Technology for Rural Development

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Rural Development Technology

India is facing gigantic challenges young begin a young nation and in creating useful occupation for the increasingly educated – unemployed young population. Our support institutions and polity makers, views are archaic; particularly so in agriculture which remains the largest employer particularly for the majority of population still living in villages.

Farm productivity is low, supply chain losses are amongst the highest in the world, income from agriculture for the household is coming down, interest in agriculture is going down and fanners are migrating for taller employment opportunities in fast growing cities.

While policy makers have acknowledged that agriculture extension system has collapsed in India today, new challenges have emerged for the sector, especially climate variability, soil, globalised markets, reducing ground water lable besides many others.

Given the scenario, the envisioned second green revolution needs much more to be done than wishful thinking Getting the rural youth back to agriculture and making agriculture a gainful employment opportunity cannot be done without effective use of technology and aid and much needed long delayed land reforms to encourage investment in agriculture and its value chain.

India is often called a land of paradox, we are the largest producers of the food in the world along with largest food market, given these facts it would he obvious for an analyst to presume that such a market  would be well organised.

Interestingly enough the entire sector is grossly unorganised, lacking basic infrastructure, institutional financing of value chain, huge wastage and poor productivity, leading to high food inflation; benefits of which never reaches the poor producers, perpetuating indebtedness and poverty.

The paradox continues in education; India’s institutes of higher learning produce approximately 1.1 million graduates every year. India currently has around .147 institutes of higher learning and 16,085 colleges with a total enrollment of over 9.9 million.

These institutes produce around 495,000 technical graduates, nearly 2.1 million other graduates and over 100,000 post – graduates every year. India also produces largest number of agriculture graduates from its universities in the world, interestingly enough 95% of these graduates do not work in agriculture.

To absorb over a  million young graduates every year coming from education system, driven by high aspiration from life in an increasingly globalised world through media and internal, the jobs being created by economy is less than a Quarter of the number, let alone providing opportunity of choice Rural youth is further disadvantaged.

Most of them form part of the educated class, 70% whom our industry labels as ” not employable”.

Growth of industry and service sector in proportion to the demand for employment is lacking severely inspite of India being one of the fastest growing economies in the world.The last resort remains self  employment  for these millions.

Unfortunately for this vision, policy and support framework are severely lacking. More than the entrepreneur, the rural entrepreneur is disadvantaged with virtually non – existent incentive in primary level value chain of agriculture.

Institutional financing is negligible. Lack of enthusiasm, encouraged by weak policy framework make the young who venture out frustrated, creating a recipe for discontent.

The Village, Agriculture and Livelihood :

Social unity of a village has always got underplayed in the larger development debate owing to considerable lack of economic development and opportunities, creating greater disparity and fight for limited resources.

Increasing pressure of markets and years of shift in the production system from a food source to income source has led to loss of tradionally practices associated with farming and soil management loss has been substituted by high input base agriculture predominated by chemical fertiliser and pesticide as a source for soil nutrient and protection.

However, while Agri – input have made inroads into farm practice; farm advisory services for the new crops have not. Small and marginal farmers are the ones who are hit more by this changing situation, having no access to formal source of education / inputs on better crop management practices for new crop varieties required by the market. Most farmers gel advise from hearsay or peer group.

Even after globalization, economic reforms, liberalization, the real India lives in villages with over 65% population of a billion plus people. 70% of farmers operate under 1 hectare ( ha ), and are severely resource constrained increasing their dependence on the crop as major source of livelihood.

The average farm size is 1.06 ha but average area owned is only 0.72 ha per rural household as per National Sample Survey Office, 2003.

With property rights and family divisions, the land sizes continue to go smaller. The land sizes have become so small that gainful employment can not be sought from them even if farm productivity increases significantly. Livelihood diversification is need of the time.

Given 1 his stale of rural economy, rural migration ( although MGNREGA have had some impact on limiting this migration temporarily ) has been highest in past decade owing to  lack of livelihood opportunities in villages.

