Improvement in access to bare necessities but disparities continue: Economic Survey

States such as Kerala, Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat had the highest access to the bare necessities while it was the lowest in Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Tripura.

Disparities continue to exist despite improvements in people’s access to ‘the bare necessities’ across India in 2018 from 2012, and appropriate strategy needs to be designed for the country to achieve SDG goals by 2030, according to the Economic Survey 2020-21.

Building on previous year’s survey that examined access to food through the idea of “Thalinomics: The Economics of a Plate of Food in India”, this year it took a step further to study access to ‘the bare necessities’ — housing, water, sanitation, electricity and clean cooking fuel.

It constructed a Bare Necessities Index (BNI) at rural, urban and all India level by summarising 26 indicators on five dimensions of access to water, sanitation, housing, micro-environment, and other facilities.

States such as Kerala, Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat had the highest access to the bare necessities while it was the lowest in Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Tripura.

“The improvements are widespread…,” said the survey tabled in Parliament by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday.

However, while improvements are evident, the disparities in access to bare necessities continue to exist between rural-urban, among income groups and also across states, it said.

“Government schemes, such as the Jal Jeevan Mission, SBM-G, PMAY-G, may design appropriate strategy to address these gaps to enable India achieve the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) goals of reducing poverty, improving access to drinking water, sanitation and housing by 2030,” the survey added.

Suggesting strategies on how to improve the access, the pre-budget survey said, “There should be effective targeting of the needier population, be they in urban or rural areas or across states.” As civic amenities in urban areas are also provided by the local self-governments, there must be effective convergence in scheme implementation at the Centre-State and local levels.

“For this purpose, a BNI-based on large annual household survey data can be constructed using suitable indicators and methodology at district level for all/targeted districts to assess the progress on access to bare necessities,” it said.

On the positive side, the survey found that inter-state disparities in the access to the bare necessities have declined in 2018 when compared to 2012 across rural and urban areas as the states where the access level was low in 2012 have gained relatively more between 2012 and 2018.

The states showing improvement on the access to bare necessities — where red in 2012 became yellow or green in 2018 or where yellow in 2012 became green in 2018, — are Haryana, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Kerala, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and North East states except for Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya.

In rural India, the highest access to bare necessities in 2018 is recorded in Punjab, Kerala, Sikkim, Goa and Delhi, while the lowest in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, Manipur and Tripura.

The states showing improvement in their access to bare necessities are J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Goa, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh.

In urban India, the survey said no state is showing the lowest level of BNI in 2018, and the states showing improvement over 2012 include Uttarakhand, J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.

While the improvement is significantly higher in the rural areas when compared to the urban areas, variation in the access across states and between rural and urban remained large.

The access has also improved disproportionately more for the poorest households when compared to the richest households across rural and urban areas, the survey found.

“The improvement in equity is particularly noteworthy because while the rich can seek private alternatives, lobby for better services, or if need be, move to areas where public goods are better provided for, the poor rarely have such choices,” it said.

The survey used data from the National Family Health Surveys, to correlate the BNI in 2012 and 2018 with infant mortality rate and under-5 mortality rate in 2015-16 and 2019-20 respectively and found that the improved access led to improvements in health indicators.

“Similarly, we also find that improved access to ‘the bare necessities’ correlates with future improvements in education indicators,” it said.

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