Intro: Developing model village brick by brick will be a challenge for all 750 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna to commemorate the birth anniversary of Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan of Sampurna Kranti movement and the visionary thinker Nanaji Deshmukh on October 11, 2014. As per the plan the Sansad members will develop 800 model villages by 2016 and in addition to that develop 1600 model villages by 2019. Fixing responsibility to develop villages on Sansad members is a good beginning which may restore the lost glory of the Indian villages.
Over decades, Indian villages have suffered huge potential erosion due to loan mela, loan waivers, misdirected subsidy distribution and unscientific credit flow. High input cost, moisture loss in soil, depletion of ground water level, pollution of surface water, control of middlemen over agriculture trade, aggressive politicisation of farmers’ societies, village polarisation on the basis of political affiliation, loss of bio-diversity and growth of mono crops etc have become the stumbling block before the development of villages.
As per National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) survey, 40 per cent of farmers want to give up farming if they find other options. Thousands of hectares of agriculture land have been converted for real estate development across the country in spite of Supreme Court’s directive not to convert fertile agriculture land for non-agriculture purposes. Large numbers of farmers in villages near urban centers have sold their land. Little they realise that their income from bank interest is prone to high risk. Banks can reduce interest rate at any time. Besides, if they fail to manage their money they may become paupers.
In fact, over time agriculture has become unprofitable due to reliance mainly on climate change, complicated export regulations of the developed nations, high subsidy given to farmers in developed nations to have an advantage over the farmers in poor nations, and growing input cost and backwardness. If we take into account the family labour in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts of Maharashtra, the Alphonso mango growers there do not get any profit margin though consumers pay heavy price to traders for buying Alphonso mangoes.
Similar is the situation in other parts of India. Farmers in Ojhar block near Pune no longer find agriculture viable as the young generation picks up other jobs and take farming as a part time profession. It is the unseasonal rains that plays villain to crops particularly to onion crop. From time to time government declares many subsidy schemes for the farmers but the benefit hardly percolates to the small farmers. Before elections, political leaders assure people loan waivers which end up create massive bad loans in agriculture (which is above 5 per cent now). Public sector banks waste much of their precious time and energy in loan waiver exercises. As a consequence small farmers with one acre or less lease out their land to big farmers and look for daily wages in urban areas. Politicisation of the cooperative societies is the main reason why small farmers fail to have bargaining power even when the demand for food in the market is growing. Majority of the malls in supply chains exploit both farmer producers and the consumers. The cost of one apple is Rs 4 to Rs 5 in Kothapet fruit market in Hyderabad. When the apple reaches the mall it is priced at Rs 25 or Rs 30 per piece. Similar is the fate of other fruits and vegetables.
Thirty years back villagers in India used to get many things for free from the village environment-water was free from arsenic content, and wide variety of edible herbs and shrubs available in the village bio-diversity met the nutrition needs of the people. Rivers and ponds looked healthy. But today over damming has killed many rivers along with many sustainable economic activities.
According to the last All India Handicraft Census conducted in 1995-96, India has 47.61 lakh artisans who add high value to metal, wood and other biodegradable products. The Indian artisan community once contributed to the phenomenal economic growth of India. In the 16th century AD, the gross domestic product of India was about 25.1 per cent of the world economy which was the highest in the world. Swords and spears produced in India from Wootz steel was the most sought after items in the entire Europe. Greek official chronicler, Pliny in the 2nd century BC, noted Indians artisans are taking away their gold in exchange of their handicrafts. The fact was that it was the grace and artistry of the Indian handicrafts and handlooms which were worth gold. Once again there is an opportunity for the Sansad members to popularise Indian handicrafts by regularly using some of the items in their homes and offices.
|2, 379 model villages will be developed under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna.|
Britishers chopped off the fingers of Indian handloom weavers to introduce their coarse mill made products. But the grace and glitter of Indian handicraft has not fed. Even today Indian handicraft export grows at 16 per cent per annum and the handloom items continue to mesmerise the foreigners. If we can preserve the skill and artistry in future we can beat China’s machine made handicrafts and power loom items.
There is no second thought about the fact that the discerning buyers do not like products churned out from machines. Hence it is the right time to rediscover the hidden wealth within our door steps, and the desire to revamp the present Institutions working for handicraft development to prevent the dreams of gifted people being shattered by the maze of official jargons, misleading data and unimaginative development plans. The Sansad members have to go extra miles to discover the effective tool for rural development. If considered, both handicraft and agriculture can help them make a sustainable development model. Varieties of Indian fruits are yet to be marketed in West and European countries. People there do not know the technique to eat Indian fruits and vegetables. An Indian child can eat an Alphonso mango and leaves its shell bone dry.
A European will go to bathroom to eat Indian mangoes since he does not have the skill to eat mango. While eating mango his entire body gets smeared with mango juice and pulp. Indian mango exporters from Mumbai always send one spoon along with Alphonso mango. It is time to teach them how to eat and enjoy Indian food without passing on the skill to them. By doing this Indians will have control over the premium price.
Sansad members now carry the responsibility of liberating their villagers from money lenders, activate the rivers and ponds, increase the water table and revive the moisture content of the soil. Apart from this, there is also an urgent need to crack down the middlemen monopoly over market yards and mall chains across the country which siphons away the farmer producers’ profit.
Sudhansu R Das (The writer is a freelance journalist from Hyderabad)