Gap between skilled and unskilled, rural and urban, online and offline is reducing; Bharat no longer backbencher of growth story
India, that is, Bharat – the majority of our country that is living in villages — is symbolic of our aspirations. Policy makers from top down and citizens from bottom up are cognizant of the fact that sustainable transformation of India is incomplete without the inclusion of rural India in its growth story. Transformational stories of rural enterprises and multiple instances of reverse migration are evidence of the concerted efforts taken by the government and policy makers. The early morning image of a rugged peasant pulling a plough has faded before the newer reality of a growing India. It isn’t a coincidence that this growth is emerging after the government’s commitment towards inclusive growth Sabka Saath, Sabka Gaon, Sabka Vikas.
It’s been two years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the government’s ‘Rurban’ Mission, with a cluster-based development model, to provide urban amenities to rural India. Three hundred village clusters were created keeping in mind that rural India isn’t stand-alone settlements but a collection of villages in close proximity that could derive advantages from location and economic drivers. These centres of economic activity in turn spurred economic growth, empowered individuals and improved the quality of life in rural India.
Growth is impossible in isolation, and Bharat has increasingly been connected, physically and digitally to move from silos to solutions, foster market access, provide banking, enhance self-employment and livelihood opportunities and utilise economies of scale. The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) has reached 82 percent of its total target and connected close to 1.5 lakh habitations with all-weather roads. Roads are allowing Bharat to invest in its future, tractor sales alone have risen by 34 percent y-o-y, post GST. Launched last year, Saubhagya will give free electricity to over 10 crore families in rural areas. The ambitious Bharatnet is on its way to conquer the digital divide, with over 1.05 lakh gram panchayats having internet access today. Digital and physical connectivity are growth drivers, they allow self-sustenance, financial independence and greater opportunities.
Till recently, Kuragunda village entrepreneur Satya and wife Padma (names changed), were struggling with the headwinds of urbanisation and lack of local infrastructure, leave alone planning for their and their children’s future. But the past few years have changed that. Satish is now hopeful of a better future and a shiny red tractor parked outside his house proves that. The financial inclusion revolution, fostered by the innovative digital banking system has allowed him to enter the formal economy and benefit from credit lines through MUDRA and other schemes. Internet access has allowed him to look beyond his village as a market for his produce and mobile banking ensures timely payments from his customers. Tech-enabled innovative business models such as the ‘uberisation’ of tractors has meant that Satish is just one of many who have benefitted from alternative revenue streams supported by digital.
Youth, especially rural youth, have been a prime focus for the government’s skilling and education programme. Padma’s children are aware of the government’s skilling programme, and access to technology has opened up information like never before. The innovative interlinking of Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhaar and Mobile (JAM), an essential building block of India’s digital infrastructure that enables direct benefits transfer, is ensuring that rural students stay in school with their scholarships credited to their bank accounts directly. The digital ecosystem, affordable smartphone and 4G access have multiplier effects in providing employment and unleashing consumption. Delivery of public services fostered digitally and through Common Service Centers (CSCs), is allowing access to quality content in education, health, telemedicine amongst others. Digital literacy has seen an unprecedented uptake, 5.5 million individuals have already been certified under the PMGDISHA, which is aiming to make at least one person digitally literate in every vulnerable family.
– Arvind Gupta, CEO MyGov
Note: The article was first published in Firstpost