By Rakhee Suryaprakash
Edited by Namitha Sadanand, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Sabke Sath Sabka Vikas.
– Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India
The world over, governments and international institutions are buckling up to chalk up achievements in the last 500 days of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark, as well as many celebrity ambassadors of the UN machineries have been calling for concerted action to make the last lap of the MDGs the time for the most significant actions, innovations, and results. With more than a billion people (125 crores, to quote the Indian PM) achieving the MDGs in India would be a significant achievement in itself.
Home to most of the world’s sick, hungry, and poor, India is perhaps most in need of being firmly focussed on the MDGs. In their addresses to the nation on Independence Day, both the President and Prime Minister highlighted the needs for the elimination of poverty and for inclusive development.
Narendra Modi’s call to battle the lack of hygiene resulted in many industrial titans (like Tata Consultancy Services and the Birla and Mittal groups) and NGOs coming forth with funds and plans of action to establish toilets in districts across the nation. Sulabh International went a step further and actually inaugurated toilets in Badaun – the location of the horrific rape of the youngsters who had to venture into the fields at night to relieve themselves. But the true heroines, are the six brides of Uttar Pradesh who picked the right time to revolt against the inadequacies of their marital homes. The #ToiletHeroines have won the hearts of many with their bold decision to walk out protesting the lack of toilets. After generations of oppression, the young women of the nation are finally coming out fighting for their basic rights.
The culture of respecting hygiene needs to take root in our national psyche, for only in the discipline of hygiene lies the path to achieve the MDGs. Communicable diseases, maternal and child mortality are all rooted in the lack of hygiene; only with increasing importance given to cleanliness and hygiene can the empowerment of women and progress towards a sustainable environment move forward. With BioLoos you may even have a community level enterprise and power emerging out of a sanitation programme, thus taking several vital steps in the fight against poverty.
To quote the President’s Independence Day message,
“Poverty is not a mere statistic. Poverty has a face . . . The poor cannot, and will not, wait for yet another generation to see the very essentials of life – food, shelter, education and employment – being denied to them. The benefits from economic development must percolate down to the poorest of the poor.”
When rendered senseless and mindless by hunger and desperation, a person can neither plan a prosperous future nor see the obvious solutions to what seem immovable, back-breaking obstacles. The obvious first step out of poverty is to ensure sustainable living by eliminating their hunger and desperation and instituting livelihood programmes that will help uncloud their innovative mind and help them find solutions not just to one person’s problems, but possibly those of starving hordes. The Model Village scheme and the financial empowerment of the poor are definite steps in the right direction. Even a small and temporary relief from burdens could ignite innovative ideas that could help achieve the MDGs and eradicate poverty.
According to WWF research, “25% of food producers whose practices are least sustainable produce only 10% of the product. But they cause about 50% of the environmental impacts.” Thus, sharing technical and financial knowledge with our farmers would not only help them get out of the cycle of poverty but the use of sustainable practices will also help our environment. Co-ordinated action, community support, direct access to consumers, and knowledge sharing could be the solutions to most of India’s rural problems. Thus, the Prime Minister’s dream of Digital India should encompass smart villages and communities. Interconnectedness of the isolated rural population could enable their empowerment and enrichment.
President Pranab Mukherjee’s Independence Day message ended with a call to action in the fight against poverty, “A nation is very young at 68. India has the will, energy, intellect, values and unity to claim the 21st century. The vision to win the battle of freedom from poverty is set; the journey will seem formidable only to those without conviction. As an old saying goes, ‘Sidhir Bhavati Karmaja,’ which means, ‘Success is born of action.’ Now is the time for action!”Raakhee has a Master’s degree in International Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry but is passionate about writing and researching ideas that change the world for the better. She is in the process of launching a social enterprise SUNSHINE MILLENNIUM that aims to help India’s off-grid rural areas achieve the Millennium Development Goals by setting up of solar-powered millennium development centres. Her work has been widely published both in print and online media.