Monday, May 14, 2007

Five Point Program For Pro-poor Growth

1 National Road Grid
Roads are both literally and figuratively the pathways to the growth of agriculture, services and industry. Connect every village (habitation), town and city with all-weather, paved/metaled roads of specified standard in five (10) years. Road connectivity is particularly important in the poorer States and regions, where growth has not picked up. The existence and quality of the roads should be monitorable by a web enabled information system.
Remove controls and restrictions on trade and transport at the State and local level. Plan for the provision of land on the sides of district roads and block road junctions so that economic activity, such as trade, hotels, restaurants and repair facilities can spring up. Plan National and State highways keeping in mind that underpasses and/or parallel local roads may have to be built in many places as economic activity spring up on the sides.

2 Let 1000s of Towns Bloom
For every existing town, plan and install a modern drainage, sewerage and water supply system with water works, sewage treatment plants and garbage disposal sites. The impact in terms of economic activity, health and nutrition can be enormous. Help develop consultancy firms that can Plan and organize such systems and organizations that can compete with each other to build these systems across the country. Once 100% coverage of towns is attained, extend the planning effort to semi-urban areas and villages in co-operation with Panchayti Raj institutions and NGOs.
Allow and encourage private entrepreneurs to build thousands of new towns/townships in semi-urban, semi-rural areas. Connect these to the nearest highway and water-supply mains. Scrap expropriatory sections of the Rent control act(s) and corresponding rules and procedures, so that the private sector can build and provide rental accommodation for the lower middle class and the poor.

3 Water Management
India is a relatively water-scarce country and Global environmental changes threaten to make this worse. Yet our limited water resources are either not fully utilized or are misused (depleting ground water).
There is an urgent need to improve the comprehensiveness and quality of water planning and management at every level (Center, State, district, town, panchayat, smallest farmer). Water harvesting, water shed development, recharge of water bodies and aquifers, must be planned and implemented in every nook and corner of the country. Education and demonstration of models with the active participation of NGOs can play an important role. Dams and canals have a place in cutting down the flow of water into the sea, recharging aquifers and supplying dry areas and parched towns. Tube wells in depleting aquifers must be discouraged through proper pricing of electricity and perhaps even water.
4 Universal Primary Education and Skill development
Universal Primary education is too readily identified with universal enrolment and low drop-out rates, rather than the ability to count, read, write and explain at the primary completion level. Before declaring victory and moving on to target universal secondary education we must ensure that every young person (25 or below say) meets the global standard of Primary education. Government must set up testing, standards and certification systems that can determine if these standards have been met.
The only way to ensure this is to empower every youth with a debit card, which allows him/her to purchase primary education from any school including any government school. The set of authorized uses of the debit card will be fully funded by the government. The funding of the government school and part of the administrators/teachers’ pay must be linked to the total debit card receipts (monthly fees paid through the debit card).
Every youth, rural or urban, after completing primary education must also have access to the six thousand or so globally identified skills. This requires a massive joint effort by government, NGOs and private skill providers. Government must provide funding for the poor while all possible private and foreign expertise and experience is attracted to India to provide training in all these skills in the next five years.

5 100% Telecom Connectivity
The USO fund must be used to ensure that the mobile footprint covers 99% of India in the next five years. Open access to physical infrastructure and land lines (including telegraph and electricity wires) and fibre optic networks must be ensured in rural areas for attaining universal access to internet in the next 10 years.

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