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SC paves way for temple, but Ayodhya has a lot to catch up on development

About a year ago, the ‘successful’ became the ‘invincible’ — at least in the Uttar Pradesh government’s official records. According to Rekhta, an Urdu-language proponent organisation, Faiz means success, and Faizabad a town that is successful or victorious. On the other hand, ‘Ayodhya’, derived from the root ‘yoddha’ (warrior) would mean “something that cannot be defeated’, or invincible. 

In November 2018, the Yogi Adityanath government in the state renamed the district of Faizabad, 100 miles east of Lucknow, Ayodhya. 

The long-standing issue of the ‘Mandir’ has reverberated across India since the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. It was only after twenty-seven years, on the first anniversary of Ayodhya’s renaming that the Supreme Court gave a landmark judgment in the case of the disputed religious site, lending heft to Hindu devotees’ right to pray at that site. 

But what do we know of Ayodhya, apart from the obvious? Here we look at the very basic characteristics of the district’s economy and its people. 

Data show that the demography of Ayodhya has not changed much, but population growth is under control, with the share of children on a decline. But at the same time, the economy of Ayodhya is inertial in the sense that the share of people involved in the farm sector is still higher than the national average.

In terms of availability of good drinking water, Ayodhya fares better than the average for Uttar Pradesh, and also the national average. But when it comes to improved sanitation and cleaner cooking practices, Ayodhya lags behind. 

In education, schools in Ayodhya lack basic electricity provision, and have worse-than-average indicators on having computers and libraries in schools. The pilgrimage district has a lot to catch up on the public health front, too. 

Demographic changes

Ayodhya is no exception to the high population density of the Gangetic belt. But it has shown some signs of improvement in the two decades from 1991 to 2011. The share of children (0-14 age group) in its populace reduced from 39 per cent to 34 per cent over these two decades, suggesting better birth control. This is smaller than the average for UP (36 per cent), but higher than national average of 31 per cent. 

But at the same time, the share of old-age population in Ayodhya is higher than the averages for both UP or India. This points to a growing dependency ratio compared with the rest of the country.

In terms of employment, the share of population dependent on agriculture has reduced from nearly 80 per cent in 1991 to about 61 per cent in 2011 (latest data available). This share is higher than that in UP, and way higher than the national average. 

The service economy, especially trade and construction, have given a fillip to employment in Ayodhya as well, in line with the trend in the country (up to 2011). Share of manufacturing in jobs, at 7 per cent, however, has been abysmal in comparison to the state and national averages, which themselves are a meagre 10-12 per cent. Only main workers according to the definition of Census 2011 have been taken into account. 

Household amenities 

Families in Ayodhya are in a better position to have an improved source of drinking water, such as piped water, secure dug well or a community RO plant. Nearly 99 per cent of households were reported to have this facility in comparison to the national average of 90 per cent in 2015-16. However, this does not take into account whether tap water was available at home or the available water was pure. 

However, only a fourth of households had better sanitation facility and practised modern and better cooking habits in their kitchens. In UP, a third of the households were progressive in that respect, and in India as a whole about half the households. 

Health and education

Ayodhya has caught up with the country on increasing the prevalence of institutional births. Nearly 80 per cent of deliveries/births now happen inside hospitals, similar to the situation on a pan-Indian basis. However, the prevalence of contraception, at 44 per cent, still lags the national average of 54 per cent, as well as the state average of 46 per cent. 

The out-of-pocket (OOP) expenses, which are an indicator of readiness of a family to spend on necessary healthcare, were low in Ayodhya compared to the average amount of money spent by a family for a delivery in a public hospital in UP. The OOP expenditure was nearly 60 per cent of the national average. 

Education is one area where Ayodhya clearly has to improve. Only a tenth of its schools have a working computer, compared with a fifth across the country. About a third of the schools in the district have a library, compared with the national average of 62 per cent, and UP average of 40 per cent. 

Worse, only half of its schools had active electricity provision. The share of schools with power is 65 per cent in UP, and 74 per cent in India.


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