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.