Why not Villages? We need Smart region and not Smart Cities

Shubham Sharma
[ June 27, 2017 ] At the beginning of 20th Century, Mahatma Gandhi had said, “The soul of India lives in its villages.” Today we are standing on a dwindling cliff, where the soul of our country is in distress and losing the significance of its existence. The villagers in the hope of prospects and employment have been migrating to cities which are leaving our villages crippled.This migration to cities has led to an unplanned and unsustainable growth of cities augmenting urban agglomerations. This growth is like a tumour affecting the cities somberly. The infrastructure of cities is not sufficient to support extra population which leads to poor conditions be it in transport, sanitation, education etc. The cities don’t have sufficient housing for the people, sufficient drainage to supply water, sufficient schools to educate children or sufficient hospitals for health care facilities. This leaves the migratory population in inferior conditions than their own villages which they left.Rural development implies both the economic betterment of people as well as greater social transformation. Increased participation of people in the rural development process, decentralization of planning, better enforcement of land reforms and greater access to credit and inputs go a long way in providing the rural people with better prospects for economic development. Improvements in health, education, drinking water, energy supply, sanitation, housing, attitudinal changes etc. facilitate in the development of any region. J&K is unique in many respects and needs special policy interventions. In spite of being endowed with rich natural resources in terms of forests, biological diversity, hydroelectricity, but still the region has not gained desired development. A good infrastructure and wide connectivity are the key factors for growth and development of the state. The region needs infrastructure to support and ensure significant investments and developmental aids. The region has civil conflict, lack of development, poverty, unemployment. All the districts in the state have different developmental prospects and resources to support their efforts in contributing to the regional as well as national economy. A critical appraisal of the key economic indicators along with a detailed sketch of the individual strengths of the states is necessary to achieve a holistic framework for the growth in the region.With the increasing population, demand for basic needs has been sharply rising during the past seven decades in our country. The growing population need food, clothing, shelter, fuel and fodder for their livestock. In India, over 60-70% of the people are living in rural areas who neither have adequate land holdings nor alternate service opportunities to produce or procure these commodities. In the absence of adequate employment opportunities, the rural people are unable to generate enough wages to sustain their livelihood. As a result, 40% families, who earn less than Rs.11, 000 per annum are classified as poor. Apart from lower income, rural people also suffer from shortage of clean drinking water, poor health care and illiteracy which adversely affect the quality of life. Presently, about 25% of the villages do not have assured source of drinking water for about 4-5 months during the year and about 70-75% of the water does not meet the standard prescribed by WHO. Poor quality drinking water is adversely affecting the health and diarrhea is an important cause of infant mortality. In India, although the contribution of agriculture to the Gross National Product (GNP) is around 35%, in the absence of employment opportunities in industrial and service sectors, over 85% of the rural income is generated from agriculture, who spend about 75% - 80% of their earnings on food. Our overall goal is to ensure better quality of life, through promotion of various development activities related to livelihood, health, literacy and moral development. Starvation being the most serious form of poverty, livelihood programme was considered as a priority but it was soon realized that good health and education are basic needs even for taking up livelihood activities. With generation of income, good moral values are also essential for happiness. Excess money, without strong moral education has been distracting the youth towards unproductive and unethical activities. While promoting various development programmes, the primary goal is to help the target family to come out of poverty, with in a shortest period. Our programme should be well planned to generate substantial income to enable the participating families to come out from poverty. Involvement of women in all the development programmes right from the stage of project planning is essential. Although women represent 50% of the population, they also have the major responsibility of grooming children and procuring the basic needs required for food, fuel and fodder securities. Active participation of women in development programmes will help to identify their problems and reduce their drudgery. Rural development as an integral part of country’s socio-economic development has been recognized as an essential condition. The goal of rural development is the enrichment of the quality of human life in rural areas accompanied by bridging the rural-urban gap through provision of all amenities. The national policy and programs for a successful rural development task should aim at diversification of economic activities, minimizing the dependence of rural households on agriculture and bringing about a significant increase in the share in both output and employment of allied activities, rural industries, business and service components of the rural economy. If this is not pursued, rural development merely remains as agricultural development and neither solves the problem of rural employment and poverty nor of equitable distribution of resources and income-generating assets. There is a great need to review broadly Government’s initiatives to accelerate the process of rural development, programs and performance of the Integrated Rural Development and Swaranjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana and makes suggestions to improve the effectiveness of the National Rural Livelihood Mission currently being implemented. There are number of recent running government schemes and programmes for rural development such as Indira Awaas Yojana (1995), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (2000), Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (2005), National Social Assistance Programme (1995), PURA (2004-05), Aajeevika Skills (2009), Watershed Development (Revised – 2001), HARIYALI (2003) , National Horticulture Mission (2005), Support to State Extension Programmes for Extension Reforms (2005), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (2007), National Food Security Mission (2007), Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (2009). Despite being having a large number of policies or programmes, our rural development is still facing hurdles for their better implementation. The sustainable development intervention in the rural areas largely depends on the successful and effective implementation of rural development programmes. Since independence the country has formulated various rural development programmes and has restructured and revamped them envisaging their wider outreach and acceptability. However, the issues, challenges and concerns relating to the implementation of the rural development programmes have remained more or less the same.