The increased yield over the years (that may not compare anywhere with China) and good minimum support price have made many young men in rural India aspiring for better life. They are finding solutions to the problems such as power where the government fails. They are getting installed solar plates and some even are going for diesel generators for getting electricity for domestic use. Cooking gas is replacing cooking on traditional cow dung cakes fast, as the number of cattle have reduced drastically because of tractors. Even Harendra, who works in Noida for us bought a small cylinder and stove for his wife who lives in his village. It’s easily available too locally. Biomass such as paddy husk has become another source of power generation.
I liked the new but growing spirit of entrepreneurship that is getting contagious in Rural India. The ownerships of some 10 harvester combines by the young men in my village, Pipra, amply show the risk that they are ready to take by investing about Rs 15 lakhs in each of these machines from Punjab. They are getting business minded. They are going out for business not only to the villages around, but they even take the machine to far distant places to MP where the wheat crop gets ready a little earlier. As I could learn from the driver who took us to Varanasi in his M&M’s Balero, some middlemen are engaged in finding business for the harvesters. They take their share.
Interestingly, I found one JCB earth moving machine parked this time in the village. On enquiry I was told, it goes for rental in road building work that is going on all over in the state.
I did also found a number of passenger vehicles of all models, though Mahindra’s SUVs are more popular, parked in and around the village. They were all for rental. Today one can rent and call any vehicle at any time just by a call from his cell phone.
My village of about 2500 population is having two rice mills of a ton per hour capacity that require somewhat high investment in the range of Rs. 25 to 30 lakh or more based on capacity. One of the mills that have come up in co-operative under the government scheme is using power from a prime mover that is partly run on the gas generated from paddy husk the by-product of the rice mills. The third mill is coming up. I wish these mills could run to its full capacity. It requires capital on credit and certain amount of training in business and marketing aspects.
But I saw all these entrepreneurial aspirations only in so-called upper categories of rural households. For the households traditionally dependent on menial work, the job opportunities are shrinking fast at least in the rural areas that I am acquainted with because of mechanization. There is hardly any agricultural work that goes on for the whole year for any menial worker. A maximum of one or two persons get engaged in some affluent families for household work including that of taking care of cattle if any. Only paddy transplantation and weeding still remain as manual, but as it is happening in Punjab perhaps the machines will very soon replace these also. Some significant rural innovations, such as one by integrating a hydraulic cylinder in the trailer trolley of a tractor for tilting it to download its content, are also are being indigenously developed.
Interestingly, the owners are not using the locals as the operators of the harvesters. A group of three persons comes from the machine manufacturers of Punjab well in advance in the harvesting seasons, get the machine ready, run it for the season, cover it and go away to return in next season.
With a little preplanning, the government sponsored MNREGA could have provided useful employment to some more unemployed youth. But MNREGA can’t be called an employment in real sense.
I wish the government could create a ‘women creativity centre’ in each village. The centre could provide training in various skills that help self employment and could double as a common workplace too. The traders and main manufacturers can outsource certain work that can be easily done in rural area and collected for marketing. But it can happen with only some external assistance may be from some NGOs. It’s necessary as one hardly finds any local leadership for such activities.
Unfortunately, the persons of different castes are still not getting into some trades because of social taboos and traditions. I remember how my aunty didn’t allow the extra milk to be sold through milk collection centre. And even today she will not be ready to grow vegetable for selling in market. A barber will not like to be a tailor and vice versa.
I wish the government brings certain change in the curricula and makes it compulsory to learn at least two employable trades before passing out class 10 from the village school. Every rural school, if necessary, can run in two shifts for developing various skills. For example, the country produces around 4 lakh commercial vehicles. That generates employment for at least 8 lakh skilled drivers of heavy vehicles. Has the country provided for training the number? Why can’t it be done in the villages to make the young men employable?
The government, management schools and NGOs must focus on finding ways and means to increase the opportunities of useful employment in rural India and making the young men and women employable along with the formal education.
Let me assert that as on today, whatever is happening in the rural India creating employment is mostly in spite of the government. Creating employment will be the biggest challenge as well as opportunity to take the country ahead and speed up the growth rate too.