Society is responsible for ensuring basic human rights and equal opportunity for growth to all its citizens. Policies are made for the nation to lead to conditions that are conducive to the realization of rights and fair access to opportunities for everyone. Every citizen has a housing need which generally should have all the basic amenities such as water, sanitation and energy. It should give privacy, safety and dignity which are the rights of every human being in society today. A housing and habitat policy for rural India is needed that is based on these priorities and potential since the matters relating to habitat for rural India could be dealt with in an adequate and realistic manner. As rural habitat development is intrinsically linked to the development of the overall economy, development of rural habitat should be viewed from the standpoint of alleviating rural poverty.
Rural India is characterized by certain priorities of a special nature. What rural India needs is the reinforce-ment of positive movements and the investments of the people to be har-nessed towards a process of integrated rural growth. That is why we must have a National Rural Habitat Policy to encourage conditions that will help in the creation of sustainable shelter and means of livelihood for rural India. In addition educational, health and child care facilities, opportunities to generate an income are necessary for a productive society to grow and thrive and all this forms part and parcel of human habitat.
Over the decades the National Habitat Policy has emphasized and endeavoured to achieve the objective of `adequate shelter for all.' According to national priorities and variation in large-scale social and economic factors this policy has often been revised. Although the last National Habitat Policy was fairly comprehensive it could not accomplish the aim of focusing on the needs of rural areas and has failed to give the desired direction. Urban habitat matters are being tackled by the new `Draft National Urban Housing and Habitat Policy.
A step in the right direction was taken through the Bharat Nirman Program and also through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). To inform the development of the National Rural Housing and Habitat Policy basin-south Asia Regional Knowledge Platform (basin- SA) has taken the initiative to combine concepts, opinions and successful systems of methods of various stake-holders. Research and documentation undertaken by the Building and Social Housing Foundation, UK and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation triggered off the dialogue. An understanding of rural conditions, abilities, needs and potential for large scale development of habitat and livelihoods in rural areas was reached through intensive research and consulta-tions with practitioners and policy makers all over the country.
As a result of this process a "Framework for a Rural Habitat Policy for India" has been developed and basin-SA has been motivated to start a countrywide process of mobilizing various stakeholders to develop a draft of the Rural Habitat Policy. The Akhil Bhartiya Samaj Sewa Sansthan helped by basin-SA organized a meeting on 23'd February 2006 in New Delhi. NGOs, bankers and government officials were brought together through this meeting to talk about, debate and suggest clauses for the policy document. In collaboration with basin-SA, the Architecture & Development Organisation has decided to take up the task of organizing the State level Consultation for drafting the Rural Habitat Policy for Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry under the RDC program. It will do this together with Centre for Education & Documentation, Institute for Social Education & Development and other institutions.
It is heartening to note that all the States in the country are now getting as opportunity to contribute to the process of policy development. Each Stab Level Consultation will give its inps and this process, it is hoped, would hel in the finalization 'Final Draft of th Rural Habitat Policy for India.'.