Rural India is undergoing a transformation. However, most of the changes are taking the people born and brought up there out of their traditional engagements. I don’t know how many of the urban intellectuals are aware of that.
Bullocks and buffaloes used for ploughing the field are disappearing. Tractors, harvesters, and now even rice tranplanters are entering rapidly due to the shortage of immigrant labour force who got engaged in their home states in NREGA scheme. It has certainly improved the productivity and loss of final produce compared to traditional harvesting.
I was amazed to learn about the use of special harvesters for potatoes and sugarcane in some states. And it’s happening even after the insane opposition of some political leaders such as Mulayam. No one can stop this from happening and neither should it happen at the cost of the improvement in productivity of farming. It improves the quality of life of the people in rural India too.
However, it will demand creation of jobs for the categories of workers, both male and female, in the rural India that used to get engaged in the traditionally manual processes of farming and other household activities. It requires a change in mindset of rural work force with certain amount of external input, as till now the offspring in the family used to go in for the family professions.
I was amazed yesterday when Alok, who manages the farming in village, expressed his desire about starting a poultry farm and plantation in big way. It’s a real welcome change in the mindset in a land where even the persons from landless rural community are no more interested in keeping cattle and making it a business.
The changing rural India requires a different type of assistance. As the landholding is getting reduced with every new generation, the farming as profession may not sustain the livelihood of the family engaged solely in it. The scientists and experts are expected to suggest ways and means for making a good living out of two-three acres of land. How long will it remain viable with new hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizers or with right combinations of commercial and traditional crops, be it floriculture or horticulture or even premium priced organically grown products with sufficient demand and market? I am sure no government can solve the problem by just increasing the subsidy on the inputs or the minimum support price of the produce.
Additional earnings by some of the members of the households can only make a difference.
Another way of creating employment can come out of skill training and encouraging entrepreneurships. Unfortunately, even after the tremendous growths in the use of machines in farm and appliances at home, the rural kids are not ready to getting engaged into the business of servicing the equipment. The farmers mostly depend on someone in the nearby town for the repair and services. India Inc must encourage the setting up of the service centres and facilities in the rural areas to cater to the local requirements.
A lot of employment can also come from rural housing, if innovative entrepreneurs of private sector get into the business. It’s a myth that rural India can’t afford modern houses and business clusters. However, it requires a frugal engineering and construction processes suiting to the local requirements using the locally available raw material and manpower.
A special national drive is necessary to study in detail and report on creating job opportunities in rural India depending on the local strength and requirements. All management schools and agricultural universities may take up the task through summer projects to cover all the six lakh villages in India. And a team of teachers and experts can consolidate the final recommendations.
There are already successful models of the efforts made by some like Percy Burnevik, former non-executive Chairman of ABB Ltd, the power and automation giant company, through Do Bear Production Unit, where 50 dalit women produce teddy bear and earn about Rs 150 for a doll. Almost all the daughters-in-law coming in village can be the potential candidates who can participate in the drive. Some like Sulekha can easily become an entrepreneur herself for various types of activities after suitable training and engage many.
Let the policy makers and every one wishing to see a better rural India start planning on the line of successful models and create the engagement for the different categories of people living in the rural India. And that only can bring prosperity and banish the poverty.