Understanding Rural Scenario

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Source: Livemint

Rural development is a strategy package seeking to achieve, enhanced rural production and productivity, greater socio-economic equity, and aspiration, balance in social and economic development. The basic objectives of rural development programme have been alleviation of poverty and unemployment through creating basic social and economic infrastructure, training to rural unemployed youth and to provide employment to marginal farmers/labourers, so as to discourage seasonal and permanent migration to urban areas. A Rural Community can be classified as rural based on the criteria of lower population density, less social differentiation, less social and spatial mobility, slow rate of social change, etc. The development of rural areas has meant the extension of irrigation facilities, expansion of electricity, improvement in the techniques of cultivation, construction of school building and provision of educational facilities, health care etc. Rural development signifies a complex and long term process involving the fundamental transformation of rural society both at social and economic levels.
Rural development areas that need some attention in India are:
•    Public health and sanitation
•    Literacy
•    Female empowerment
•    Enforcement of law and order
•    Land reforms
•    Infrastructure development like irrigation, electricity, etc.
•    Availability of credit
•    Eradication of poverty

NEED FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT IN INDIA:
For example, in the agrarian economy, although farming and agriculture are one of the most important in the primary activities, the agriculture sector is on a constant decline. About two-thirds of India’s population depends on agriculture but productivity is not much up to the mark, with conditions getting worse.
Moreover, public investment declined since 1991 coupled with a lack of adequate infrastructure, credit, transport, employment, etc. henceforth, the agricultural output has grown at only 3.2% during 2007-2011. Therefore there is a need to focus on rural development and not just urban development.

COMPONENTS OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT:
•    Rural development transforms all the sectors of the rural economy into the primary sector, the secondary sector and the tertiary sector.
•    The improvement of the standard of living of the rurality’sis related through the provision of health and medical facilities, employment opportunities including vocational training, educational facilities etc.
•    It shows notable improvement in the socio-economic conditions of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, the landless agricultural labourers and the marginal and small fanners.

ESSENTIAL ASPECTS OF RURAL DEVELOPMENT:
•    Agricultural development is a part of the critical aspect of rural development. Agricultural development is possible through the use of better seeds, adequate fertilisers, manures, and pesticides, adequate supply of water and effective implementation of land reform measures.
•    By effecting changes in the socio-economic institutions, rural development seeks to change the socio-economic structure of the rural community.
•    The effectiveness of the rural development programmes compiles political non-interference. The persons associated with these programmes should be given adequate freedom to carry out their plans and programmes with undivided attention.
•    The success of the rural development programmes depends on the co-operative orientation and attitude among the rurality. The functioning of the co-operative societies goes a long way in improving the conditions of the vulnerable sections of the rural set-up.
•    Rural development programmes demand the active participation of the ruralities. While formulating these programmes the opinions, attitudes, drives and interests of the rural people should be taken into account. Further, dedicated and committed village leaders should come forward to guide the masses for bringing about rural development.

INTEGRATED RURAL DEVELOPMENT:
It is claimed that the concept of Integrated Rural Development was originally propounded by the World Bank. In India, the concept was put forward in the year 1976 at the All-India Science Congress by C. Subramanyam, the then Finance Minister of India.
He viewed integrated rural development as “systematic, scientific and integrated use of all our natural resources and as a part of this process enabling every person to engage himself in a productive and socially useful occupation and earn an income that would meet at least the basic needs.”
He holds the view that the use of natural resources is possible only through the application of science and technology. Further, the proper application of science and technology results in the fulfilment of basic social needs.
G. Parthasarathy refers to four ‘routes’ in the context of integrated rural development:
•    The institutional route of Gunnar Myrdal,
•    The ‘New Economics’ route,
•    The Neo-Marxian route and
•    The Gandhian route.
V.K.R.V. Rao defines integrated rural development as “the optimum utilization of the natural and human resources of a given rural area for the enrichment of the quality of life of the population.”
The concept of integrated rural development addresses itself to various rural problems like widespread poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, exploitation, inequitable distribution of land, poor health conditions etc. It signifies that various facets of rural development are integrally connected.

SEVEN MAJOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT POLICIES IN INDIA:

1. Land Policy:
•    Land policy is a crucial element in a rural development strategy. It is well-known that the distribution of land and other assets is very much skewed in India, as the large majorities have small landholdings.
•    This has a direct impact on the ability to earn incomes in rural areas. Land reforms including the protection of the rights of tenants are one of the primary means of transforming rural societies.

2. Technology Policy:
•    Improvements in technologies available lo rural societies can have a big impact on them. On one hand, it is essential that newer technologies are adapted to rural societies and on the other, it is necessary that existing technologies are extended to rural areas. Technological planning, research and development are very vital ingredients of rural development.
•    In India, the agricultural sector is particularly vulnerable to the ravage of the weather. Technological improvements can play a vital role in insulating agriculture from the effects of weather.

3. Agricultural Policy:
Agriculture remains the main avenue for providing incomes and employment in rural areas. Needless to say, agricultural planning is vital for rural development strategies.

4. Employment Policy:
Given the extent of the unemployment problem in rural India, the need for well-formulated employment programmes can hardly be overstated. Such programmes can insulate fluctuations in rural incomes on account of poor weather conditions. Agricultural employment is often seasonal. Under these conditions, rural employment programmes can ensure a better spread of employment throughout the year. The growth of non-agricultural activity within the village economy can also relieve the pressure of population on the land.

5. Education, Research and Extension Policy:
•    In India, the problem of illiteracy is particularly acute in rural areas. The lack of education can act as a constraint in furthering rural development. Rural societies, are also characterized by widespread inequalities in the distribution of incomes and assets.
•    The spread of education on the one hand, can enable the rural poor to ensure distributive justice and, on the other, help them in actively participating in rural development programmes.
•    Research and extension is a very important ingredient of rural development strategies. Research enables furthering knowledge which is appropriate to rural cultures and extension ensures that the gains are actually delivered to the target groups.

6. Rural Institutions Policy:
•    Rural institutions need to be reformed and utilized for successfully carrying out rural development. The institutional aspects of rural societies are often ignored when strategies are formulated. The institutional structures such as panchayats need to be nurtured so that there is popular participation in rural development.
•    Since rural settlements are spread out and are often isolated, they cannot be monitored successfully from outside. Contrarily, local monitoring by institutions such as panchayats can actually ensure that programmes are successfully implemented and that the target group actually benefits from such programmes. Rural institutions such as banks and co-operatives can also play a vital role in rural development.

7. Price Policy:
•    Agricultural produce has to be priced in such a manner that the farmers enjoy adequate returns.
•    The price policy through the use of subsidies can act as a means of providing essential items of mass consumption to people residing in rural areas. This is particularly essential for those below the poverty line. The spread of the public distribution system through its network of ration shops in rural areas can be used to solve this problem.
•    This is particularly important during periods of poor rainfall when rural Incomes are adversely affected, which in turn has a negative effect on consumption. Subsidies may have other forms—the form of input subsidies to the agricultural sector for example.
•    This is particularly important in the case of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. Thus, the price policy can act as a useful means of achieving rural development objectives.

For the development of an economy, both rural and urban areas need to be focused upon. Rural areas need drastic changes in areas like infrastructure, credit availability, literacy, poverty eradication, etc. the schemes that are already in place with the aim of rural development need a new outlook and proper updating. Accordingly, the government needs to act for the upliftment of rural India.

Writer: S.ANITHA, from Coimbatore , secured first position (Above 18 years category) in Monthly International Essay Competition, November, 2019.

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