Bengaluru Rural District or Bangalore Feeder District?

Bengaluru Rural district is an administrative unit but lacks an identity; it is a district only in name. Bangalore district was bifurcated into two districts, Bangalore Urban and Bangalore Rural in 1986. It was further bifurcated in 2007 after Ramanagar district consisting of 4 taluks was carved out, leaving Bangalore Rural with only four taluks: Devanahalli, Doddaballapur, Hosakote and Nelamangala.Renamed as Bengaluru Rural, the most defining feature of the district is the fact that it is situated next to a fast evolving mega city, Bangalore, which determines and influences almost all aspects of life here. The district does not even have a head-quarter of its own; the head-quarter is located in the city of Bangalore. And since it does not have a head-quarter it does not have a district hospital too! People do not have a choice except to come to Bangalore city to access high fee-charging private hospital services. The taluks mainly function as suburbs to the city of Bangalore and residents of one taluk often go to the other via another district, as these are not well-connected by any convenient mode of transport. All this has implications for the human development indicators in the district, as the recently released District Human Development Report clearly indicates.

What is ironical is that the district is hardly rural; the process of urbanization is fast as compared to other districts because of the proximity to Bangalore city. This has both positive and negative implications. The district has experienced high degree of land acquisition and land alienation. A careful reading of land records indicates that dalits have lost substantial area of holdings though the decline in the number of land holdings lost is not as significant. This was especially true for Hosakote and Doddaballapur.Given that the same sized area belonging to ‘others’ category increased by 25 per cent, it appears that the SC lands were bought by the ‘others’ in small patches for real estate purposes.Given the pressures of real estate sector the possibility of the violation of the Karnataka Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prohibition of Transfer of Certain lands) Act, 1978 also cannot be ruled out.

Acquisition of huge areas of agricultural land for the purposes of industrialisation and for building the international airportlargely for those living in and traveling to the Bangalore city has adversely impacted the forest cover and biodiversity of the region. A good number of small farmers have become wage workers on losing the land while those with bigger farms have benefitted by turning to growing vegetables, fruits and flowers. Small farmers are often not well-informed about impending land acquisition and other such plans, and hence become the target of real estate players. Here, there is scope for improving governance by creating more channels for providing information well in advance and having more open dialogues with citizens on impending changes.A study conducted by A. M. Mayurand other scientists from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore in 2013 indicated the decrease in forest cover reduced both quantitatively and qualitatively with high value tree species being lost. The study points out that this also had an adverse effect on the fauna of the region which were dependent on the forest cover; now we have only the kind of fauna that can survive on monoculture plantations like Acacia and Eucalyptus species thereby reducing the rich natural diversity of both flora and fauna.

With a big service sector and a fast expanding manufacturing sector, the district has a higher per capita income as compared to the state has a whole. Agriculture is experiencing a decline in terms of its contribution to the district’s income but continues to employ more than 70 percent of working population. And those who are employed outside agriculture mostly travel to another district, Bangalore Urban, to serve. The district also houses a good number of immigrant population who have come from other districts and even other states to work in Bangalore city.

The proportion of people living below the Poverty Line is low at around 6 per cent in rural areas but the urban poverty levels are relatively higher. Labour productivity and wage rates are going up but the work participation rates of women are only two-thirds that of men. Less than one-fifth of the land holding is owned by women and they are concentrated around low-paid wage work in agriculture in rural areas and household industry in urban areas. Female unemployment rate (17.5 % as against 4.6 % for men) is also very high in urban parts of the district, and so is the gap in wage rates paid to men and women.

The standard of living in terms of ownership of assets and access to services such as water and sanitation is better than many other districts in Karnataka. Backed by an enthusiastic district administration, a large number of panchayats have taken the total sanitation campaign seriously and made good progress in this respect. The district has also achieved improvement in terms of quality of drinking water; the level of contamination has reduced. A good number of panchayats have started solid waste management initiatives. On the downside is the fact that dalit households’ access to water and sanitations services is still comparatively much lower. Female headed households also have relatively less access to water, latrine, electricity and clean fuel as compared to others.

One of the indicators of urban governance is the capacity to generate revenue, and three out of five Municipal bodies in the district showhigh property tax efficiency. However, the district performs badly when it comes to spending money for SC and ST related schemes: 42 per cent of the SC and ST funds remained unspent in 2011-12 taking all Urban Local Bodies together in the district.

The district presents an encouraging trend for developments in literacy and elementary education. Literacy rates have improved and the absolute number of illiterates has gone down between 2001 and 2011. The gross and net enrolment ratios at elementary level are high and do not show any gender disparity. However, the issues of quality still prevail. At the secondary school level, despite improvement, the enrolment ratios are still not very high though no gender disparity is visible. Pass percentages have improved for grade 10th level. Gender disparity suddenly emerges and is very much visible at higher level, especially in polytechnics and engineering colleges. An important concern is the fast spread of fee-charging private institutions at secondary and tertiary levels with potential for somewhat negative impact on participation of girls,and both boys and girls from poorer households. Moreover, these may be serving largely those coming from elsewhere rather than residents of the districts.

In the context of health, Bangalore Rural presents an inconsistent picture: a high level of immunisation and relatively low Infant Mortality Rate coexisting with high Maternal Mortality Rateand high increase in both communicable and non-communicable diseases are some of the examples. This is despite a high level of institutional deliveries andgood coverage of public health facilities and personnel, raising questions about the quality of services associated with institutional delivery and other health services. Also, the poor coverage of dalit households by such services is a cause of concern. Public expenditure on both education and health hasdeclined in real terms in recent past, which is indeed not a good sign. To borrow Amartya Sen’s terminology, the district may be promoting ‘richness of economy’ but that may not necessarily be conducive to promoting human development in terms of ‘richness of human life’. The elevated road transporting people to and from Devanhalli international airport signifies the plight of the people from this feeder district – mere onlookers and aspirants to a development that remains largely exclusive and distant.

Jyotsna Jha

Director, CBPS

This was published in Prajavani on 23 September 2015. The link to the Prajavani article is:
http://goo.gl/BT1S5B

[Disclaimer: Views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CBPS]

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