Tue Jun 8, 2021

Villages constitute the backbone of the Indian economy. Even today 60% of the population of India resides in its six lakh odd villages. That's the reason why it is often said that India lives in its villages. Its no surprise that the development  of villages is of immense  significance for the rapid  and balanced progress of the country. 
Agriculture is the primary occupation in rural areas. Despite the continued emphasis of the Government of India on increasing irrigation facilities as well as the substantial budgetary allocations in successive Plan periods towards augmentation of major, medium and minor irrigation projects to increase the area under irrigated Agriculture, still almost 60% of the farming continues to be under rainfed conditions. So the majority of the farmers are able to raise only one major crop in a year apart from going in for minor cops such as millets, cereals, sorgum etc. Consequently they are occupied for only about 6-7 months in a year, forcing them to migrate to neighbouring towns/ cities / urban areas in search of employment opportunities. Being largely unskilled, they end up getting absorbed in households as domestic-help or as unskilled labour in small industrial enterprises.
In such a scenario it might be pertinent to recall Gandhiji's dream of 'village swaraj' or self-sufficient villages. This would be applicable to villages endowed with fertile soils and adequate irrigation facilities, enabling the farming community to be fully occupied, by raising three crops a year. The area under irrigated Agriculture is barely 64.7 million hectares out of the total area under Agriculture of about  145 million hectares. Such a situation underscores the need to explore alternative avenues for occupation in rural areas, especially considering the physical limitations in augmenting irrigation facilities further. Robust development of the rural industries could perhaps be the way forward. 
Among the 4Ms (Men,Materials, Machines & Money ) required for running any enterprise, only Manpower is in adequate  supply in the  rural areas. Another apparent limitation is the inadequacy of skill-sets. Hence external interventions such as from Government, Institutions such as KVIC, Coir Board, National Small Industries Corporation etc., besides credit support from the Banking Sector would be sine qua non for the rapid development of the  rural industries. 
On its part, the GOI's Ministry of Rural Development has been adopting a multi-pronged approach for the intensified promotion and encouragement of the micro and small-scale industries in the rural areas. The Govt. of India has reserved 22 Broad Group of industries such as blacksmith, construction, handlooms, handicrafts, mining, pottery, quarrying, repairs, transport, weaving, etc., exclusively for the rural entrepreneurs. Considering the need for skill upgradation of rural artisans, the GOI has introduced Krishi Kaushal Yojana  ( KKY) and in order to help the women farmers in rural areas to take up scientific and advanced cultural practices, a scheme for deputing Krishi Sakhis has also been implemented. 
Institutions such as NABARD, SIDBI, etc., are focusing on skill upgradation and Rural Entrepreneurship Development Programmes (REDPs) by sponsoring training programmes for the benefit of the rural artisans free of cost. Besides, NABARD has also been extending grant assistance  for setting up Rural Marts to facilitate marketing of the non- farm products produced by the rural artisans. Likewise autonomous institutions such as the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayatiraj (NIRD-PR) at the Apex level supplemented by State Institute of Rural Development and Panchayatiraj-(SIRD-PR) in each of the States have been playing a vital role in promoting entrepreneurship among the rural folks. As a result of such encouragement and thrust from the network of institutions  at both National and State levels, the MSMEs sector has witnessed exponential growth during the past eight  years. 

S T Raghuraman, CGM ( Retd ), NABARD

S T  Raghuraman, CGM (Retd) , NABARD 

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