Agriculture being uneconomical due to increased input costs; the benefits of food inflation do not pass on to the producers, perpetuating indebtedness and hence migration. Indian cities are in throngs of development.

Much of the labour supplied for this rapid development is by the rural ‘seasonal’ migrants looking for gainful employment from uneconomical agriculture in the villages.

While development for these cities is desirable, over – population and unplanned development is not, as most of these migrants are unable to afford living costs, they seek settlements which are illegal and do not have basic amenities. These settlements create problems of law enforcements, local population and city administrators.

Hoping or even envisioning a substantial shift of this 70% population from rural countryside to cities might be visionary, but considering the experience of China. USA & Russia such shift is not desirable while also not sustainable, Creating opportunities in villages for rural youth for gainful employment and good life is a better and wiser alternative.

Technology Enabled Development :

Many issues of rural countryside and population cannot find solution through short – term policy changes, but can give a considered outlook towards issues facing rural populations.

While infrastructure in the form of rural roads ( Pradhan Mantri Sadak Pariyojana ), electricity and housing ( mostly through remittance money ) are improving, options and opportunity for livelihoods are not.

Rural youth who have migrated to cities in the hope of better life have not found grass green on this side as well; bad living and work conditions and a bad economy have encouraged most to evaluate other options.

However, villages do not offer livelihood alternatives that the youth can willingly choose, given that agriculture alone cannot give ( in the given circumstances ) gainful employment.

Right set of measures, support policies, enabling environment and incentive for markets aided by technology can enable opportunities in rural settings. A case in points is mobile phones which at one point was considered an egalitarian utility, but has transformed into a ubiquitous device enabling not just communication but with it an entire ecosystem.

Mobile phones have penetrated into the deepest areas of the country where “Farmers and workers… make India. Their poverty is India‘s curse and crime. Their prosperity alone can make India a country fit to live in.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Electricity or road has not reached. Besides indirect benefits, is in created employment for entrepreneurs who have opened shops serving customers for recharging talk time, ring tones, battery charging, phone sales and repair etc.

An industry estimate suggests that there are over a million rural entrepreneurs ( not necessarily mobile network operators agents ) providing these services earning upto 1500 – 4000 INR per month.

Voice and data services enabled by mobile communication is just one of the many technology enablers which can create employment opportunities. However, it requires an enabling environment for creating viable business opportunities.

It look Indian locomotive sector over 60 years to come up with a cheaper mode of Transport in the form of ‘Tala Magic’ a low cost comfortable transport vehicle for rural and sub – urban markets, even when local ‘Jugad’ was existing.

The ecosystem change in this case was better rural roads as well as increased demand due to migration. Rural entrepreneurs lapped on to the ‘Tata Magic’ for its low cost and utility value, and for Tata’s the vehicle turned into ‘Magic’ with increased sales and profits.

Market based alternatives are needed to bring about the change needed for rural livelihoods to improve, for which enabling ecosystems needs to be invested in.

These enabling ecosystem are land – reforms ( clear land ownership rights ), incentives for businesses for investing in primary value chain in agriculture ( at farm gale ), storage and cold – store infrastructure, logistics and most  important tax tax breaks and financing mechanism for each of these value chain necessities to un – lock market value of the sector.

These reforms would provide incentive for investments to flow in agriculture sector and allow micro entrepreneurs to cash in on the opportunity for creating primary level value addition based enterprises, creating employment opportunities and generating income.

Information technology ( IT ) and communication aided by the power of mobile telecommunications can enable the access of information and services to stakeholders.

Precedent of creating right enabling environment already exist in the form of dairy revolutions led by CCCMF popularly known as a mull. Replica ling Amul success is not the solution, we already know that such efforts for oilseed, trees and host of other sectors failed.

The need is to bring about systemic changes, unleash entrepreneurship and believe in the lower of the youth to bring about the change we seek to see in our villages. IT can change and IT can change.

JEE Main

Application Form Submission 16 Dec 2020 to 16 Jan 2021.