessibility to school is another reason for low female literacy. Parents do not prefer to send girls to schools if these are located at a far distance from their homes.
Even if schools are there then lack of adequate school facilities becomes a hurdle. Some schools are really in pathetic infrastructural conditions and do not have even basic facilities. 
Empowering adult women, building their confidence and education levels can have a powerful impact on enrolling more girls in schools. International leadership on girls’ education is currently dispersed across a number of organisations which need to improve the way they work together.
The Unicef is tasked with the lead role for girls’ education. It is also leading the UN Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), which is a global partnership established to raise the profile of girls’ education.  The CARE’s Girls’ Education Programme (GEP) in India has been in operation for over 10 years. Significantly, the successful implementation of residential camps and other innovative education strategies for marginalised girls have enabled the CARE India to shape national educational policy, contributing to adoption of residential bridge courses as part of a national scheme to get more girls into school. The CARE has collaborated in the design and rollout of the Government’s Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) schools, a residential school scheme at the upper primary level for girls from minority and educationally-disadvantaged communities. The GEP seeks to improve opportunities for girls and women through their increased participation in formal and alternative education systems.
The National Programme for Education of Girls for Elementary Level (NPEGEL), launched in September 2003, is an integral but distinct component of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
It provides additional provisions for enhancing the education of underprivileged/disadvantaged girls at the elementary level through more intense community mobilisation, the development of model schools in clusters, early child care and education facilities and provision of need-based incentives like escorts, stationeries, work books and uniforms for girls. All Educationally Backward Blocks have been included under the NPEGEL.
The Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya (KGBV) scheme was launched in 2004 for setting up residential schools at the upper primary level for girls belonging predominantly to the SC, ST, OBC and minority communities. It is implemented in educationally-backward blocks where the female rural literacy is below the national average and the gender gap in literacy is above the national average.
But despite all reasons, women must realise that education is highly needed for them so that they can live a life with pride. In case of any misfortune in life, it is education that would help them and not anything else.
Literacy is one of the key socioeconomic indicators which helps plan a country’s development path. In India, the low literacy level is a result of the prevailing socioeconomic factors. The literacy rate is also lower in rural areas than urban areas, with the rural areas reporting a rate of 68.9 per cent and urban areas 85.0 per cent. The pronounced difference in the rural-urban distribution proves that significant efforts need to be undertaken to improve the literacy status in the rural areas. The Government should really work towards the number, distance and quality of schools in rural as well as urban India.
The country’s future will largely be shaped by today’s girls and tomorrow’s women. An educated Indian woman will yield a positive impact in the society by contributing positively to the economy of both the country and the society. The low level of literacy not only has a negative impact on women’s lives but also on their families’ and on the country’s economic development. India has consolidated its earlier educational reforms with increased resources and stronger policy commitments for achieving elementary education for all children, particularly girls. Besides, community attitudes can also play a critical role in shaping the parameters of girls’ access to education.

NEEDED: MORE PUBLIC TRANSPORT THAN PERSONAL VEHICLES

The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day since 1986. The purpose is to reflect on the state of our towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world that we all have responsibility to shape the future of our cities and towns.
This year, the UN has chosen the day’s theme ‘Urban Mobility’ because mobility and access to goods and services is essential to an efficient functioning of cities and towns as they expand.
Urban mobility and transport is vital for the cities’ functioning. On the other hand, it causes many problems, notably in densely-inhabited areas. As cities grow rapidly, motor vehicle use increases and traffic flow varies just as quickly, creating or worsening severe problems. Road traffic crashes account for 1.2 million deaths per year, and this figure is likely to double by 2030 to become the fifth leading cause of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation. Many cities face urban mobility issues like increased road congestion, wasted time due to traffic delays and increased energy consumption resulting in more carbon emissions.
Roads also contribute to effective mobility, which is crucial for a city’s prosperity. Congested roads and poor facilities for pedestrians are the most pervasive transport problems in developing countries. To reduce traffic by maintaining or increasing the level of mobility for citizens and goods, one challenge is how to use the current infrastructure more efficiently. The purpose of transportation is to gain access to destinations, activities, services and goods. Urban planning and design should focus on how to bring people and places together by creating cities that focus on accessibility, rather than simply increasing the length of urban transport infrastructure or increasing the movement of people or goods (rather than movement of vehicles).
There is a need to create a highly-efficient, flexible, responsive, safe and affordable urban mobility system with the least the amount of traffic and travel while ensuring environmental sustainability. Accessible cities encourage a shift towards more sustainable modes of transportation and draw more and more travellers out of cars and onto trains, buses and sidewalks. This means giving priority to public transport, goods vehicles, pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles. It depends on providing efficient public transport services and reducing the demand for motorised travel.
