With a meagre 2.4% of the landmass, India is home to over 17.5% of global population. Today, decades after Independence, India is gradually making her way to earn a place among the economically-developed nations. This pace of development can be accelerated through all-inclusive progress. Diversity is our unique identity. Over 70% of our population is distributed in more than 6 lakh villages. The remaining live in about 5,000 towns and over 280 urban agglomerations. While the leaders of pre-independent India such as Mahatma Gandhi emphasised on rural empowerment, the post-independent reorganisation of the country has been ineffective to convert such ideas into reality. While the government initiatives for a developed India are not apathetic to rural peripheries, the process is apparently inadequate. Either the functioning of government initiatives is with glitches or they are with serious setbacks on policy fronts. Issues such as farmer suicides still rage the country even as the bright face of a rich India shines abroad.
Rural India not only produces bread and butter for the nation, but is also awash with natural resources. By depriving them of education, financial support, infrastructure and employment, we are at the risk of turning our rural populace into a sheer wastage of human resource. Come to think of it, rural India can be the most efficient powerhouse for national development. One, because it comprises three-fourths of Indian population. And two, because most of the country’s natural resources are concentrated in such areas, so by leveraging manufacturing and industry in rural landscapes the nation can utilise them more efficiently. While initiatives such as Skill India and Make-in-India are welcome, they need to bring rural India under the ambit of active development.
Skill development is getting priority. An increasing emphasis must be on dedicated schemes for capacity building in rural India. The formation of a well-established infrastructure exclusively for skill development in rural India must be initiated.
Rural India also has immense potential to add to our manufacturing and export. For example, handicraft, handloom, textiles, orchids, herbs and similar goods, which have a huge commercial viability in the global market, are essentially rural India products. Industries associated with these products can be developed with bases in rural landscapes throughout the nation. This can not only bring about a sharp breakthrough in indigenous industry and manufacturing, but can also enable rural communities to become self-dependent with economic empowerment. Further, skill development schemes that focus on infrastructure development in rural India are the need of the hour.
It would be a welcome initiative if government schools in rural India can add region-specific vocational training to their curriculum. Schemes can also be floated to use school infrastructure in post-school hours for training and skill development.
The dream of a developed India can be realised only with proper utilisation of its human resources. Since rural India is our biggest human resource, it is time to hone this asset.
The author is CEO, Rise India Group