Challenges abound PM's model villages
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana.
Under the new scheme, each member of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha will be given the responsibility of developing 800 model villages by 2016.
They will develop two more villages each by 2019. By the end of 2019, India will have 2,400 model villages across the country which will have a demonstration effect on other villages.
The question is whether the Modi government can restore the economic fabric of the Indian villages which was once enshrined in a performing eco-system and a healthy social life based on love, fellow feelings, sympathy and mutual co-operation.
The British Raj had almost dismantled it by introducing mono crop activities and mill made products. Unfortunately, post independent India failed to repair the economic fabric.
As a result, it has ended up preparing many relief packages from time to time.
The damage caused is so severe that it would take minimum two decades of dedicated effort to repair the economic and moral fabric of the Indian villages which once contributed to the phenomenal economic growth of India.
British Economist Angus Maddison in his book, The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, noted that India was the richest country in the world and it had controlled one third of the world’s wealth until the 17th century AD.
Maddison observed that political unity and military security helped evolve a uniform economic system, increased trade and enhanced agriculture productivity.
India was exporting spices, food grains, handicrafts, handloom products, the famous wootz steel, musk, camphor, sandalwood and ivory items, etc.
Reweaving the Indian village economy lies in the ability of the leadership to revert the change in societal behaviour which let villagers prefer unnecessary consumer items to real economic assets.
The young generation in villages today prefers fast food to homemade nutritious food.
Similarly many biodegradable, handcrafted, daily use items give way to plastic and synthetic products.
People give up many climate friendly traditional dresses, footwears and a wide range of homemade eatables for no convincing reason but for the influence of the market forces.
People are persuaded to borrow and live beyond their means. The mad craze for status symbol has indebted millions of people.
Credit delivery is not scientific which damages credit cycle. Bankers overfinance tractors in Punjab beyond potential as farmers there acquire them for status symbol and enter into a debt trap.
Pursuit of consumer comfort and decay in social value have broken the joint family system in villages which once provided safety to old people and saved family expenditure.
Loss of entrepreneurship
Over decades, massive idle energy has been created due to loan waivers, misdirected subsidy, persistent demand for relief packages and gross politicisation of village cooperative bodies.
There has been a loss of entrepreneurship in villages due to free distribution of foodgrain and wages without much productive work. Local politicians, traders, middlemen and touts siphon away the benefits from development schemes by hook or by crook.
The government should give need based subsidy to keep the agriculture input cost low instead of transferring direct benefits to villagers’ accounts.
The number of fake ration cards which is estimated to cross one crore shows how the foodgrain were looted across the country.
The biggest problem the farm sector faces today is the non-availability of agricultural labour.
As per the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), 40 per cent of farmers would want to leave farming if they could find some other option.
Instead of nurturing entrepreneurship, government after government aggravates the problems by creating an impression that the villagers are a poor, inefficient and unproductive lot who can survive only on relief.
People at the bottom of the pyramid can improve their living condition amid good governance.
Traders do not allow the tribals of Malkangiri to reach the village haat to sale their produce.
They buy organic tamarind, black gram and other minor forest products from tribals at a throw away price.
India’s 47.6 lakh artisans have potential to add high value to simple objects like stone, wood and other metal pieces.
If traders pay them their due share of profit they can lead a good life.
If the government, with its sincere efforts, were to revive the village ponds, activate the river flow, restore the top soil and the bio-diversity, crack down the traders-middlemen nexus in the supply chain, it could tick the entrepreneurship cycle.
Bringing back Indian villages into shape needs honest and committed leaders at the helm. This is high time to plug the loop holes.