The Union Budget 2022 has provided a fillip to the government’s agenda of inclusive development. The Prime Minster has described the budget as being “people friendly and growth oriented’. Keeping the aspirations of the common man in mind, the budget aims to bring inclusivity right to the grassroot levels and aspirers to reach out to every Indian citizen in the remotest of areas. The Finance Minister, through the budget has looked to address issues of housing, access to clean drinking water, connectivity through roads in hilly areas including regions like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and North East among many other such schemes. This article will throw particular focus on three infrastructure related programmes- the Aspirational Block Programme, Parvatmala National Ropeways Development Programme and Vibrant Villages Programme. These together will play a crucial role in ensuring last mille connectivity and “Sabka Vikaas”. The aim is to support rural communities in regions that are underserved by virtue of their geography and the resulting lack of connectivity and provide them with opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency and maximise their potential.
Building on the success of the Aspirational Districts Programme, which focused on the provision of education, health, water, sanitation and road connectivity for vulnerable groups, the government through the Union Budget 2022-23 has announced its intention to take this a notch forward. State governments will now work towards an “Aspirational Block Programme” for the development of lagging blocks of the aspirational districts.
In a bid to ensure contribution of India’s border villages in India’s growth story the government has expressed its desire to launch a ‘Vibrant Villages Programme’. Under the Vibrant Villages Programme, infrastructure development and improved connectivity could help to halt and possibly reverse the trend of out-migration from border areas on the Indian side. Construction of village infrastructure, housing, tourism centres, road connectivity, decentralised renewable energy, direct to house access for Doordarshan and educational channels and support for livelihood generation will all be a part of the activities undertaken to boost human capital in these regions. To enhance the skill levels of children in these villages beyond basic education, training related to NCC activities would also be undertaken. In his address on 02 Feb 2022 the Prime Minister also talked about the opportunity to develop these villages as tourist hubs through the establishment of a “vibrant tourist network”. This would not only be beneficial in boosting the economies of these villages but would also lead to the generation of a varied employment opportunities for the youth in these areas.
In line with this approach, a very curial project that looks at improving last mile connectivity is the newly introduced ‘Parvatmala: National Ropeways Development Programme’. This programme aims to take up the twin challenge of ecological sustainability and remote area connectivity. The programme will be taken up as an ecologically sustainable alternative to conventional roads on a PPP mode. The goal is to improve commuter connectivity and convenience while also encouraging tourism in regions of Jammu and Kashmir, Leh and the North East. This might also apply to congested urban areas where a traditional mass transit system would be impractical. In addition to giving a much needed boost to tourism in these regions, enhanced connectivity will also make it easier for defence personal to travel through these channels and help boost border security.
Finally, in order to ensure holistic development for the North East, The North-Eastern Council will also launch a new programme called the ‘Prime Minister's Development Initiative for the NorthEast’, or ‘PM-DevINE’. On the lines of the PM GatiShakti model, it would fund infrastructural and social development initiatives based on the regions requirements.
All the above discussed initiatives together will go a long way in increasing connectivity and ushering in greater inclusiveness of the remotest regions of India. When implemented successfully, these initiatives can open up several avenues for India’s remote villages and towns which have enormous untapped potential. Thus inclusive development will become a reality for every Indian!