Governance paradigm in rural India- Today Current Affairs
Rural India has long been considered the spine of India’s economy. Agriculture isn’t just the most important contributing sector to the economy but also ensures food security during a constantly growing and developing country. Beyond food and economics lies another major (although understudied) dimension of sustainability and environmental conservation, of which the agri-economy is the primary stakeholder. Effective and efficient governance may be a key ingredient in ensuring all-round development of rural areas at par with the urban ones . As a result, the need for an all inclusive and sustainable development for rural areas has been felt much more strongly in recent years, bringing issues of rural governance to the forefront of policy discourse in our country .
This year the state is marking 75 years of its independence with the ‘Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav’ campaign under which several celebrations and developmental initiatives are being undertaken for 75 weeks ending 15th August 2023. In this context, this piece unpacks the transformation of rural India over seven decades by specifically examining the governance and repair delivery frameworks to trace the progress made so far and the challenges that lie ahead.
Rural India Over the Years- The Hindu Analysis
To comprehensively understand the rural India of today, we must go back in time to our independence period and see how far the nation has come in the past 74 years. At the time of independence, the newly formed nation inherited an impoverished population, a famine and drought prone geography and a ravaged economy. However, the miracles of Green Revolution and later the Operation Flood in milk helped the economy leapfrog from being food grain and milk deficient to currently being among the largest producers and exporters of agri and dairy produce globally.
However, rapid urbanisation within the previous couple of decades thanks to increasing industrialisation and mobility, have contributed in diminishing dependence on agriculture and by extension, its rural areas. Particularly the rural governance and ease of living mechanisms, which have seen neglect, complacency and a lack of awareness and enthusiasm finally leading to mass migrations of workers and labourers from Indian villages to cities.
Governance and Service Delivery Initiatives and Reforms: The Hindu Analysis
Several continuous measures, programs and initiatives aimed at bridging the rural-urban divide have been implemented across multiple levels, with renewed vigour in the last seven years. Beginning with the implementation of the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to transfer monetary benefits directly into the accounts of beneficiaries (mostly rural residents) to opening over 40 crore bank accounts of the unbanked, mostly rural people, under the Jan Dhan Yojana and later combining their synergies under the Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM Trinity) to make sure seamless delivery of public services, rural India has been undergoing a silent revolution.
Another notable initiative has been the setting up of Common Service Centres (CSCs) under the Digital India Mission, across rural India, to deliver essential public services to rural folk in one place. Currently, over 4,12,000 CSCs are operational in our rural areas.
Through the introduction and implementation of schemes like PM-KISAN and Public Distribution System (PDS)subsidies, money is directly transferred into the accounts of millions of farmers enabling them to utilize this money for their benefit. This has contributed to plugging leakages and corruption to unintended/fake beneficiaries and saves many rupees of public funds from going into the wrong hands.
The role of Khadi both as a rural institution and as a common thread binding all of India, is very important yet very often ignored. The last 6-7 years have seen Khadi becoming a mass movement, turning from a loss-making entity to a highly profitable one, recording gross turnover well over Rs.5,000 crore last year despite the pandemic.
Other Government flagship schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY Bharatmala Pariyojana, Sagarmala Pariyojana, and Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) all focus on multiplying connectivity and mobility among our rural territories by different means of transport. Enhanced connectivity, besides boosting economic opportunities, also exposes avenues for social and community development also . It increases urban-rural engagements and reduces the divide between ‘Bharat’ and ‘India’ as rural and concrete India are commonly known, respectively.
Homelessness and abject poverty are two of the foremost significant characteristics of rural India for an extended time. To address the issue of homelessness, a major chunk of which is in the rural areas, the government launched the PM-Awas (Gramin) Yojana aimed at providing houses to the eligible rural population in the country so as to achieve the PM’s objective of “Housing for AIL” The scheme seeks to provide other facilities to make it an aspirational home for the beneficiaries through convergence with other schemes like Swachh Bharat Mission and PM-Ujjwala Yojana for providing LPG connections.
To help rural areas avoid the trap of debt and property disputes that have for long hampered land acquisition and monetisation for infrastructure and development projects, the govt launched the Survey of Villages and Mapping with Improvised Technology in Village Areas or SVAMITVA, as a tool to hold out large-scale mapping and surveys of rural properties using advanced drone and satellite technologies, and pave the way for employing a property as a financial asset by villagers for availing loans and other financial benefits.
The use of technology for inculcating formalisation in rural governance has similarly been replicated within the newly launched e-SHRAM portal of the Ministry of Labour, which seeks to onboard millions of unorganised workers from across the country on one portal and help prepare one National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW) within the country.
The initiatives, programs and schemes mentioned above are multi-pronged in their approach and wide in their reach. While all of them address different, but interconnected issues to make rural India more economically attractive and socially sustainable.
The journey of rural India since Independence has been nothing short of miraculous. It has transformed itself from being an agrarian geography largely unaffected by the benefits of India’s post1991 economic marvel to one becoming increasingly entrepreneurial, and connected with the rest of the country thus, playing a proactive role in the larger India growth story. But, the story neither begins nor ends with economic transformation only; rather, social and economic transformations have complemented each other in making rural India’s development truly all-inclusive. The focus of this article, however, was the governance paradigm in rural India and how governance reforms have accelerated social and economic change in our rural areas. Government initiatives and schemes such as OBT, JAM, PMAwas Yojana (PMAY), CSCs, PM-KISAN, SWAMITVA, Ayushman Bharat, PM-KVY, PM-GSY, UOAN and PMUY, have been touched upon and examined to demonstrate that public service delivery in rural areas has indeed become more targeted and transparent on the back of effective governance leading to significant ease of living benefits for rural residents and by extension, enabling them to be more engaging and active contributors in the broader Indian growth paradigm that leaves no one behind.