India is experiencing a steady increase in the numbers of cars and roads. This has led to a constant rise in road deaths. Transport demand in most Indian cities has increased substantially due to increases in population as a result of both natural increase and migration from rural areas and smaller towns. Availability of motorised transport and increase in household income and commercial activities have further added to transport demand. In many cases, demand has outstripped road capacity. A high level of pollution is another undesirable feature of overloaded streets. Statistics indicate that traffic accidents are a primary cause of accidental deaths in Indian cities. The main reasons for this are the prevailing imbalance in modal split, inadequate transport infrastructure, and its suboptimal use. Public transport systems have not been able to keep pace with the rapid increases in demand over the past few decades. Bus services in particular have deteriorated and their relative output has been further reduced as passengers have turned to personalised modes and intermediate public transport.
The pace of urbanisation in India creates an urgent opportunity to provide safe streets. The objective of the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) for India is to ensure safe, affordable, quick, comfortable, reliable and sustainable access for the growing number of city residents to jobs, education and recreation. The policy’s salient features include incorporating urban transportation as an important parameter at the urban planning stage, rather than being a consequential requirement. Apart from this, the NUTP will encourage integrated land use and transport planning in cities so that travel distances are minimised and access to livelihood, education and other social needs is improved.
Over the past decade, there has been a shift in many countries from overcoming congestion to improving mobility. Improving mobility is less about engineering and more about changing behaviour. Improving mobility starts with public participation, consultation, focus group discussions, consensus building and cooperation among different stakeholders.
Instead, Indian cities can follow the example of developing cities in countries like Brazil, Mexico and Philippines which have sustainable transport policies, encouraging high-density, mixed-use development near high-quality mass transit, to improve the quality of life for their residents.
For improving the traffic flow of passenger and freight vehicles, there are currently some projects on the implementation of cooperative intelligent transport systems and services (ITS), which enables exchanging data between vehicles and roadside units. Innovative solutions enabling smart new services based on information and communications technology (ICT) can help cities address these issues by providing   alternatives in combination with other solutions.
Shifting to more efficient and safer modes like walking, cycling and mass transit can create sustainable urban mobility and fuel efficiency. Some cities have taken innovative steps to enhance mobility. A bus rapid transit (BRT) system delivers fast, comfortable and cost-effective urban mobility.
There must be a general recognition that without public transport cities would be even less viable.
There is a need to encourage public transport instead of personal vehicles. This requires both an increase in quantity and quality of public transport and effective use of demand as well as supply-side management measures. People should also be encouraged to use non-motorised transport and investments may be made to make it safer.
Cities are the major contributors to economic growth, and movements in and between cities are crucial for improved quality of life. Road infrastructure improvement measures, like new road alignments, hierarchy of roads, provision of service roads (bypasses, ring roads, bus bays, wide medians, intersection improvements, construction and repair of footpaths and roads, removal of encroachments and good surface drainage) should also be introduced. Besides short- and medium-term measures, there is a need to have long-term ones as well, involving technology upgrades and introduction of high-speed, high-capacity public transport systems particularly along high-density traffic corridors.
Finally, there is a need to empower the urban local bodies to raise finances and coordinate the activities of various agencies involved in the provision of transport infrastructure. Mobility is not just about developing transport infrastructure and services; it is about overcoming social, economic, political and physical barriers to movement such as class, gender relations, poverty, physical disabilities and affordability.
 Urban transport policies cannot succeed without the fullest cooperation of all the city residents. Such cooperation can be best secured if the objective of any initiative is made clearly known to them. It is, therefore, necessary to launch intensive awareness campaigns that educate people on the ill effects of the growing transport problems, especially on their health and wellbeing. There is need for a great variety of bus transport services in Indian cities. The BRT and mass transit systems are an example of shifting people out of their cars into mass transit to improve road conditions, mobility and public health. Even the rich, poor and people with physical disabilities will travel in BRT which will be an important change for sustainable urban mobility.
An urban transport strategy should also encourage the need for developing “green” modes such as bicycles, cycle rickshaws and pedestrians. First of all, the safety concerns of cyclists and pedestrians have to be addressed adequately. For this, there has to be a segregated right-of-way for bicycles and pedestrians.
Apart from improving safety, this will help improve traffic flow, increase the average speed of traffic, and reduce emissions resulting from low speeds and create an image for sustainable urban mobility and transport for all.