Changing the rural landscape

Data suggests that rural India is spending more than urban India. Take, for example, the period between 2009 and 2012 when Indians in the villages spent $69 billion, compared with $55 billion by urban people. However, the focus of policymakers as well as private companies has overwhelmingly been the urban landscape.

The rural economy contributes 50% of the country's gross domestic product. It also accounts for 50% of the work force. About 75% of new factories built in the past three decades have come up in rural areas, which also account for 75% of all new manufacturing jobs. Since 2000, per capita GDP has grown on average at 6.2% a year in rural India compared with 4.2% in urban areas of the country.

Being a predominantly agriculture-based country, the sector contributes nearly a fifth of India's gross domestic product. The Government of India, through several ministries, has been formulating policies, regulation and laws pertaining to the development of the rural sector. Agriculture, horticulture, handicrafts, fisheries, poultry and diary are the major contributors to the rural economy.

Rural development is a veritable tool for fighting poverty and achieving economic prosperity at the grassroots level. The concept of rural development embraced by most countries connotes a process through which rural poverty is alleviated by sustained increases in the productivity and incomes of lowincome workers and households. It is necessary to take more steps towards emphasising the importance of rural development in a planned and professional manner. There is a need to focus our attention on the current status of the country in terms of various socio-economic indicators while talking about the positive spill-overs of rural development initiatives.

Rural management is considered extremely important for a country like India, where a majority of the population (69%) live in rural areas. The current policy of rural development mainly emphasises on poverty reduction, creating livelihoods, developing basic amenities and infrastructure through programmes of wage distribution and promoting self-employment.

Rural India has gone through numerous vagaries over the last few decades. Rural management will be better-off and more meaningful through the participation of various stakeholders. Just as execution is the benchmark for development, people's involvement is the main factor in rural development. It is a principal prerequisite of development progression both from practical and philosophical perspectives. For policymakers and administrators, it is imperative to seek the involvement of diverse groups of rural people to make the process participatory and effective.

Rural management aims to improve rural people's socio-economic condition in a reasonable and sustainable manner while also considering social and environmental issues, leading to improved access to assets and services and control over natural, human and financial capital that empower them to work on their livelihoods on a sustainable basis.

Although intensive energies have been introduced by the government via several policies and measures to reduce poverty in rural India, a lot still needs to be done to make the rural population better-off. At present, technology dissemination is uneven and slow in the rural areas. Efforts of many organisations in developing technologies, devices and products for the rural population have not yet paid off. The experiences of other countries suggest that technological development fuelled by demand has a higher dissemination rate than one fuelled by supply. However, in India, technology developers for rural areas have been catering to needs, rather than generating demand.

Besides, there is a disparity between policies and effective management programmes. The dissemination of technology or schemes for development is slow, which is further aggravated by low participation of different stakeholders. An ideal approach may, therefore, include the government, panchayats, village folk, researchers, industries, NGOs, academia and private companies to not only help in reducing this imbalance but also to have a multiplier effect on the overall economy.

Reform policies

The dismal status of rural India is due to numerous reasons. The foremost is the lack of a clear government policy, a problem that has persisted for a long time. The country did not change institutional mechanisms and regulatory frameworks to create an environment conducive for countryside development, as was necessary to adjust to changes in the domestic and global environment, particularly in the context of agriculture and allied sectors. This relates particularly to the lack of participation by the private sector in developmental initiatives. Another reason is the neglect of infrastructure and diversion of resources to populist measures.

A third reason is the slow speed of technological dissemination and weakening of extension system. Unless reforms are implemented, it will not be possible to achieve the desirable sustainable results and to be able to mitigate rural distress.

(The writer is Assistant Professor, School of Development Studies, IIHMR University,
Jaipur)

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