Rural India craving for sustainable growth

When urban centric global economic model with mono sector bias is clueless to fight global slowdown effect, India’s 6.40 lakh villages spread across 30 states and seven union territories still preserve the ingredients for sustainable growth for a happy and prosperous life in the backdrop of a socio cultural ambience. India still has a healthy rural economic model which can tick income and employment cycle without putting pressure on environment.

As per All India Artisan Census, India has 47.61 lakh rural artisans who can add high value to simple organic and non organic substances. In spite of economic slowdown, the exports of handicrafts (other than hand knotted carpets) has witnessed a phenomenal growth from a meager Rs 387 crore in 1986-87 to Rs 17,970 crore in 2012-13.
Unfortunately the dividends do not percolate to reach the original craft makers. Genuine silver filigree artisans of Cuttack, patta chitra artisans of Raghurajpur, paithani and himroo artisans of Aurangabad, bidri artisans of Bidar district of Karnataka, chikankari artisans of Lucknow, wood artisans of Bastar, handloom weavers and metal craft men of southern states and pashmina shawl makers of Kashmir etc are not enthused to work for a daily wage. The younger generations are switching over to other professions.

Adding to income

India’s 20 agro ecological regions and 60 sub regions grow a wide range of vegetables, food grains and fruits. Hundreds of edible herbs, shrubs, tree leaves and roots available in villages always form a food buffer. For example a simple drum stick tree offers drumsticks and leaves for edible purpose while its stems have high medicinal value.

Similarly the ubiquitous pumpkin plant offers its flowers, stems, pumpkins and seeds for consumption. The flower, fruits and stems of banana tree are used for food. Coconut tree gives edible oil, rope, handicrafts and wood.  Variety of delicacies and utility items made from coconut plants add to villager’s income.

During British rule the food backup depleted to a great extent. Economic Historian, Romesh Chundar Dutt attributed poverty and low wage were among the indirect products of colonial rule.  Dutt noted India in the eighteenth century was a great manufacturing as well as great agricultural country and the products of the Indian looms supplied in the markets of Asia and of Europe.

The post independent Indian leadership failed to prevent Vidarbha farmers falling into mono crop trap. Conversion of above 70 per cent of farm land into cotton crop is the main reason for farmers’ suicide here. Agriculture experts could not access the future risk of cotton crops which hardly sustain in dry land. Use of chemical pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer without much field test has destroyed a wide range of edible herbs and shrubs across the country. Recent studies show wetland and paddy cultivated area in Kerala has shrunk by 65 per cent in the last 30 years.

Paddy production fell from 13.34 lakh tons to 5 lakh tons during the period. Kuttand the granary of Kerala had lost nearly 18,000 ha of paddy field during the period. Thousands of hectares of paddy fields were lost on both sides of the 270 kilometre stretch of the National Highway No. 5 from Balasore to Pune. Nearly 44 river, its 900 tributaries and seven huge lakes in Kerala used to recharge the water table to make it god’s abode. Today the water bodies are exposed to high risks from business venture.

India’s 85,807 water bodies are not in use and 8,152 water sources are totally dry as per Ministry of Water Resources. The recent data from Union agriculture ministry shows 20 states have reportedly lost 7,90,000 hectares of cultivable land between 2007-08 to 2010-11. The discussion paper No. 2 of National Commission for agriculture costs and prices (December 2012) shows the production cost of rice and wheat has gone up by 45 per cent in the last three years due to rising labor and energy cost. India’s more than 47,000 village haats need to be freed from middlemen and shadow deals.

Transparency in domestic trade as well as in the global agri trade will enthuse Indian farmers. United Nation instead of recommending for insect farming to meet food need must pressurize developed nations to rationalise their biased import regulations.  India must open its economic eyes to see the unnoticed potential in their doorstep instead of looking at FDI or financial solution for each problem. There is need to inform people about the potential of our eco system which can sustain livelihood, narrow CAD gap and improve fiscal deficit.

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