In a recent blog, Devinder Sharma recorded that, in 2013-14, India’s farmers produced a record harvest of 264.4 million tonnes of foodgrains.
Nearly 82.2% of those employed in agriculture are small and marginal farmers. With a meagre land holding, and virtually no financial support – unlike industry – they somehow manage to survive, though studies show that nearly 60% of farmers go to bed hungry.
Mainline economists are keen to move the farming population into the urban centres. Since the World Bank prescribed rural-urban migration as the ultimate indicator of economic growth, Indian economists have been promoting the same prescription. Sharma writes:
“I expect Prime Minister Narendra Modi to make an historic correction. Taking development to the villages has been the hallmark of his political thinking. During his election campaign he repeatedly emphasised the need to make farming economically viable. He has also talked of providing modern amenities in the villages”.
The Hindu reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi adopted Jayapur village (below) in Uttar Pradesh under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana on November 7th. Of more than 1,000 families, only 100 houses in the village have their own toilets. There is one public toilet at the primary school and another in the Panchayat Bhavan. Only 5% of children from the village attend schools.
A pleasing example of cross-party co-operation
The Times of India reports that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi have also adopted one village each in their respective constituencies to develop them into model villages under Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month.
Sharma assets that a good beginning can be made by revitalizing agriculture “in a manner that brings back the smile of the face of the farmers”. He approves Modi’s aspiration to create internet linked smart villages:
“A smart village will automatically link local production with local procurement and local distribution. A smart village will not only bring internet connection into the rural hinterland but also provide support to sustainable agriculture practices. A network of small-scale industries linked to agriculture, and a strong network of rail and road corridor, with civic amenities like education and health will transform the face of real India”.
Sharma ends: “That’s the kind of change India expects. That’s the big-ticket reform the country has been waiting endlessly for 67 years. Smart villages will not only reduce the growing inequality but also bring acche din (good days ahead) for the last person in each and every corner of the country. It will at the same time reduce the burden of influx on the cities, and help reduce global warming”.
Both will have read M.K. Gandhi’s mini-classic: “Village Industries”.