In India, according to the 2001 census, about 72.2% of the population are living in about 638,000 villages and remaining 27.8% live in about 5,380 cities, towns and urban agglomerations. Most of the country’s landmass belong to rural area and are highly rich in various natural resources like land, water bodies, forests and minerals. Inspite of all these resources, compared to urban India, the living standard of the rural people is very poor; most of them are small farmers or daily labourers and many are unemployed.
On an average, a farmer’s family in rural India earns about Rs 6000 a year which is a meagre amount to have a decent living. Most of them are also deprived of proper education, housing, drinking water, health and sanitation facilities and financial support for availing any employment opportunities. These cause loss of a lot of men hour and frustration. As a result, many of them particularly the youth migrate to urban areas in search of employment. This brings myriad complications to the socio-economic life of the country.
In view of all these, it is very important to take immediate steps to empower villagers through proper education and skill development and create enough facilities to generate employment opportunities in various developmental programmes by utilizing the vast and varied natural resources of the region. For this, skills development in concerned areas is essential. Some of the important employment potential areas for skill development are post-harvest operation of different crops, agro industries, water resources management, afforestation, mining and mineral processing in mineral-rich areas and harnessing renewable energy resources.
In recent years, due to global warming and climate change, resulting in water shortage and unfavourable withering, there has been a general decline in quality and quantity of crops produced by farmers. This is followed by their scanty knowledge and facilities in post-harvest technology, which leads to a lot of loss of crops due to withering and exposure to rodents and insects. As a result, nearly 33% of the crops are wasted. After harvest, crops should be properly processed and stored safely in suitable storage facilities. The farmers and their families should be trained in various essential post-harvest technology programmes so that they can take care of their own crops and get employment in government or private organizations for treating and storing crops.
India since 1950, while putting emphasis on production of various agricultural crops, has in a modest way started agro-processing industries. However, due to various reasons these industries have been facing problems like low capacity utilization, poor recovery of finished products from raw materials, low quality product, inefficient management, frequent disruption of electricity and water supply, want of adequate working capital, skilled man power etc. In order to boost development of agro industries it is essential for the government to take necessary measures to create a conducive atmosphere for these. The villagers, particularly the youth and women, should be trained in areas such as agro industries. This would help them start their own industries or get employment in those of others, resulting in appreciable financial benefits for most of their family members.
The agricultural sector in rural India is very much affected because of uncertainty in weather conditions and rainfall. Most of the time due to want of water productivity is severely affected. Hence, it is essential to develop small and medium scale water bodies like tanks, ponds etc by renovating old ones and creating new ones at suitable sites. Most of these can be readily constructed through programmes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
In these water bodies, rain water harvesting, both on surface and recharging aquifers, should be carried out for improving fresh water resources required for irrigation, domestic and drinking purposes. The water harvesting methods including bonding, pitting, micro catchment, flood water and ground water harvesting etc should be taken up in all possible areas to meet the increasing demand of water. In addition to this, to avoid loss of colossal amount of water in the present irrigation system, modern irrigation systems like ‘sprinkle’ and ‘drip irrigation’ should be adopted. In these areas of water resources management, villagers, particularly the youth, should be suitably trained. At the same time, they should also be trained and encouraged to undertake pisciculture. This will help in increasing fish production and developing the related industries in a big way.
Forests being the measure sink for the polluting green house gases, protector for ground water reserves and supplier of wood and other essential products, efforts should be made to undertake afforestion programmes on barren areas of rural India. These social forestry programmes can employ trained people to not only develop the forests but also to process forest produce, including fruits, seeds, roots etc, for food and medicinal purposes. Imparting training to villagers for afforestation and processing forest produce to produce value added items are essential for boosting the rural economy.
A large number of villagers in India are deprived of getting electricity and are spending their whole life in darkness and those who are getting electricity also suffer due to frequent interruptions. The irrigation facilities, agro industries, drinking water supply etc., are very much affected because of shortage of electricity. In view of high investments required to supply fossil fuel based electricity to all rural areas, it is essential and easier to supply electricity through harnessing energy from sun, wind, biomass, as well as mini hydro power projects. Huge quantities of organic agricultural and domestic wastes can also be processed through anaerobic digestion in cement vats to produce biogas and organic manure. Such a system every family should have for using the gas for cooking and manure for agricultural purpose. Thus, in setting up renewable energy systems and operating those a large number of manpower has to be trained.
Mineral wealth, which is very important for industrial development, is mostly available in rural India. In mining of minerals as well as for transportation of minerals, upgrading of minerals, back filling of mined areas, rain water harvesting in mine pits and afforestation of overburden and barren areas etc., require a lot of workforce, both skilled and semi-skilled. In mine-rich areas, an integrated programme should be taken up to train local people in various mining and related activities so that the people in the area can be fully employed and at the same time mining and mineral processing activities can be carried out smoothly.
As mentioned above, there is a great scope to train and provide employment opportunities in different areas like post-harvest technology, agro industries, water resources management, afforestation, harnessing renewable energy and undertaking mining activities in rural India. The skill development centres in every state of the country should target to train the villagers to utilize the resources available in their respective areas. The rural mass should be thus trained and employed suitably in various developmental activities so that most of the people have better socio-economic life. In this way they will be able to enhance substantially our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is, therefore, essential for the Government of India as well as the state governments to prioritize the skill development programmes in rural India for better utilization of its rich resources. This would lead to making India happy and prosperous.
(The writer is a former Director General of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research. He can be contacted at [email protected])
(The views expressed in this article are that of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of www.odishabytes.com)