One of the much-discussed elements of Mahatma Gandhi’s life and his thinking was the thrust he laid upon Indian villages and their economy. There may be differing views on whether the rural mantra is still relevant or if urbanisation is the new reality to be accepted. But there cannot be disagreement if anyone says that the villages or places beyond big cities should be self-reliant and find an economic model of their own.
“In the scheme of reconstruction for Free India, its villages should no longer depend, as they are now doing, on its cities, but cities should exist only for and in the interest of the villages. Therefore, the spinning-wheel should occupy the proud position of the centre round which all the life-giving village industries would revolve.” – Mahatma Gandhi in Harijan, 30-8-1947
Now, the question worth probing is whether India is ensuring its villages to be self-reliant. Are the policies made in that direction to create “life-giving village industries”?
As an answer to this question, you may count on many measures under the Modi government that are paving way for robust economic activities in villages and small towns.
Farmers Can Become Agri-entrepreneurs
With the recent agriculture reforms in place, farmers can sell their produce to anyone. They are given a choice of either selling to local market or entering into agreements with buyers to grow what is in demand. Removing the restriction on movement of agriculture produce brings new opportunities, making the villages a new hub of economic activities. Our previous article How Recent Reforms in Agriculture Have Opened New Avenues of Opportunities for Agri-Business will shed light on such new avenues.
Along with this, the Modi government also offered a financing facility of ₹1 lakh crore for funding Agriculture Infrastructure Projects at farm-gate and aggregation points. All these measures will provide an opportunity for those involved in agriculture to act and reap benefit like an entrepreneur.
“Had we followed the essence of Bapu’s economic philosophy, we would never have to be working to build an Aatma Nirbhar Bharat now. It would have happened much earlier. The power to sell their agricultural produce anywhere and to anyone in the country became the reason for growth of farmers.” -PM Modi in Mann Ki Baat
Digitally Empowering Villages
In his Independence Day speech this year, PM Narendra Modi has made a promise that the government will digitally empower villages to the fullest. He made a commitment of providing all 6 lakh villages with Optical Fibre cable Network (OFN) within 1,000 days. At present, 1.5 lakh villages have been provided OFN.
At one level, it will facilitate faster and quick governance at the grassroots. The Modi government has already covered a huge population of villages through Jan Dhan Yojana, Ayushman Bharat health insurance etc. Now, it is enabling them digitally, which will bring further transparency and ease in the networks already available.
At another level, the availability of internet through OFC will open the floodgates of opportunities in villages. The Corona crisis has strengthened the concept of remote working in many sectors. Digitally connecting the villages will immensely help the talents in villages and small cities to work from there place without moving to the big cities.
Food industry – Villages to Become a Market Force
Amidst the pandemic, the Modi government announced a scheme to help 2 lakh Micro Food Enterprises with ₹10,000 crore. Since the majority of such micro food enterprises operate from villages and small-towns, the measure will bring economic prosperity to such place by providing them opportunity to scale-up.
The key focus area will be the improvement of health and safety standards, integration with retail markets and improved incomes. This will be in line with ‘vocal for local’ statement envisaged by the Prime Minister. Cluster based approach will be followed for instance mango cluster in UP-Bihar, Kesar cluster in J&K.
The first term of the Modi government has worked on many Gandhian ideas like sanitation, providing villages with basic necessities, making governance a mass movement etc. Now the second term is promising to make villages economic hubs. The realisation of it will be a great tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.
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