Has Media aided the Rural Development in Pakistan?
By Arfa Zahid
Majority of Pakistan’s population is concentrated in rural areas (60%) which are still deprived of basic amenities due to ill planning of policy makers at governmental level. Rural areas of our country mainly consist of farmers with small lands holding and laborer’s. Approximately 30-35% of village lives below poverty level the basic amenities and social services are not adequate. Pakistan’s economy is based on the agriculture sector directly linked to rural areas. Major problems of rural areas are health facilities, low literacy rate, population explosion, undernutrition, poor roads infrastructure, low yield of farmers, social injustice and unemployment. Future of Pakistan, especially security, is linked to the village. In the past many programs have been conceived by the governments for the uplift of the rural sector but these programs failed to create desired results due to absence of a political committee. Nowadays, the role of mass media is very important to uplift the rural society in every field. A vibrant media can motivate and guide the downtrodden people of rural areas towards the path of progress. Low literacy rate, low per capita income, social injustice, and inequality, non-availability of health facilities, poor infrastructure are the major areas which need attention to bring change. Government and non-government organizations, social activists and philanthropists are using media platforms for the transmission of development programs to the people of rural areas. Despite all odds, the majority of the rural population is connected to some media (TV cable, internet, newspaper, magazines) and they strongly believe that media has brought awareness and can help further to raise voice for basic rights which will lead towards an upgradation of social structures. Journalists can play a key role by presenting tangible solutions to the pressing problems being faced by the people of remote areas. Journalism by raising the voices, looking at grey areas and suggesting ways by which rural society can be helped. Economy of the rural areas is agriculture based and the media can be a lynchpin in introducing the modern techniques to increase the yield of farmers which will ultimately improve the income and the living standards. Journalists should take pain and provide coverage of problems and events of rural areas. This way, the government should know the sufferings of the rural dwellers for making policy to reduce the level of illiteracy, poverty, missing health facilities, social injustice, eradication of inequality through media will reverse the rural to urban migration trends in Pakistan. The aim of this study paper is to analyze the role of media in the upgradation of the rural sector of Pakistan in all the fields.
Improving Literacy Rate:
Government and nongovernment organizations are making sincere efforts to reach out to remote and rural areas by using all available media resources for the improvement of literacy rate and development of human resources.
During the COVID-19 environment Pakistan Federal Ministry of Education launched an education TV initiative called TeleSchool at country level and Government of Punjab launched its own local initiative called Taleem Ghar at regional level. Both of these programs Teleschool (for Grades 1-12) and Taleem Ghar (for Grades 1-10) began to broadcast their educational programmes on television across Pakistan and the province of Punjab in April 2020. Government was fully aware that people in remote and rural areas do not have internet services and costly gadgets such as laptops and smartphones for the education purpose, therefore television was used as the most successful medium for imparting the education to the students to avoid loss during COVID-19 environment. This arrangement proved very fruitful and students of rural areas were very satisfied with the government’s effort.
Government has also launched vocational training programs to enhance the skills of the women of rural areas by using the radio. Training programs such as “Ao Parhay” launched in 2003 and “Selai Ghar” launched in 2000 were really successful for social and economic development. Aim of these programs is to impart skill to the women belonging to the conservative societies of Balochistan, Sindh and KPk where women’s are not allowed to go to school due to social norms. These distance learning programs have helped the women’s in rural areas to earn a handsome amount. Radio Pakistan is fulfilling it’s duty to give education and knowledge to these people for bringing changes in their society.
Another digital program launched by the government is Ehsas Hunar Program with the aim to impart skills to the youth especially from remote areas for the development of human resources for better employment opportunities.
Majority of rural population are spending their lives below poverty line as their per capita income is very low. Most of the population is associated with agriculture and there is huge unemployment due to the absence of any job opportunities in these areas. At present there is a huge gap between the urban and rural areas with basic necessities of life and there is no long term plan by the government to narrow down this gap. Now the government is realizing that the economic and food security is dependent on agriculture and serious programs are required to provide incentives to farmers using new technologies and digital platforms.
“Digital Dera” has been launched by the collaboration Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) and Hayat Farms Pakpattan in district Pakpattan where more than 1500 farmers have been provided free access to internet to educate them about latest technologies and services and find solution to the farming challenges to increase the yield which will ultimately improve the economic conditions of the farmers.
