Time to develop rural India

Prof. M K Bhat
The pathetic migration of workers amid lockdown, covering thousands of kilometers on foot /cycle is not only inhuman but devastating too and can further the disease in their respective areas. The majority of these workers come from U.P, Bihar, Orissa, Rajasthan, M.P, Jharkhand and west Bengal; work mostly in the unorganized sectors like construction, textiles, households, brick kilns etc. They belong to rural areas, fend for themselves in the urban centers and yearn for their families back at home.
Their migration amid lockdown has exposed the unequal distribution of sources of income between the rural and urban India. It has provided a chance to politicians to shed their crocodile tears and pay lip service to the workers. Modi baiters find it as a good chance to criticize the Government and those in power make everyone to count the measures taken by the administration. Public is curious to know about the reasons for such a holocaust. This migration has raised questions about the economic planning in the last seventy years of independence. It demands a thorough introspection of the reasons responsible for the mass migration in the country otherwise short term administrative measures are of little avail. It proved the idea of economic growth percolating from urban areas to villages insignificant. It has confirmed the harmonious development of country as farce and exposed new challenges for future.
Mahatma Gandhi rightly believed that, the soul of India lives in villages but the successive governments in the last seventy years used villages for votes only, created business centers, provided good facilities of living, job opportunities in or around cities .This makes rural people to leave their home and hearth under compulsion to pursue their living outside and put city infrastructure under pressure. The problem may persist unless the migration of workers is not stopped at village, town, district or state level. Smart cities /Satellite towns is no answer to this problem but smart villages/towns can give better results. It is worthwhile to mention here that a few towns near to big cities are doing well and contribute sizeable revenue to state coffers mention can be made of Gurgaon and Faridabad of Haryana but these are exceptions. It may be prudent to develop the various sources of income in rural India, if we really want to stop this migration of people.
In the pre lockdown era nearly 25 to 30 people visited urban areas every minute, expecting urban population to touch 600 million by 2030. As per census 2011, 31.6 percent of population lives in urban areas compared to 27.81 percent in 2001.The economic survey 2017 held that 140 million people do internal migration in the country, the number of migrants from rural to urban area in India stood at 52million out of 1.02 billion population as per 2001 census. The 2011 census put it at 78 million a jump of 51 percent. This escalation has been mainly due to the availability of jobs in urban areas and poverty along with lack of facilities for good living in the rural areas. The migration not only impairs the health of workers but has been a big cause of their stress which got its vent during lockdown.
Rural India with 6 lac villages; inhabiting nearly 70% of population is the accelerator of domestic demand in the country, lacks proper employment. The unemployment rate in 2018 was5.3 percent in rural areas while as it stood at 7.8 percent in urban areas (mostly educated unemployment).There is disguised unemployment in rural areas and the majority of those below poverty line live in villages.
The main occupation in rural India is agriculture, which employs fifty three percent of the total population and contributed 17percent of GDP in 2018-19, contrary to this industrial sector contributed 31 % and the share of service sector stood at 54.3 %. The highest income of 75% of households in rural areas is less than Rs.5000 and more than 80% of the rural people are without any salaried job. This makes their sordid story of migration inevitable.
In order to stop rural migration, there is a drastic need for agricultural mechanization, the low output has led to the feminization of agriculture as it is taken as an extension of the female daily chorus. India despite being second largest producer of wheat and rice in the world yet its rank in terms of productivity per hectare stood at 31 in 2019. India is the largest producer of pulses in world but in terms of productivity its rank stands at 138 in the world. The productivity of yield per hectare is no way comparable to the developed countries of Europe or America despite green revolution. This is mainly because 82 percent of the farms are either small or marginal (due to subdivision and fragmentation of land) which restrict mechanization. These small farmers due to low productivity need extra income to support their families and migration to urban areas for some months becomes a viable option for them.
In order to do away with the problem of migration, stress should be laid on making agriculture profitable by removing disguised work force from this sector. It needs the establishment of agro based industries, food processing units, organic farming, poultry and animal husbandry and foreign direct investment shall increase in rural areas.
Another reason for the migration is the lack of urban facilities in rural areas. Quite often people from villages move to urban areas for better medical facilities. India spends 1.3 percent of its GDP on health sector which is almost confined to urban areas only. The villages have to be content with a dispensary and nothing more than that.
The low infrastructure in rural areas, like poor connectivity, low electricity, poor housing and sanitation problems not only restricts the production and flow of agriculture produce to cities but also acts as a deterrent to small units to flourish in such areas. The lack of skill and proper education is another impediment in the growth of rural India. Those who get good education leave villages for white collar jobs and those who remain behind add to the disguised work force of the village.
In order to bridge the gap between rural and urban India few prominent schemes have been formulated, mention can be made of national rural employment guarantee scheme with an objective of 100 days employment for rural unemployed people. It was launched in 2005 and continues till date. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee rural urban mission was launched by government of India in 2015 to develop economic social and infrastructure development in rural areas. Under this scheme, Government aims to set up 300 rural clusters by 2020 with modern facilities which will attract investment and provide employment. Sansad Gram yojana was launched in 2015, under this scheme an MP can choose a village in his constituency and turn it in a model village with all the social welfare and infrastructure facilities. Pradhan Mantri Awas yojana aims at financial assistance to rural people for making pucca house to all houseless living in ram shackles. Deen dayal Gram Jyoti Yojana aims at 100 percent rural electrification.
Over the years the difference between India and Bharat has become too much emphatic. One representing urban India shines while as the other representing rural India strives for its survival. Much needs to be done for rural India if we want non recurrence of lock down like situations in future. India is indebted to migratory workers of the country.
(The author teaches at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi.)