The promise of a pucca house has become the common denominator between the manifestos of the BJP and the Congress this election, but that may not be the best indicator to judge deprivation. Official data indicates that over a quarter of families in the most backward districts of the country will take time to ask for a pucca house. Right now, even a radio or a bicycle is still a dream for them.
Census 2011 data reveals that 27.7 per cent of the 1,74,43,423 households in the country’s 60 most backward districts do not even own a radio set or a bicycle.
The picture is even starker in six districts of Dantewada, Gajapati, Kandhamal, Rayagada, Mandla, Dindori and Bijapur, where a majority of households have no physical assets of any sort, according to an analysis by The Indian Express of the 60 districts under the government’s Integrated Action Plan (using data sourced from http://www.myMP.in).
In these districts, most of which are impacted by Naxal and left-wing extremism, more than 50 per cent of families do not own any of these items. In some districts like Dindori in Madhya Pradesh, nearly 68 per cent families fall in this category.
However, in contrast, for some districts such as Purbi Singhbhum and Ramgarh in Jharkhand, nearly 90 per cent of families do own at least one of these products.
Experts believe that these numbers present not only an economic but an infrastructural challenge as well.
“The scenario would not be very different now. Apart from the abject poverty in these districts, many of them would not have access to infrastructure such as electricity and roads or telecom. So purchasing any consumer durables would not serve much purpose for these families,” said Pronab Sen, chairman, National Statistical Commission.
While districts such as Dindori are considered highly unusual, analysts, however, believe that at least 30 per cent of households in each district own at least one of these consumer durables.
Significantly, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, in their election manifestos, have promised to provide houses to all Indians. While the Congress has proposed a ‘right to homestead’, the BJP has come up with the objective of low-cost housing for all over the next eight years.
Parties such as the DMK, in 2006, had also offered free TV sets to voters while the Samajwadi Party had in the 2012 Uttar Pradesh elections announced a free laptop scheme. But that is the