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High Time to Revive Villages


Farmers in Field
Img Source: Wiki Commons
Bollywood movies, as you might notice, nowadays, seem to deny entry to villages in their storyline. Ages have gone by since we got to witness the movies like ‘Swadesh’ in the mainstream cinema. However, that matters the least.

What matters is where our villages- accommodating 69% of the population, according to the 2011 census of India -stand in the soul of the nation. The exodus of migrant workers from across several states during the successive phases of the nationwide lockdown unleashed the plight of the villagers living hand to mouth in cities on account of the unavailability of a conducive environment to employment in their shanty towns. It again reiterates the prolonged-buried question: Are we going to let our villages suffer at the cost of building heavy infrastructure in the urban territories?

Revival of Rural Economy


Rural Economy has 46% of share in national income in India. The contribution made by the rural areas of the country is of paramount significance and unparalleled commitment to the overall economic growth of the nation. According to a paper published by Niti Aayog in November 2017, rural areas accounted for almost 95%, with the engagement of close to 96% in employment, of the total agricultural products across India.


Share of Rural Employment in across Sectors
Share of Rural Areas in NDP in percentages, Img Source: Rural Economy NIti

After agriculture, villagers are indulged most in the construction activities, which demands high physical strain and pay relatively low, rather the least among all these sectors. The fact that 96% of those working in farm hail from rural areas makes it inevitable to pay heed to the agricultural sector. We are all cognizant of the economic wonders   the 1991 reforms did on the country: At 4.2 From 1971 to 91, the growth rate of the total economy jumped to close to 7% in the aftermath of the reforms. However, these reforms miserably failed to fetch anything to the agricultural sector -which still employs 64% of the rural workforce, as per the PLFS(Periodic Labour Force Survey ) annual survey  2017-18- but status quo. The GDP of agriculture and allied sectors took about 23 years to double before 1991, and it took the same number of years to double again post 1991, marking a huge disappointment. In recent years, the agricultural growth rate has been around 3%, while for non-agricultural close to 8%.

We have to take a close a look at the below table to comprehend Sectoral share in NDP and employment in rural areas from 1970 to 2012.

Share of rural areas in total NDP and workforce across different sectors, Img Source : Rural Economy Niti doc 

That rural economy is undergoing a paradigm shift by gradually moving to resort to non-agricultural resources for economic prospects is a great sign for the total economy of the country. Agricultural share being 39% in the total rural output in the year 2011-12 shows significant improvement on the economic front unless we choose to overlook the employment, 64%, associated with the same, which, thereby, scaled down the intensity of satisfaction brought by its success.
One major concern is the disparity prevalent among rural and urban workers. For the year 2011-12, urban workers earned 64 percent higher income as compared to the non-farm workers of rural areas. The share of rural masses in high-paid jobs like in the service sector is considerably low, which we need to grow to strike a balance in resource distribution.

Increase Availability of Basic Amenities 

    
It is vital to start moving towards making efforts to build basic infrastructure in our villages, where 70% of our population resides in, and despite the rise of urbanization, the headcount will be above 50% even in 2050, researchers suggest. By and large, villages are deprived of acceptable health care and high education. Despite most villages in India now having government schools till the primary or secondary level, a large portion of them face an acute shortage of teachers and basic facilities on the premises. I have already written extensively more about it here.
It’s devastating to acknowledge that, even in the 21st century, a considerable number of patients suffering from acute diseases when inflicted on by an immediate attack unfortunately die on their way to hospital. This reason is all the more sufficient for us to consider working out a systemic strategy to provide villages and remote areas access to Emergency Medical Services(EMS) vans.
The biggest reason, as suggested by NITI aayog, for there being disparity in income in rural and urban areas, is a lack of availability of education and skill training among workers hailing from rural areas. Due to this, they are mostly employed in low paid activities.
What can be concluded is  we are in dire need to have a rethink over our approach of making indiscriminate efforts towards pushing them out of the farm activities as their failure to possess the required skills end up landing them in paltry-paying jobs in most cases; the data provided by NSS in its survey, July-December 2018, on Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene Housing condition in India further strengthens this proposition: Among the households living in houses, about 89.0 percent of the households in the rural areas and about 56.4 percent of the households in the urban areas had independent house, which compelled us to believe that they should be provided as much opportunities as possible in villages itself, where they can live in their home with family rather than residing in a helpless environment in cities with no mental and social support. In addition to that, it will help maintain balance of the distribution of resources among rural and urban areas, and certainly reduce the unfortunate events like exodus to villages from cities in the time of crisis.

Redefining the Image


The rebuilding of the image of our villages is essential to achieve other objects smoothly. It is noted officers, medical workers, etc appointed to work in rural areas demonstrate unwillingness or feel discontent on the account of their academic qualifications suiting more to the urban environment than that of rural. They can’t be expected to believe to have embraced it wholeheartedly just on the grounds that villages need their service. Though they are compelled to join, they keep on striving to get themselves posted in cities; a part of their mind carries disappointment and displeasure. The government really needs to address these mental concerns by putting in place a conducive environment for them to work satisfactorily. Besides that, it will certainly pave the way for the villages to be self-reliant.

PM Modi on the occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day, April 24, said, while launching two projects for Gram Panchayats, that the coronavirus pandemic has taught that we have to become self-dependent. From childhood we have been taught, through textbooks and by teachers, a village is the smallest unit of a nation. Gandhi Ji firmly believed that developments should start from our villages, and they be made self-reliant, which in turn will lay the foundation of a strong nation.

                                     

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