Development needs to be made equitable

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Ritika Kumari
Ritika Kumari
Ritika Kumari is presently pursuing her Master's in Political Science and International Relations from Delhi University. She is a keen observer of foreign policy with a penchant for research. *Views are personal.

Hauz Khas has a glittering nightlife surrounded by restaurants, bars, etc. Only a few decades ago, it was a sleepy Hamlet surrounded by greenery with a peaceful environment. But now Hauz Khas is known for the quality of development like rapid urbanization, economic activities, developed tourist places, job opportunities among other development quantifiers. But it has only one side of the development, there are many other realities behind this glitter.

Poor residents of this urban village ended up in poverty. Developers and builders made a profit out of their lands and the area has lost the charm of greenery. The area also has slums like ‘Ravidas Camp’ which provide services to nearby enormous buildings. The brutal and sensationalized ‘Nirbhaya Gang rape’ took place in this area. One of the accused was a juvenile. This juvenile was a migrant, deprived of basic needs such as education, health, nutrition, ethical value, moral knowledge, among other aspects linked to personal development. This area has top institutions like IIT, AIIMS, but, we deprive one section of basic facilities. So, the question of development leaves us both baffled and troubled.

While the change in the Hauz Khas area was desirable for many people but for other sections, it was undesirable and inequitable. This is the situation that holds true across every city in the country and even the world as well.

So, what is the real meaning of development? Is it only confined to the economic aspect? The answer is no! There is a need for inclusive development. It should be social, economic, political including the aspects of deprivation that are a challenge for many, like affordability and accessibility of quality education, health care, and employment. Clean drinking water, sanitation, housing facility with electricity, and clean cooking fuel are necessary. There is less awareness about their political rights. So, what are the proper models of development before us? What are examples from which we can learn?

Common examples of development in the world come from Western European countries like the UK, France, Germany, Canada, etc. These countries developed over a long course of time. It averaged around 2%-4% growth over several centuries. But at the back end there was also a specter of imperialism and limited democracy i.e., lacked political development.

The four Asian tigers like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong developed over a shorter time. Their average growth was around 7% but again, these were not fully democratic countries during the time. This is pointed out by the economic surveys too. While countries comparable to India, like China, have grown under a different political system. India has to manage its need for development along with democracy. So, we can say that the perspective on development change from region to region.

Till the middle half of the 20th century, several countries were under colonial rule including India but after the 2nd world war, there was a decline of imperialism. But the sudden end of imperial power left the former territories in miseries. Inequitable and unsustainable development were prevalent, which is still continuing in many countries, including India. This phenomenon often led to the growth of Marxist ideology. It is often said that underdevelopment is not the cause of revolt, relative underdevelopment is the cause. Inequitable development has expressed itself as ideology like Marxism, fascism, regionalism, race, etc.

But with India, this led to the growth of caste, gender, religion, and regionalism-based politics. Post-Independence, India was a very poor country and categorized as an underdeveloped country. We did not have enough food to feed the population, lacked education, unable to provide basic requirements to the citizens. Even after 74 years of independence, still, there are a lot of issues related to development that exists in our country. Some areas of our country, like Western and Southern India, are more developed as compared to the Eastern or northeast region. For example, in many reports published by the government, Southern states came on top while Northern states were somewhere at the bottom. Within states also there is a lot of variation. For example, the Marathwada region in Maharashtra feels deprived compared to Mumbai. 

Scheduled castes are traditionally much more deprived compared to the other castes. They have to face issues while availing of facilities like healthcare, education, rations, etc. Despite several initiatives by the government, there is still deprivation. Similarly, the tribals have to suffer adverse consequences of development. Over, 2/3rd of those displaced are tribal. The compensation and rehabilitation scheme are often inadequate. Tribal regions like Jharkhand Chhattisgarh, and Odisha are rich in minerals. But yet development is not happening. People from these states are still migrating to other regions to earn a livelihood. These people face several issues because of regionalism in the other states.

In terms of religion, there is unequal economic growth. Parsis are richer than Muslims. The Islamic community is mostly very poor in all the religions of India. This often led to issues of riots because of the politicization of inequality.

The development discourse will be incomplete without discussing historical gender inequality. We have historically denied women equal access to development opportunities. This has resulted in the wastage of the potential of half of humankind. Even in the present workforce, the representation of women in India is less than a quarter. Women face several issues like being unable to access higher education, sanitation mainly in rural areas, gender stereotype, pink collarization of jobs, presence of a glass ceiling for women. 

We are living in digital India where there is a huge rural-urban digital divide. In this pandemic, many students of rural areas could not access online classes. We are digitizing our country but there is a long way to go to make it inclusive for all. 10% of the population holds about 3/4th of wealth. This data clearly shows how much inequitable development is present in our society.

The latest version of development is related to the environment. At some places in rural India, women still walk travel long distances to collect water for drinking, washing clothes, etc. While in urban areas, there is a door-to-door water supply. 

So, the development needs to be made fair. A fair development leads to a highly sustainable and high economic growth society. But, we cannot deny development has not happened in society. Development has provided tremendous benefits and luxury for humankind. Development in science and technology has led us to know the mystery of the universe.

We have an international space station, space telescope, and satellites orbiting the earth. The World has become a global village with the help of the internet. The development of a faster mode of communication also helped a lot to connect the people. These developments led to a change in medical sciences like genome sequencing, cancer treatment, heart transplantation, etc. Now we can better tackle pandemics such as COVID-19. The birth control mechanism has empowered women. Companies such as Facebook are also coming up with schemes that will help women to freeze their eggs for the future. These will be helpful as careers are not likely to get affected mid-way. Development has brought solutions almost across a whole range of lifestyles. Delhi is a highly polluted city, but because of the development of fog machines and air purifiers, people can inhale the very less polluted air.

The development made it possible to revolutionize Indian agriculture during the 1960s. It has helped India to become a net food grains exporter. People today are producing and consuming much more than ever. There are luxuries like faster travel, air conditioning, washing machines, etc. This all has led to the growth in institutional capacity as well.

Government and institutions can deliver much more today. Water supply, electricity, etc. can be supplied to the poorest households. The health and educational infrastructure can be ramped up to meet the needs. But there is a deep-rooted inequality in India. So, we need some extra steps.

Basic needs like education, health, and nutrition should be accessible to all. Providing equal opportunity to all including the LGBT and physically disabled women could help. Mary Kom (women), Tim Cook (Apple CEO, homosexual), Stephen Hawking (disabled), all did extremely well in society. So, talent does not run in genes. Nature always spreads talent. A proper and equitable environment for all could change history.

We have a concept of universal health care and education. This helps in providing an equitable facility of health and education. And may help in honing and finding talent from far-off places. Our constitution also emphasizes equitable development as the directive principle of State policy.

Only equitable and sustainable development is the road to human and global peace. We can develop an urban center where everyone gets their fair price, slums do not exist, and crime should be rare. Surely, we can create such Hauz Khas village desirable to all. 



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