An Assessment of Infrastructural Facilities in the Dryland Areas of West Bengal

An Assessment of Infrastructural Facilities in the Dryland Areas of West Bengal

Nilendu Chatterjee (Rabindra Bharati University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2364-2.ch012
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The present chapter focuses on the importance of infrastructure in the dryland areas of West Bengal, India, covering four districts, namely, Purulia, Bankura, West Midnapore and Birbhum. The importance and necessity of having good infrastructure is a well-known phenomenon but it carries a special significance for the drylands, where good infrastructure can open various avenues of earning, communication, better life standard as well as management and nourishment of all types of natural resources in these areas. Sustainable use of natural resources occur utmost importance because it is the only source of livelihood for the people of these areas. Through this study, we have tried to make an assessment of the existing infrastructure scenarios in these four districts for the period 2003-04 to 2012-13. Doing the SWOT analysis amongst the districts, the results show that West Midnapur and Bankura are in a better position than Purulia and Birbhum, although, Birbhum is in a good position in few indicators.
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Infrastructure may be defined as the basic equipments and structures that are needed for a country or region for its upliftment. So, the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society or enterprise may be termed as infrastructure. It includes transport facilities like roads, bridges, etc; water supply facilities, health facilities, education facilities and various other sectors needed for smooth running of life. The importance of infrastructure in economic development and welfare has been recognized and talked about over the last four decades. After the Second World War, especially, after the formation and independence of many poor third world countries, it was thought and modeled that the government should invest in economies for creating a conducive environment for private sector to grow. Gradually, this view has been represented as – infrastructure and its development is the sole responsibility of the government, especially in the third world nations. Later, it has been realized that infrastructure needs to be divided into two parts- public works (mainly construction of infrastructure) and public service delivery (provision of utilities such as electricity and water).

In the era of inflation, public sector loss and global financial crisis, governments have been finding it tough to continue invest in infrastructure, especially in third world economies where such investments do not generate any revenue for the governments. This has resulted in cancellation of many projects. Governments, now-a-days are trying to change the mode of investment in infrastructure by involving private sector in it through public- private- partnership (PPP) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) models. However, these types of models have also fallen short of meeting the challenge. In spite of welcoming private entities in this field, broadly speaking, infrastructure development has remained as a public sector duty in several nations, including India, where after the initiation of market economy in 1991, social sector development has become one of the primary as well as basic areas for the government to focus.

If we look at drylands, we will see that the drylands make up over 40% of the earth’s surface; around 2.3 billion people live in the drylands. Over one billion people from the developing world depend on the drylands’ natural resources for their livelihoods; the majority of whom are at constant risk of food insecurity and poverty. The Drylands are home to the worlds poorest and most marginalized people, they are plagued with recurrent droughts and aridity, insufficient infrastructure and limited investment, the lowest level of renewable water supply and the highest population growth. Without the development of people residing in drylands, it is virtually impossible to achieve any development goals by any government. Development of infrastructure is the primary task for development of drylands. Poverty is the greatest threat of drylands. Investment in drylands has occurred in high potential areas. Along with poverty, drylands are cursed with multifarious infrastructure shortages such as lack of water, lack of irrigation, land degradation, food crisis, lack of roads, lack of markets, and lack of access to information and communication technologies. So, in short, people in the drylands have been living almost being separated from the rest of the world, or even from the nearby developed regions.

As a developing country, India is also faced with infrastructure issues which can be categorized into broad headings of quantity, quality, efficiency, delivery and financing. Inter-and intra-regional inequalities exist in access to even basic infrastructure facilities like water supply, electricity, road, housing, etc.

Most of the drought-prone areas are found in arid, semi-arid, and sub-humid regions of the country, which experience less than average annual rainfall. Broadly, the drought-affected areas in India can be divided into two tracts. The first tract comprising the desert and the semi-arid regions covers an area of 0.6 million sq. km. It is rectangle shaped area whose one side extends from Ahmedabad to Kanpur and the other from Kanpur to Jullundur. In this region, rainfall is less than 750mm and at some places it is even less than 400 mm. The second tract comprises the regions east of the Western Ghats up to a distance of about 300 km from coast. This area is known as the “rain shadow area” of the Western Ghats, rainfall in this region is less than 750mm and is highly erratic. This region is thickly populated and periodic droughts cause considerable suffering and distress.

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