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Connecting dots - SEZs and Healthcare!

IEB has put up two posts [1] [2] on increasing divide between the rural and the urban. My own interpretation of it is of the divide between informed and uninformed - either way, there is no denying to the fact that there exists a gap which is further widening with the influx of technology and development.

Many a times we debate as to how to reduce the gap, the whole system of communism is based on reducing the inequalities in the society. However, time and again it has been proved that inequalities are bound to occur; a fallout of Darwinism - they can only be reduced but cannot be eliminated. In fact, as the failure of communist system has shown - any attempt to eliminate inequalities leads to lack of motivation in individuals to compete and succeed - thus leading to stagnation of the society at large.

Yet, if socialism exists -what does it mean? I interpret socialism as a just system where every human being is guaranteed basic rights and comforts. A socialist society will have inequalities, but none of them challenge the right to live and a hinder an individual's progress. Many capitalist societies in the West have attained a state very near to the situation above.

Objectively, such a system ensures that the basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, healthcare and education do not come at a prohibitive price. Of these again, barring education the rest four must come for free because they directly relate to the 'right to live'. In the present day India while there is no guarantee for any of the above, I am particularly worried about healthcare, the reasons for which I have mentioned previously [3] [4].

This is where I want to link another dot that has been doing rounds on blogs - Special Economic Zones(SEZ).

I have spent my childhood at Bhopal Township of BHEL, and among other advantages, the most important advantage of life in a township was easy access to healthcare. This was especially true for the lower economic sections for whom healthcare facilities were not just accessible(dispensaries in each sector) but also affordable (a large hospital for the entire township).

While one of the reasons for the affordability was that healthcare facilities were subsidized by BHEL (in turn the Govt. which owns it), the fact that the government could afford to sponsor these services is because the high density of population leads to reduction of the per head cost. Thus the investment made to erect healthcare infrastructure of such a scale is justified.

The PSU townships of yesteryears are similar to the SEZ's of today. Whether meant for housing software companies, manufacturing plants or multiproduct installations - SEZ will house a high concentration of population with high productivity levels.

The government can set up state of the art hospitals in each of these SEZ's and augment them with a chain of smaller dispensaries in each sector. Doctors in cities apportion their time between many smaller clinics - in the SEZ they could apportion it between dispensaries and the hospital. This will bring down the cost of running these dispensaries considerably, because it is the paycheck of doctors which is one of the predominant expenses.

There are many other advantages of SEZ's - which lie beyond the artificial ones like Tax breaks provided by the government. The above argument from the healthcare point of view is a useful addition to to other arguments [5][6] in favour of SEZ's.

SEZ's can become a means to improve the lifestyle of an average Indian. The government should proactively think of creating regulations that help ensure the pursuit for better lifestyles in these SEZs.

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