Finally, focus on plight of rural poor

THE government of Manipur’s plan for reaching out to the rural folks in the valley districts under the catchy ‘Go to the Village’ slogan, which is set for kick-off from the first week of May, is yet another testimony about the government’s efforts towards bringing uniform development in the state. While the vision is primarily aimed at improving the overall socio-economic condition of the rural populace, such a move might also help the government to measure existing infrastructure deficits at the village level and get a first-hand account of the suffering of the rural folks. Similar to the Central government leaders acknowledging that the country cannot be called a progressive nation unless the north-eastern states join or taste the fruits of development, chief minister N Biren’s objective to transform Manipur into a model state of development cannot be realised without ensuring basic needs of the rural masses. Manipur is among the four NE states that gets equal share from the collective pool of 12 per cent from the NEC budget as well as various other centrally-sponsored projects. As this fund share is released depending on timely submission of detailed project report and utilisation certificates, emphasis should be on giving firm instructions to the officials involved so that the rural population are not made to suffer due to official callousness. It is often said that if urban development is not placed squarely alongside rural priorities then such policy errors will have adverse impact on the development of any state. It is equally important that along with urgency for investment in rural infrastructure, officials should be encouraged for judicious and expeditious execution of developmental projects in rural areas.
Among others, the healthcare service remains one of the most neglected sectors. Not many will disagree that the government spends comparatively small amounts on improvement of healthcare facilities in the remote rural pockets as the focus primarily remains in ensuring smooth operation of hospitals located in densely populated urban and sub-urban areas. This forces people in rural areas to go to traditional healers and quacks or become almost completely dependent on public health services available at primary health centres, community health centres and district hospitals, which are fraught with inefficiencies because of absenteeism, infrastructure inadequacies and manpower shortages. Fortunately, due to their simple lifestyle and food habits not many rural families need to spend heavily on hospital bills. Absence of reliable healthcare centres in the rural areas could also be comprehended from a survey report of Chrome Data Analytics & Media; which is informed to be a primary research and data analytics company, that though the incidence of diseases in rural area is high, people do not spend much on treatment till the point of hospitalisation. The reason for this, according to the survey, is that healthcare services are non-existent in almost all rural areas of India. In Manipur’s context, apart from pathetic healthcare facilities, dilapidated condition of rural roads and inaccessibility to tap water remain the hallmark of villages in the plains. Thus, launch of ‘Go to the Village’ mission will not only enable the state authorities to measure multiple shortcomings in the valley districts’ rural pockets but also hopefully clear misperceptions that funds meant for development of the hill districts are being hijacked to spruce up the valley.

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