How much social is our urban infrastructure?

Social infrastructure includes a combination of basic facilities important for human development. Therefore, the quality of basic civic services provided to urban citizens and their accessibility decides how social is our urban infrastructure.High poverty, low awareness and poor policy measures restrain people to access the existing social infrastructure. Are cities extending a helping hand to the marginalised?

Poverty is still part of urban landscape in India. The nation stands at 19th position on the world poverty ranking and as per estimates of World Poverty Clock, a model created to track poverty in real time, around 46,783,950 people in India live in extreme poverty. These poor people can neither afford to buy land or houses nor can afford to travel long distances every day. Such a situation forces them to live in an unorganised manner near their workplaces like on the margins of drain, or on roadsides, or wherever they find it suitable. These places lack proper waste management system, clean water source, proper system for sanitation, electricity, and education. This shows inability of government policies which ensures access to social infrastructure for all including people who are economically weaker sections.
Investments in human capital can empower a country’s socio-economic development. In a developing country like India, human capital plays a significant role in uplifting people from poverty and helping them to live a productive life. Despite efforts and improvements in Human Development Index (HDI) through the course of time, India stands at 130 rank out of 189 countries as per 2018 rankings. And, on the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2018, India stood at 103 rank out of 119 developing countries. Such figures raise concerns and calls for improvement in people’s lives and that can be done by investing in human capital and thus improving access to
social infrastructure.

Human development and social infrastructure
In India today, much of the poverty-related issues can be addressed by enriching marginalized section with appropriate skills for employment, job opportunities, education, and basic civic services. The country is coming forward as a knowledge-based economy and needs to strengthen social infrastructure by investing in health and education to empower its human capital.
According to a study done by a civil society group on implementation of Right to Education (RTE) Act, revealed that only eight per cent of the schools in India comply with the RTE. This calls for strict policies that need to be designed focusing on operations of educational institutions. Quality of education is of high importance, and it should be maintained and monitored on a regular basis by integrating ICTs with schools across the country. Bio-metric attendance of school staff, independent setting of examination papers, neutral examination and more can be probable measures to improve the current scenario in government schools. Further, outcome measures for the education and skilling activities need to be adopted to ensure improvement in delivery of various schemes and programs. All India Institute of Local Self-Government is assisting cities in creating skilled workforce for municipal operations and also as per the requirements of various industries such as nursing, hotel management, medical technicians, etc.
The health sector in India also faces many challenges in the form of declining role of public delivery of health services, high expenses on health services which questions the affordability of these services by the economically weaker sections and accessibility of these health services.
As per Global Burden of Disease study released in 2018, India ranked 145th among 195 countries in terms of quality and accessibility of healthcare. There has to be concerted efforts from the government to reform and improve the health sector of the country. Some probable measures can be; standardising the rates of diagnostic tests, looking for effective measure to address quality issues, and implementing punitive measures like fines on government hospitals and private health services for false claims through surgeries, medicines, and more. This will surely help the poor living in cities because most of them have little or no access to medical care.

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