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India Needs a New Rural-Centric Development model.
COVID-19 Pandemic has brought out in open the pain, sorrow and misery of migrant labourers. The lack of authentic data on their numbers, their living and working conditions and perpetual uncertainty in their livelihood prospects have been brought in to sharp focus with the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the best effort of both the central and state governments, the mass movement of nearly 10 million migrant workers in poor conditions, has brought into focus the urgent need to shift to a new paradigm of economic development and urbanisation in which migration under economic distress or due to the lack of amenities is brought down.
COVID-19 must be taken as an opportunity to transform and re-purpose the development process of India. Fortunately for us, an alternative model that minimises migration is available in the works of Mahatma Gandhi, the late president APJ Abdul Kalam and social activist Nanaji Deshmukh.
Why India needs a rural-centric development model?
- To reduce poverty:Tendulkar Committee puts people below poverty line at 22%. To achieve sustainable development goals (SDG’s), reducing poverty by raising per capita income in rural areas should be the focal point.
- Increase employment opportunities:In a survey of urban migrant workers, 84% of them reported that their primary source of livelihood in their villages was casual work. Only 11% stated that agriculture was their primary source of income. This indicates that there is a need to create jobs in rural areas far beyond just augmentation of agriculture.
- To make agricultural sustainable:Creation and promotion of food processing industries, cottage-based industries and forest-based industries will reduce disguised unemployment in agriculture. The surplus can be invested to augment agricultural inputs to increase agricultural intensity and productivity.
- To reduce distress migration:India has the second-largest migrant worker population in the world, second only to China. Current estimates of the total number of migrant workers range from 72 million to 110 million. Self-reliant villages will reduce push factors such as famines, floods, draughts, water-crisis, starvation and hunger that leads to distress migration.
- Reduce rural-urban divide:Approximately 70% of the Indian population lives in villages but still majority of the investments and focus is on urban areas.
- Welfare of vulnerable sections:Majority of the vulnerable sections such as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes reside in villages. Self-reliant villages will help them improve their socio-economic indicators such as maternal mortality rate, literacy rate, etc.
- Climate change mitigation and adaptation: Climate change has the potential to create havoc in rural areas by declining agricultural productivity, water crisis, desertification, inundation of coastal lands, frequent floods and recurrent droughts, etc. Self-reliant villages would make the farmers capable to adapt to climate change.
Models of Self-Reliant Villages
- Gandhiji’s Village Swaraj Model
- Model of self-reliant villages is the basis of a free democracy.
- The idea of village swaraj is that it is a complete republic, independent of its neighbours for its own vital wants, and yet interdependent for many others in which dependence is a necessity.
- His was not a model of a closed economy and a village economy perpetuating itself at the lower levels of income.
- The model envisaged that the local populations could be employed locally but with rising incomes and higher productivity
- A.P.J Abdul Kalam’s Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) Model
- His vision was to develop rural India through a cluster development system where 50-100 villages with common competencies and/or mutual markets could be horizontally or vertically integrated as PURA complexes.
- These villages would be linked through “four connectivity’s” — physical, electronic, knowledge and economic.
- The goal was to provide income and quality of life opportunities to all within PURA complex.
- While some rural-rural migration would be acceptable, rural to urban migration would be minimised.
- He envisioned 7,000 PURA complexes at the cost of Rupees 130 crore per unit built through public-private partnerships.
- Nanaji Deshmukh’s Social Well-Being Model
- His model of self-reliant villages was based on a model of integral humanism where harmony was also a pivotal force.
- The collective social consciousness that promoted collective well-being was considered to be a cornerstone to next-generation rural development.
- He worked extensively in around 500 villages especially in the Chitrakoot area.
- His successful implementation of model in Chitrakoot called not just for zero unemployment and no one below the poverty line, but also zero internal legal disputes and no widow being denied remarriage.
- Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM)
- SPMRM is a scheme launched by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) in 2016 to deliver integrated project based infrastructure in the rural areas, which will also include development of economic activities and skill development.
- The model follows a cluster development design to create social, health, education and economic infrastructure across villages.
- For the purposes of SPMRM, Rurban areas refer to a cluster of 15-20 villages having about 30 to 40 lakh population.
- The clusters will be geographically contiguous Gram Panchayats with a population of about 25000 to 50000 in plain and coastal areas and a population of 5000 to 15000 in desert, hilly or tribal areas.
Measures to Create Self-Reliant Villages
- Strengthening Gram Panchayats: The Legislatures must devolve funds, functions and functionaries to Gram Panchayats to make them self-reliant. The bottom-up development process will bring inclusivity and diversity in the development process of India.
- Use of technology: Internet and artificial intelligence could be leveraged to facilitate sustainable agriculture. Large-scale and real-time data collected from farming practices and collated with global price and production numbers can be used to offer more profitable choices to our farmers.
- Promotion to industries: Food-processing industry, cottage-based industries, textile industry, etc. should be promoted to create employment opportunities.
- Public-private participation: Rural knowledge platform could be created through active collaboration between the public and private sector. Private sector will bring investments and technology in rural areas.
- Human Capacity development: Skill mapping of returning migrant labourers will help in developing their capacity further as per the global standards in their respective fields.
- Issuance of Atmanirbhar village bonds: To finance this ambitious re-engineering of our development model, Atmanirbhar Village bonds could be issued to raise resources. Part of the mandated priority sector lending by scheduled commercial banks could be used to finance these bonds.
The challenges to achieve self-reliant villages are numerous such as lack of funds, ineffective multi-level planning, lack of trust in private sector, distressed financial sector, poor capacity development of panchayats, etc. But, these challenges should not stop India to achieve this dream.
Thus, the rural-urban divide should be seen as a continuum rather than as a dichotomy. The continuum approach will bring urban facilities in rural areas and thus mitigate distress migration.
For India, to become truly ‘atmanirbhar’, the key lies in making our villages self-reliant. Therefore, the State governments should incorporate these models as per the local needs to increase standard of living in rural areas and develop social capital.
1.Discuss various models of rural-centric development process? Elaborate the need for self-reliant villages in Indian development process and also provide solutions to achieve them? (15 marks).