Ru­ral-urban dis­par­i­ties

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Shab­bir Ah­mad Email: shab­bi­rah­mad­vet@ya­

NEI­THER the present nor the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments has ever taken the ru­ral urban dis­par­i­ties into con­sid­er­a­tion. All of the suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have spent their devel­op­ment funds in urban ar­eas. Some of these projects are not even di­rected for the pub­lic good but only for the po­lit­i­cal gains. On one hand some of the cities in Pakistan have a dozen fully equipped large hospi­tals while on the other hand even the lo­cal dis­pen­saries in ru­ral ar­eas are not fully func­tional. A cou­ple of cities have metro bus ser­vice worth more than 50 bil­lion ru­pees but in some ru­ral ar­eas peo­ple do not even have ac­cess to clean drink­ing wa­ter.

Of­ten an­i­mals and hu­mans drink from the same ponds and wells. Gov­ern­ment con­cen­trates on urban ar­eas be­cause devel­op­ment projects in these ar­eas are vis­i­ble to ev­ery­one. Me­dia also cover these ar­eas which is a source of pub­lic­ity for the politi­cians. Peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas are of­ten un­e­d­u­cated. They do not know any­thing about what is go­ing on in the coun­try. They have no po­lit­i­cal aware­ness. They vote for the lo­cal land­lords and in­flu­en­tial peo­ple ei­ther due to their pres­sure or due to their an­ces­tral loy­alty to those fam­i­lies.

Pakistan’s first ever Mul­ti­di­men­sional Poverty In­dex (MPI) was launched ear­lier this week in which progress re­gard­ing poverty re­duc­tion across different re­gions of the coun­try was an­a­lyzed. A broader con­cept of poverty was used in the process in which not only in­come and wealth were taken into con­sid­er­a­tion but also the de­pri­va­tions peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence with re­spect to health, ed­u­ca­tion and stan­dard of liv­ing. Ac­cord­ing to MPI there is a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween Poverty level in urban and ru­ral ar­eas. In urban ar­eas it is 9.3% as com­pared to 54.6% in ru­ral ar­eas. These fig­ures should serve as a wakeup call for our lead­er­ship.

Ac­cord­ing to World Bank, 62% of pop­u­la­tion in Pakistan lives in ru­ral ar­eas and more than half of these peo­ple are liv­ing in ex­treme poverty. The afore­men­tioned in­dex has also pointed out the fact that over twothirds of peo­ple in Fata (73%) and Balochis­tan (71%) live in mul­ti­di­men­sional poverty. They only man­age to get one meal per day and can­not af­ford to send their chil­dren to schools. Poverty is di­rectly re­lated to lit­er­acy rate and that is the rea­son that lit­er­acy rate in ru­ral ar­eas is very low as com­pared to urban ar­eas. Low lit­er­acy rate leads to poor law and or­der sit­u­a­tion which is ob­vi­ous in this case. Ru­ral urban dis­par­i­ties give rise to ha­tred and an­i­mosi­ties be­tween different sec­tions of so­ci­ety. For­eign el­e­ments ex­ploit this sit­u­a­tion as it is ideal for those forces to fuel this fire and turn the un­der­priv­i­leged ru­ral youth against the state.

Such a big dif­fer­ence of liv­ing stan­dards be­tween ru­ral and urban ar­eas have led to mi­gra­tion of mil­lions of peo­ple from ru­ral to urban ar­eas which has given rise to con­ges­tion of the ma­jor cities. Ru­ral peo­ple mi­grate to cities in search of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and bet­ter stan­dard of liv­ing but if gov­ern­ment pro­vide them these fa­cil­i­ties in their na­tive ar­eas then they will not mi­grate to cities. It is high time for the gov­ern­ment and con­cerned de­part­ments to pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to the devel­op­ment of ru­ral ar­eas. They need to spend at least the al­ready al­lo­cated amount of money on devel­op­ment projects in these ar­eas. Gov­ern­ment need to pro­vide in­cen­tives for the doc­tors and school teach­ers who are serv­ing in re­mote ar­eas.

There is dire need to over­haul the con­di­tion of ex­ist­ing schools and hospi­tals. New schools and hospi­tals should also be con­structed at the union coun­cil level. As more than two third of ru­ral pop­u­la­tion is de­pen­dent on agri­cul­ture so farm­ers com­mu­nity should be given spe­cial at­ten­tion. Vo­ca­tional train­ing in­sti­tutes should be setup for the youth so that they have a fair chance in the job mar­ket. Set­ting aside their po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests, fed­eral gov­ern­ment should make the lo­cal politi­cians ac­count­able for all the is­sues in their con­stituen­cies. In this way we can hope for some im­prove­ment in cur­rent state of af­fairs. — The writer is a free­lance colum­nist based in Ger­many.

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