Challenges & opportunities of rural transformation

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Dr Banarsi Lal & Dr Pawan Sharma

Rural transformation is a proactive and positive process of change. It is generally characterised by changes in civic amenities, gender ratio, agricultural growth, employment generation, cropping pattern and other major improvements in rural housing, social and economic conditions. It involves bringing of urban environments into rural settings, changes to systems and processes that favourably impact rural people’s livelihoods and standards of living. All the great leaders of India from Mahatma Gandhi to Dr A P J Abdul Kalam suggested need of transformation in villages as the villages play the pivotal role in the development of the nation. Despite rampant urbansiastion, India is a land of villages where even now about 70 per cent of population lives in the rural areas. As per Census 2011, the population of rural India is about 12 per cent of world’s population, which makes it bigger than the size of Europe. So, there is need to focus on overall development of rural areas through various state & central schemes and programmes. There is need to improve infrastructure like roads, power, water, schools, colleges, sanitation etc in rural areas so that the villages can be made self-reliant. Though it is a herculean task to transform the rural areas but with well-knit coordinated strategy and with adequate financial support this goal be achieved. Government has launched a scheme called as the Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban which is expected to deliver infrastructure in the rural areas including skill development and economic activities. Government is making strenuous efforts to provide the urban amenities in the rural areas. There is need to revamp the rural sector. Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana was launched on the birth anniversary of Jayprakash Narayan by the government. This programme aims to foster the mutual cooperation, self-help and self-reliance and enables the poor people to come out from poverty. Infrastructure under various schemes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, National Health Mission, MGNERGS, ICDS etc. is being developed by the government on priority basis. Such plans were the need of the people and would go a long way in making villages self-sufficient as visualised by Gandhiji. There is dire need for the renewable energy and diversification of micro, cottage and village-based industries. Still many villages out of the six lakh villages in India are still lacking the social and physical infrastructure facilities. Power generation for more than eight hours is equally necessary in the rural areas.
Our late President Dr. A P J Kalam visualised PURA (Provided Urban Facilities in Rural Areas) to transform the rural areas and suggested to prevent the rural migration to the congested urban areas. There is need to concentrate on the availability of quality food, economic, energy and sustainable prosperity of the rural people. This would be accomplished through agriculture and food processing, education and health care, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and self-reliance in strategic sectors. There is need to strengthen the Gram Panchayats as they are the best to formulate and execute the present rural areas development plans. There is also need to apply the bottom-up approach for the development of the villages. Skill India Mission is an ambitious programme and has been launched to promote the entrepreneurship and equip 50 crores Indians with skills by year 2022. The National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship aims to empower those who left out of the mainstream education system by incentivizing skill training through financial rewards to candidates who successfully complete the approved training programmes. This scheme has the potential for opening up the new avenues for employment and overcome the problem of unemployment and under employment in the rural areas. Many youths are taking advantage of this policy to start entrepreneurships specially in the rural areas. India has the potential to become the human resource capital of the world. Various IT related facilities have been started by the government specifically for the rural areas. The Common Service Centres opened by the companies such as Sahaj-e-Village, CMS Computers, Vayam Tech offer a single window, one-stop solution to the different kinds of problems of the rural people. These Common Service Centres are engaged in making one individual in every rural household digitally literate. The Human Resource Development Ministry has asked the eight older IITs to adopt 10 villages each and new IITs five each. Under Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA), IIT teachers and students visit the adopted villages and assess the problems of the rural people and find out their solutions. Industries are involved to manufacture different products according to the technologies devised for the people. Each IIT is having rural development wing which focuses on the rural sanitation, value addition in crops, contamination of water etc. Other engineering colleges should also be involved for this purpose and more and more villages should be covered under this scheme.
Pardhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) is a significant programme to connect the rural areas with urban areas. Both the rural roads and electrification will help in the transformation in the villages. The job scheme Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has been working excellently for infrastructure development and job creation opportunities in the rural areas. The scheme has been reformed to combat the agrarian distress is a positive step. The government has decided to extend the entitlement from 100 to 150 days in drought affected areas. Irrigation potential has also been increased under MGNREGS.For this purpose more financial support is needed. Strengthening of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) throughout the country and setting-up of 300 Rurban Clusters under Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rural Mission are the positive steps for the rural development. There is need to increase agricultural credit for the farmers so that they can increase their crop production.
There is also need to make the strenuous efforts to increase the agricultural production and double the income of the farmers by 2022. Doubling farmers’ income by 2022 will transform the villages and for this purpose there is urgent need to increase the agricultural growth rapidly. For this purpose value addition in agriculture can play a crucial role for enhancing the income and among the farmers. Stress on efficient agricultural marketing and branding is also required. There is also need to reduce the disparity between rural and urban areas and the rural areas needs to be rejuvenated. A boost up of the income of the weaker sections of the society is essential to uplift the rural areas. The benefits of various schemes and programmes should reach to the bottom tiers of the society. For this purpose the government is making strenuous efforts. There is need of inclusive, balanced and sustainable development in the rural areas. Micro-industries and agricultural development should go side by side so that common person can also be benefitted. A balance between industrialization and environmental concerns should also be maintained. Rural transformation will help to increase the income and employment among the rural people. This will help to eradicate the poverty and bring prosperity among the rural people.
(The writers are Head of KVK Reasi & Scientist at KVK Kathua).