Nearly, 70% of the Indian population resides in villages, which implies that rural India accommodate most of the human capital of our country. On 11th October 2014, on the birth anniversary of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) with the aim of social development, cultural development as well as spreading awareness with regards to social mobility within communities.
Developing capacities and facilities in rural areas has become utmost important because every year, millions of youngsters from this space are forced to migrate to cities in search of livelihoods, resulting into increased pressure on cities having limited resources. These people mostly end up picking petty jobs because of lack of required skills needed to get a good job in city. If the required livelihoods and facilities were given to them at their native place, most of them would never migrate, as everyone likes to work, where one is comfortable.
This is not an impossible task to do, because it has already been done in village called Purushwadi, and that too without government intervention. Purushwadi, is situated in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra state. It is a hill station village, populated by Mahadeo Koli tribe. As the village is housed in western ghats, trenches had been made to hold water as well as to stop soil erosion. Village has good ground water table as well. Agriculture there mostly comprise of three cropping seasons and people usually grow for self consumption. People are very much aware of the harmful effects free cattle grazing, therefore most of them keep their cattle at home in a separate room meant for animals. Village also has a community based rural tourism project which helps them to earn supplemental income by hosting tourists.
The prosperity in the village is basically a result of diligent efforts of two organizations – WOTR (Watershed Organization Trust), who is responsible for cultivating water management and good citizenship practices among people and Grassroutes Journeys Pvt. Ltd., who initiated the community based rural tourism project in the village. This initiative has increased the income of native households by 35%. Their diet usually contains the food which is locally grown, as well as the vegetables and crabs they collect from forests. Some of them also collect edible forest produce to sell them in nearby town, Rajur.
Tourism in the village helps them in cultural exchange, and also gives them the opportunity to boast about their culture. On the other hand, they get to interact with their urban counterparts, and this exchange of thoughts helps them to gain more wisdom. Average age of marriage for women has increased from 16 to 21 years and number of graduates in the village has substantially increased. These are evident changes which are the result of this rural-urban interaction. There is a Village Development Committee (VDC) in the village, who tries to identify the needs of the village and fulfill them up to the best of their capability. Grassroutes conducts in the village in collaboration with the VDC, where VDC decides the rates of the services rendered by villagers and looks after all arrangements with in the village. This is a great example of empowering local communities and make them capable of decision making.
If we want to develop our villages, the focus should be on creating livelihoods, and to create livelihoods with in rural space, a transaction needs to be done with the outside world to create the inflow of money into that area. A lot of creative models can be developed for the flow of revenue. Rural tourism is just one of them. The most successful example is Amul, a collective of farmers of village Anand, which transformed into million dollar business. The crux is simple, when people come together for their common economic interest, development happens.
The concept of smart village can only be realized if natives become smart to identify their collective potential. Rural spaces are the mines of raw material required for all industries, therefore, Community Enterprises have great potential of bringing economic progress to the rural space. As disguised unemployment is one of the biggest problems in Indian agriculture, excess workforce can be utilized to look after distribution and marketing aspect of the business. But the problem is that, all people in the village mostly focuses on production.
If government wants to turn rural spaces into smart villages or Adarsh Gram, they should thoroughly see the work done by above stated organizations and try to replicate the kind of work being done at Purushwadi. The investment, I believe, which is required is not only monetary but also in social terms also. Self confidence has to be instilled among people, so that they can act enterprising and take risks.
At last, I would like to mention that solution should come from within communities, rather than forcing ready-made solutions on them. It has to be customized for each and every village based on their context. Sounds hard, but the outcomes are there to see. Do visit Purushwadi if you are around in this region to witness for yourself.