Ehsas has launched Division Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Programs which aims to reduce poverty after getting authentic data from National Database and Registration Authority NADRA for providing funds to the deserving people in rural and remote areas so that they can meet their basic needs.
Federal and provincial governments are using the mass media to educate and provide awareness to the farmers and youth in rural areas to use modern technologies, fertilizers and latest techniques to enhance the productivity of cash crops which has created a positive impact on the economy of rural areas.
In our country basic health facilities are missing in the rural areas and people cannot afford expensive treatments of private hospitals due to their low income and accessibility. Even at tehsil level the basic health units lack good doctors, labs, and medicines.
Present government has launched ‘ ‘Sehat Sahulat Program ” program by using the mass media to encourage the rural, remote, poor and disable people to register them to get benefit of this program. Media has played a pivotal role in making this program a success and beneficial for the common people. At present approximately 7919270 families have registered for this program.
Media has produced tangible results in changing the minds of conservitive and superstitious minds to accept the benefits of polio and other vaccination campaigns. Also, health campaigns such as pink ribbon which is a breast awareness, thalassemia and tuberculosis program is done through radio, television and print media. Our media also provides safety measures against flu, dengue, pollution, infectious diseases, nutritional tips and other health care messages for the healthy living.
In the present era media, especially social media, has given awareness, power to speak for their rights and convey their predicaments to the highest level of the government. Journalists are using the televisions to raise the voices for the sufferings of the rural areas.
Recently Prime Minister Imran Khan has launched Citizen Portal and people are actually using it even in remote and rural areas to convey their problem to the highest level of government officials.
Other than this United Nation Development Program (UNDP) has been working on different projects in Pakistan rural areas to empower young people and women. One of their projects “Valley Voices’ ‘ is a project for women of Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) in order to enhance the women’s political participation through local media engagement.
It is a hard reality that there is a huge difference in the urban and rural lives in every field. This disparity in status and basic amenities is increasing day by day and the government is not taking serious steps to fill this gap. The statistics of 2010-11 shows that the unemployment rate in urban areas was 4% whereas the unemployment rate in rural areas is 8.8% which is almost double of urban areas. Another data shows that there is a huge difference in the literacy rate of urban areas and rural areas. In rural areas the literacy rate is 49% and in urban areas the literacy rate is 74%. Most of the rural areas are not having the basic amenities such as sanitation, safe drinking water, health facilities, sui gas, postal system, form to market roads, good standard schools/college as compared to urban areas. The per capita income of urban areas is also much lower than the urban areas.
Journalists and rural youth are making sincere efforts using social media to raise their voice to bring improvement in their lives and it is the duty of the government to make special policies to reduce this difference.
There are strong caste and tribal systems in the rural areas especially in Khyber Pakhtoon Khan (KPK), South Punjab, interior Sindh and Balochistan due to which they have they are conservative thinking and still follow their old social traditions. Despite improving in awareness in the country still there are incidents of inhuman nature such as honor killing, vunni, jirga system, child marriage, non-acceptance of polio campaigns, etc. Unfortunately, due to less literacy rate and access to media still the people of these areas are clutched in these old social customs.
Print media and digital media are highlighting promptly to reduce the suffering of the affected communities. United Nations has launched programs for child marriage awareness. Domestic media is highlighting these social issues through dramas, documentaries, advertisements, radio and print media to change the mindsets of the people. Due to the media threat now the people are careful and avoid following inhuman traditions.
Despites all odds mass media has created a positive impact on the rural development in Pakistan. Government is well aware of the grey areas and shortcomings of rural areas and it is imperative that the government make policies and take steps to enhance the literacy rate and improvement of health facilities, provision of basic amenities, development of infrastructure for the development of the rural areas. Microcredit initiatives are also considered important in boosting the agriculture sector which will ultimately help in reduction of poverty and the country’s economy. Government should take immediate steps towards the e-government which will help in empowering the suppressed people of rural areas. Mass media has emerged as a most popular tool in highlighting the problems of people and in raising the voice of the voiceless to the concerned quarters of the government officers. Mass media should continue their efforts to present the true picture of rural areas and their basic needs. Social media has really taken the lead in this regard and it is the responsibility of the citizen journalist and youth to use the media platform positively.