Low literacy, poor progress impede Dispur

Low literacy and poor development indicators in Assam's tea gardens and sars (riverine areas) have been identified as the two major challenges in achieving the state's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

By SUMIR KARMAKAR in Guwahati
  • Published 15.12.16
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Guwahati, Dec. 14: Low literacy and poor development indicators in Assam's tea gardens and sars (riverine areas) have been identified as the two major challenges in achieving the state's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

"Be it maternal mortality, infant mortality or malnutrition, the development indicators in our tea gardens and sars are very disturbing. Therefore, we have decided to specifically focus on these two areas while achieving our SDGs. We have to identify the pockets of poverty, the problems in healthcare, education and connectivity, among others, and address them with specific focus," chief secretary V.K. Pipersenia said today at the regional consultation on SDGs for human settlements in the Himalayan region, which began here today.

"On Friday, we had a meeting with tea garden managements and MLAs representing the constituencies of tea gardens where it was decided to work out action plans to improve the basic amenities in tea gardens," he said.

The state government had released its SDGs 2030 in July and tied up with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for achieving the targets. A centre for SDGs has been set up here to co-ordinate with all the stakeholders and to bring in innovation in addressing the problems confronting the state and its people.

Nearly 20 per cent of the state's population (3.12 crore) lives in tea gardens where the literacy rate is low and malnutrition, infant mortality rate (IMR) and maternal mortality ratio (MMR) are high because of improper healthcare and education facilities. Problems such as child labour and trafficking are rampant in the tea gardens and Dispur has faced much flak over its alleged failure to address the problems.

Similar problems prevail in over 2,300 sars, inhabited by more than 25 lakh people. According to a state government survey, nearly 70 per cent people in the sars are illiterate.

According to the state government officials, sars and tea gardens contribute maximum to the state's poor show in reducing IMR and MMR, the two major development indicators. A survey in 2013 had found Assam's MMR (per lakh live births) to be 328 and IMR (per 1,000 births) to be 54. The SDGs aim to reduce MMR to less than 70 and IMR to 12 by 2030. It also aims to end the epidemic of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Pipersenia said Dispur has asked its departments to prepare SDG road maps with the help of the SDG centre to meet the daunting task of achieving the goals. On the strategies being adopted to achieve the goals, he said mobile phones and Internet would be vigorously used to improve service delivery to the people.

"We will take Internet to all households to improve our public service delivery system and to empower people," he said.

The first day of the consultation discussed issues concerning human settlements and the challenges in sustainable development in the Himalayan region, including the Northeast.

Representatives from NITI Aayog, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, National Institute of Rural Development, Indian Institute of Bank Management and government officials from across the Northeast are attending the conference.

SDGs are a universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member nations have committed to use to frame both domestic and international development policies over the next 15 years.