Saturday, October 15, 2011


It is said that India lives in rural areas because as a country predominantly agrarian in nature, agriculture was the backbone of the economy till recently. It is another matter that economic liberalization policies ushered two decades ago have pushed the agriculture to the background though it still contributes substantially to the GDP of the country. With a population of more than 1.1 billion, India has the unenviable task of producing adequate foods to feed its citizens qualitatively and quantitatively. To achieve this agriculture must receive adequate focus by the Planning Commission and the government and neglecting the farmers may not be best way to achieve food security. if the spate of suicides by farmers in all parts of the country is any any indication, there is some thing radically wrong with the governing system in place in this country.

The attitude of the government, that massive subsidies are being given in every budget that comes each year and therefore the farmers should have no grouse, is seriously misplaced. Does not the government understand that there is massive leakage of funds intended for agricultural subsidy, only a portion of it reaching the intended beneficiaries. Due to inadequate oversight farmers find it hard to access right type of inputs including seeds and erratic rains make their cup of misery full! Crop insurance schemes are not working as intended to be and drought is a common recurrence in many parts of the country. Remunerative price to the farmers for their crops is still a mirage and agriculture in India has never been viable in the past or present. What is the option for the hapless farmer to keep his soul and body together? Migration to urban areas in search of better earning opportunities? This is what is happening in the country, leading to swelling of the population in urban areas due to continuous and unhindered influx of rural folks day and night!

Look at the statistics relating to urbanization in the country which can be quite perplexing for any concerned citizen. In 1947 only 15% of the population was residing in Urban areas as against 30% plus to day. Between 1991 and 2001 urban population grew by a staggering 31% while growth of rural population was just 18%. It is estimated by experts that another 95 million people will be added to the existing 300 million plus population in in urban areas by the year 2020! Why are the rural folks so enamored by the city life? Major reason is that an average urban dweller earns almost 4 times the earning of a rural resident. But do they realize that by leaving the serene and unpolluted environment in their native villages, they are going to end up in a highly polluted settlement where more than 30% stay in ghettos or slums with hardly any facility for protected water or toilet or waste water drainage. As against just 2% population growth in the country as a whole, slum population in the cities grows by a whopping 9% annually. Still rural people rush to the cities hoping for a better living standard!

What can be done to reverse this trend? Of course even discussing this issue by an ordinary mortal like this blogger may be frowned upon by hundreds of so called "experts" but as a citizen every one has a right to express individual views which may be laughable for some. It is often not realized that the three important yardstick that can be used to gauge the success of rural development programs are the natural environment within which people live, social well being that ensures good quality life and the economic security for long term happiness. Why is that urban elites yearn for visiting rural areas as a part of their leisure and pleasure style of life? Why not the unspoiled environment of rural settings be exploited as a part of tourism which can boost the income levels of the local population? Rural population can stay back in their villages only if their social well being is boosted by economic activities which in turn can come only if educational facilities are established. If GOI is serious about uplifting of rural economy, industrialization is a must and if agricultural crops are the main strength of the rural areas, agriculture specific industries must be thought of in a big way.

Why is that every industry wants to set up their operations in cities or nearby? Obviously because of decent infrastructure, easy availability of literate workers and proximity to the market. Why not the Government provide at least two of the above prerequisites so that industry can be attracted in large numbers? If infrastructure in terms of good roads, abundant water supply and power and reasonable educational facilities are ensured other things will take care of themselves. It is often said that if industry is set up in rural settings, it has the potential to starve the agricultural activities like tilling, sowing, crop tending, harvesting, threshing and bagging, of workers as industry invariably pays higher wages. Besides there is more job security with assured work through out the year. This is a warped argument because if industrialization takes place there will be reverse migration from cities to villages by people in search of jobs! It is well to remember the prophetic words of our our vice, knowledgeable past President Abdul Kalam about converting the "villages into cities" by providing various services and facilities as being enjoyed by the urban residents.

It is well known that the food processing industry generates added value by transforming agricultural raw materials into products that are easily marketable because of improved storability and nutritive value and appropriate linkage to farms can enhance income and profitability of producers very significantly. Why is this country perpetuating a system of exploitation of the farmers by traders and brokers who profit the most from agricultural products due to their direct access to market and it is only the food processing activities in rural area that can reduce the role of these intermediaries. Since the food processing industry needs educated people with modern knowledge and technical skills, a positive push will be provided to encourage people in rural areas to improve their education to meet the standard of industrial workers. Probably such a push can spur the growth of educational institutions which can supply the needs of the industry.

The debate, whether rural industry has to be small in size or large industries can also play the role of rural development, is irrelevant because all types of food industry are people oriented though large industry does deploy lot of automatic machinery for many operations. Of course small and medium enterprises (SMEs) may have better chance of success because they are generally seen as having a higher propensity to innovate than larger firms due to their amenability to be more flexible, dynamic and responsive to shifts in demand and changes in economic conditions. Giving the food processing SMEs the lead role in rural development can stimulate other sectors to grow. A good quality of life in rural areas will definitely discourage any exodus to urban areas. It is time India sheds its "Elephantine" image because of its size and slow progress and acts more like a tiger with springiness in its strides when it comes to rural development and urbanization.


1 comment:

Rural Industry Minister said...

Now a days india is growing day by day its very good