Intro: The biggest challenge before all the educated and conscious people of the country is to make the villagers earn their living with self respect instead of depending on free food and freebies. Unless respective State Governments fine tune their governance mechanism, the rural India will continue to bleed.
For centuries Indian villages have immensely contributed to the economic, social and cultural development of India. Village products mainly muslin, handicrafts, silk clothes, the world’s best quality wootz steel and various agriculture produces etc were exported to foreign countries. India’s share in the world income was 22.6 per cent in 1700 AD which had shrunk to 3.8 per cent in 1952; and it further shrunk to 2.07 per cent in 2013-14. Like India, many developing nations suffered as the global trade was grossly manipulated and controlled by the rich and the powerful nations who seldom allowed developing nations to export their domestic products freely. In post independent period, India lost self-belief and continued to depend on other nations for all kinds of production. The Mere Gaon Mere Teerth program of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) launched in Uttarakhand with the objective of linking people to their village root will not only reweave the social-cultural-economic fabrics of the village but make villages happy, safe and productive to be livable again.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government’s effort to revive Indian economy which is a blend of industry, agriculture, trade and services will yield result. Prime Minister Modi has wisely chosen the sustainable growth path as an aggressive pursuit of wealth in an artificially created growth balloons has crumbled many a developed nations in the recent past. Over the decades many countries in a mad rush for maximising profit have adopted an unsustainable and aggressive form of market economy. Those rowdy economic models have caused irreparable damage to village economy, destroyed urban centers, spread diseases, broke joint families, amassed massive idle energy, dismantled natural sectors, increased global warming and triggered large scale migration to cities.
The Panacea for Village Development
Majority of the people living in cities have their roots in any of the village. Most of them have still maintained live contacts with their respective villages. Some visit there on festivals or family functions, while some visit occasionally. But majority of them take such visits as a kind of picnic. They avoid joining any development activity there. On the other hand the urban families regularly go on picnics to other places or pilgrimage centres and they spend good amount of money on such tours. Some also contribute in the development of the pilgrimage places. What if all such people are motivated to go to their respective villages also treating them as anohter pilgrimage centre and willing to join hands in any of the development activity there. Such experiments have begun at certain places and the results too have been encouraging.
Cheap speechless labour force, abundant water and electricity have attracted large number of industries including many hazardous units to China which have contributed to China’s decade long Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth at above 10 per cent per annum. But China’s GDP growth has not taken into account the huge loss to environment, loss of livelihood in natural sectors and sharp decline in health and happiness level. As per 2011 Census conducted in China, the communist country has lost 28000 rivers. A large number of water bodies have become unsuitable for human use due to chemical contents. The suppressed anger, frustration and disillusionment among the majority of the Chinese population are brewing. For Chinese people today, the `luxury means clean water, sunshine and clean air. The upper Chinese middleclass are now returning to their village homes. In fact, China is trapped in a GDP growth trap of its own creation. So, it has slowed down its growth as it knows very well that if it grows at 10 per cent per annum, the entire China would turn into a fireball in the next few years.
Though India has not amassed wealth like China, it has preserved its natural sector for sustainable economic development. Indian farm yard still produces the widest range of food crops in the world. Its 47.7 lakh artisans as per the last handicraft census conducted in 1994-95, still have the skill and artistry to produce exotic bio degradable items for the global handicraft market. Today handicraft export still grows at 10 per cent per annum. Thanks to Mahatma Gandhi whose Swadeshi movement has saved some of the rich handicraft tradition which are still thriving. Mahatma Gandhi said it is impossible to shift all villagers to urban centers. Over decades, a large number of villagers have shifted to urban centers for livelihood. A miniscule percentage of them have got white collared jobs and the majority of them landed in slums. Land grabbing in urban centers was so aggressive that it had converted thousands of ancient water bodies into building blocks. Over the years nearly 3000 water bodies have been destroyed in and around Chennai. Today the residents of Chennai spend an average Rs 800 per month for getting water. In fact, the urban solution lies in saving Indian villages.
People world over have realised the importance of village economy in the survival of environment and human civilisation. Education, health facility, vibrant village culture, healthy social life, cleanliness and safety can make Indian village livable again. There are hundreds of income generating activities still surviving in Indian villages. Goat farm, rearing of milch animals, handicraft making, weaving, farming, village tourism, preparing local dishes, growing medicinal plants and tasty indigenous variety of crops etc can be business propositions in a transparent supply chain. Farmers can combine farming with a wide range of nonfarm activities to earn a decent living.
More than one hundred villages around Puri supply milk and cheese to the pilgrim town. The sweet items made from milk have high demand in the domestic market.
The biggest challenge before all the educated and conscious people of the country is to make the villagers earn their living with self-respect instead of depending on free food and freebies. Unless respective State Governments fine tune their governance mechanism, the rural India will continue to bleed. Give villagers their healthy top soil, water, bio-diversity, transparent marketing facility, the basic needs for human survival and the self-respect, they will return the government huge revenue. We can’t ask villagers to contribute for GDP growth after making them idle with freebies, after destroying their top soil with wrong agriculture practices, after allowing rich and powerful farmer to overexploit ground water, after allowing middlemen and corrupt people to siphon away low interest credit, reliefs and subsidies. Flushing rural India with low interest credit and subsidy without honest and dedicated monitoring is like putting the cart before the horses.
Our school education can be modified keeping in view of the rural sector jobs in mind. Since it is impossible to give jobs to nearly 81 crore villagers in urban centers, it is necessary that the government has to safeguard the rural sectors in order to improve the quality of life in rural area. Teaching children how to do sericulture, apiculture, floriculture, fishery, animal husbandry, making dairy products, agriculture, horticulture, handicraft, weaving and develop pilgrim tourism etc will yield result.
Sudhansu R Das (The writer is a Hydrabad based freelance journalist)