The Gist of Kurukshetra : Transforming the Village: New Rurban Strategy Based on Gandhian Approach - July - 2017

The Gist of Kurukshetra : Transforming the Village: New Rurban Strategy Based on Gandhian Approach  - July - 2017

The completion of three years in office by the government signifies a marked change in planning by allocation of more resources to different projects and schemes aimed at transforming the rural sector. While some of the schemes are new, some have been totally changed to make these more focused to attend to social infrastructure needs of the villages. The neglect of the rural sector has been a big challenge before the government and bringing about the desired change would definitely be a monumental task in the coming years.

The new Rurban approach obviously needs reforms but it may be pointed out that in most countries, including India, the opening of bank accounts of the villagers has enabled to pass on their benefits to their respective bank accounts. The responsibility of uplifting the conditions of the rural mass cannot be ignored, specially in a country like India where over 60-65 per cent population lives in rural areas - for whom, such welfare schemes are of paramount importance.

According to social scientists concerned with Third World countries, development is a social process that leads to constructive and critical consideration of the following:

(i) the external and internal factors that affect the economic evolution of a country;
(ii) the distributive system of goods and services; and
(iii) the system of relationships among the agents of economic life which incorporates self-esteem, sustenance, freedom and well-being.

Development in this respect necessarily presupposes a concern for human life and value. And this has been called 'Sustainable Development' a strategy that is inclusive and reaches the lowest segments of society and "improve people's quality of life within the carrying capacity of the Earth's life support system". One may also mention here the Copenhagen Declaration that urged governments to accelerate the process of development through allocation of increased resources and create "an economic, political, social, cultural and legal environment that will enable people to achieve social development".

However, in our country even now, the government has yet to involve the voluntary organizations in a big way at the grass-root level though the NGOs and CBOs are cost effective and have expertise due to their almost regular interaction with the village folk.

Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY)

Launched on the birth anniversary of Jay Prakash Narayan, is also a step in the same direction aimed "at instilling certain values in the village and its people such as fostering mutual cooperation, self help and self reliance, enabling the poorest and the person in the village to come out of poverty and achieve well being, preserving and promoting local cultural heritage etc." The Yojana is aimed at translating the vision of Mahatma Gandhi into reality, that is, transforming the rural sector keeping in view the present lack of balanced development plaguing the countryside.

According to the scheme, every MP would adopt a Village Panchayat to be developed through government schemes and local initiative. While Lok Sabha members can adopt a panchayat within their constituency, Rajya Sabha members can adopt any within the state they represent. There are 2,65,000 Gram Panchayats in the country. Primarily, the goal is to develop three adarsh grams by March 2019 of which, one would be achieved by 2016. Thereafter, five such grams - one per year - would be selected developed by the year 2024, as per an official not.

The scheme is being implemented through a village development plan that would be prepared for every identified gram panchayat with special focus on enabling every poor household to come out of poverty. Such an integrated plan was a long felt need and would go a long way on making the village self-reliant and self sufficient, as visualized by Mahatma Gandhi long back. There is also a necessity of supply of renewable energy and modernization and diversification of micro, cottage and village-based industries. This has become imperative at this point of time for the country to make rapid strides on the path of social and economic development.

The enormity of the challenge cannot be denied as around 50 per cent of the six lakh villages have very poor social and physical infrastructural facilities. The SAGY has been the right beginning and it remains to be seen how many villages could be adopted and whether there is proper planning before the execution of the schemes for integrated' development. One needs to be optimistic as after a long time, the government has thought of an integrated plan of village development.

In the realm of financial inclusion, the PMJDY has helped the poor and the economically weaker sections from being exploited by unscrupulous moneylenders. As is widely regarded, this Yojana lies at the core of the development philosophy of 'Sab Ka 5ath, 5ab Ka Vikas' and is possibly the biggest Last but not the least, the decision ensures to construct 2.95 crore houses in rural areas under its ambitious 'Housing for AII' by 2022 scheme. The government is expected to spend nearly Rs 81,975 crore over construction of the one crore houses in the first three years of the Pradhan Mantri Awcos Yojana-Gramin under which, it will provide financial assistance of Rs 1.20 lakh to those living in plain areas and Rs 1.30 lakh to those in "hilly and difficult" areas. One may mention here that the government had promised in its election manifesto to provide a 'pucca' house for every family bv the 75th anniversary of independence.

The urban bias in Indian planning has to be reversed with focus being on the growth of rural and semi-urban areas and strengthening the local economy. But unfortunately, the rural sector has not got the necessary attention and rural infrastructure, in most cases is still quite poor. Whether it is roads or power, though some achievements have been manifested in the last decade, a lot remains to be done.

There can be no denying that the opportunity cost of the city dwellers is high compared to the rather modest outlays required to upgrade the standards of living of agricultural labourers and create opportunities in agro-based industry, cottage industry and the like. There have not been serious attempts at urbanizing the countryside and what is still lacking in India - and also other countries of South Asia - are deficient and inadequate health and educational facilities. Though in recent years, the rural sector has received the much needed attention and a fair share of resources, but the requirement of physical and social infrastructural development are much more.

The report of the independent International Commission of Peace and Food, chaired by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, which argued the goal of one billion jobs was achieveable in ten years through a low-cost strategy of using agriculture as an engine of growth. According to the report, about half of the jobs (45 million) would be generated on farms by: (i) raising productivity through imposed management of micro-nutrients and water, (ii) expanding the total irrigated area, (iii) emphasizing on more labour- intensive commercial crops such as sugar, cotton, fruits and vegetables, sericulture and aquaculture, (iv) reclamation of wasteland for forestry and (v) increasing subsidiary incomes from animal husbandry and poultry. The multiplier effect of increased rural incomes was expected to create another 45 million rural and urban jobs in industry and services.

A proper development strategy, which does not emulate the Western model, where population is much less and resources are abundant - has already been in place and proper achieving of targets through good and efficient governance is now called for. The problems of the aam janta living below the poverty line and those struggling for an existence have to be given the top most priority through rejuvenation of the rural sector, which may not necessarily help in high GDP growth, but would have a grass root effect in boosting up incomes of the economically weaker sections and the poor.

There is very little point in just going for high GDP growth with heavy mechanization and industrialization without any direct effect on the masses. Development has to be balanced in such a way that both industrialization - specially labour intensive small and micro industries - and agriculture move side by side so that the total effect is sustainable and beneficial for the common people.

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