Go-to-Village Mission and Job Plans
Crucial roles of Zilla Parishad and District Council
In an attempt to strengthen the rural sector of small open economy of Manipur, the State Government launched GO-TO-VILLAGE MISSION on 1st May 2018 with a commitment to “Wage War against Poverty” for which “we have to change track under New Economic Thinking with clear cut priorities” (Chief Minister). Because, “Manipur is lowest ranked State in decent work and economic growth” (Planning Dept; Manipur Vision, 2030). The attempt is commendable.
Fully aware of the fact that Information and Administrative gaps have stifled the development-initiative, 8 (eight) core areas have been identified for added attention:
1) To organise “Go-to-Village” camps every Tuesday in each Panchayat/ADC/Wards of IMC/Municipal Council/ Nagar Panchayat to cover all villages; 2) Timely delivery of eligible beneficiaries, redressal of their problem and queries in a citizen-friendly manner and on the spot solution on the same day, 3) Prompt disposal of applications related to Domicile, Income, SC & ST, creamy layer certificates, scholarships for students, Aadhar, Ration to Labour cards, opening of Savings Account in the Banks, MUDRA loans etc, 4) Verification of application related to Individual Beneficiary Schemes and Social Schemes under various Government departments, 5) Quick delivery of benefits of Senior Citizens, Differently Abled Persons and Widows, 6) Enrolment of school dropout/out of school children, 7) Identification of community/public ponds in each village and construction of common bathroom near habitation area and 8) Identification and prioritisation of infrastructure needs at village level. (DIPR, Govt. Of Manipur). The hallmark of this historic initiative is fortnightly, monthly and quarterly monitoring.
Poverty is reflection of malfunctioning of economic system. It is defined as inability to attain minimal standard of living. It is the pronounced deprivation in wellbeing. Deprivation severely restricts the capacity of a person to lead the kind of life of his preference. Poverty, deprivation and backwardness normally go together. Manipur is facing extraordinary problem of Fundamental Backwardness.
Now, it becomes the basic responsibility of NDA-Government in Manipur to tackle the deep-seated problems of poverty, deprivation and backwardness of 40% of population in rural sector. “The current potential of the State in terms of communication, power and energy and high level of unemployment is the reasons for poverty” (GOM: Planning Dept., Manipur Vision, 2030: Leaving NO-ONE Behind).
We have to ascertain what do they do for a living ? Where do they live ? What do they own and purchase ? What do they eat ? What risks they face ? What are their precise economic circumstances ? How do they fit into the society around them ?
Much more difficult is this problem of culture of poverty. The poor have been conditioned by hardships and inabilities. It is not a surprise that their way of life and thinking is marked by absence of aspiration, absence of effort to escape poverty feeling of marginality, feeling of hopelessness, feeling of dependency and feeling of inferiority. Prolonged unemployment creates mental distress and negative manifestation of citizenship. They feel alienated from the mainstream. Only money cannot cure this pandemic. It is institutional disease.
The most important-perhaps, the root cause of poverty is joblessness. Job security largely means income security. Jobs are transformational. Jobs speak of our status, standard of living and attitude towards Government and society. Most significant is that jobs bring together people from different socio-economic backgrounds. Jobs that connect to global market bring home new technology and managerial knowledge. Jobs to the young man provide alternative to violence and help restore peace. In short, jobs have potential to raise standard of living, increase productivity and bring about social cohesion. As such, development can be increased through jobs. To-day jobs are cornerstone of social and economic development. Job security is the best remedy for reduction of poverty.
The cosmetic presence of development administration in the rural sector; not being followed by appropriate plan of follow-up has been inherent weakness of Manipur and defeats the purpose of long-term achievement of asset creation and invites the tantalizing phenomenon of Paralysis of Perspectives. The functions of Government are largely pacificatory and seldom reforming.
Go to the villages in Manipur where one finds dilapidated office-buildings decorated with dirty grasses in a compound of loose stones and bricks; - perhaps, never repaired in their life time. The doors and windows are on the verge of collapse. The roads remain loose, dirty and muddy in this supersonic age. We forget that the fate of the State depends heavily upon villages.
Now, therefore, it could be the right step for NDA Government to prepare a comprehensive job plan to tackle the twin problems of rural poverty and rural unemployment. We need job plan for 5 lakh. Can we think of full employment by 2030 ? As far as practicable it should not be growthless jobs. What we need is the jobs for Area Development and jobs for Product Development. Jobs and development should go together.
We can also think of agro-based industries\food processing industries at suitable locations. The Area Specialisation Index speaks of comparative advantage of food processing industries of pineapple, orange, lemon, chilly and passion fruits, etc. Bamboo based industries could be a perennial source of employment and income. Non-farm sector has greater job component. We can think of Special Economic Zones for production of exportable items.
In order to bring about desired transformation in the rural sector, we have to create Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Area (PURA) in a cluster of 10-15 villages with 3 connectivities;- physical, electronic and knowledge and marketing. PURA will work towards strengthening all economic activities for sustainable development with modern touch.
A time has definitely come for the State Government led by Shri N Biren Singh to vigorously activate Zilla Parishads and District Councils and engage them with the work on job plans of their respective districts. They have to take parenting responsibility as the whole intervention is about development of 2,515 villages in the rural sector. They are supposed to work as master of their districts. The District Planning Committee should now act as District NITI Aayog. Any momentous step for commendable performance needs a Think Tank.
“Go-to-Village” is just a beginning, not an end in itself. As a matter of practical necessity, it needs to be followed by a job-plan possibly to achieve Full Employment by 2030. Vision, Mission and Action normally go together. Mission without action may amount to a river without water.
The writer, was Professor of Economics, MU and currently National Secretary, All India Panchayat Parishad, New Delhi