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Developing smart villages is essential for rural economy

In an interview with RM Director General SCOPE UD Choubey strongly advocates transformation and development of Smart Villages in India Excerpts

UD Choubey
Director General, Standing Conference of Public Enterprises (SCOPE)
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What is your concept of a smart village?

Prime Minister’s call for developing smart cities has inspired to give similar consideration for development of smart villages. I feel, a smart village must have adequate infrastructural facilities and proper environment for the development of rural population. As such smart village should have internal roads, drinking water, health and sanitation, housing, electricity (through solar/other non-conventional sources), educational, skill development centres and facilities for development of tiny/micro industries and internet facilities.

What is the idea behind this concept?

India has about six lakh villages with over 80 crore people, nearly 65 percent of our population. Today, there exists a big gap between urban and rural facilities, standard of living, per capita income etc. This rural-urban divide is creating a source of desperation among villagers. In the absence of educational facilities, skill development centres and other developmental activities, large many drop outs in villages are disgruntled jobless youth and have inclination towards outlaw activities. Over 44 percent of the rural youth discontinue education due to financial constraints, lack of interest and absence of proper school facilities. Employment is largely in agriculture sector while industrial employment is less than 4 percent. All these factors call for more attention to rural development. Developing smart villages would be better option for rural economic development.

Have you assessed the quantum of work involved in developing smart villages?

The task is enormous, requires tremendous planning and huge amount of resources. Transforming to smart villages would require huge financial resources which obviously cannot come from central government alone and therefore state governments, corporate sector, charitable institutions from India and abroad have to contribute generously. The present provision of fund under development of villages by Members of Parliament and other portion of funds allocated to rural development ministry may also form a part of transformation of villages to smart villages. Further grant-in-aid from international financial institutions like IMF, ADB may also be explored. It would be better if an exclusive corpus for transformation of villages is created. A substantial part of the 2 percent mandatory provision of the corporate social responsibility funds can be diverted towards this need.

What about implementation?

For achieving the mission of developing smart villages, there could be a separate government department which could handle the consolidated funds and oversee the implementation part. This mission could be taken up as ‘Abhiyaan’, like “Swachh Bharat” and “Make in India”, vision of the Prime Minister.

You have mentioned about the need for skill development and facilities for development of tiny/micro industries in villages. Would you elaborate this?

Facilitation of skill development for tiny/micro industries for every village shall contribute largely towards not only village development but also self employment for rural youth. Skill development could be in several areas viz. electricians, electronic assembly, lathe machine, carpenters, fitters, plumbing constructors and so many. An internationally benchmarked skill development shall be in high demand in other countries as seen in case of Skills in IT sector. Similarly, micro industry will provide each small house to develop its own manufacturing hub of small items which should be channelised for absorption in domestic and international market. Trained youth in village could manage supply chain management guided by the local state government officials. Micro financing by banks will help villages to manufacture several small items as domestic industry.

What role you envisage for corporates to develop smart villages?

Corporate sector can play a crucial role. The government can ask the financially sound companies to adopt villages and provide all facilities to transform them into smart villages. These corporates at the outset should undertake baseline survey of the villages to be adopted in respect of all the requirements, assess the expenditure required, followed by selection of implementation and execution agency based on a transparent system. Smart village must have all the integrated facilities as spoken earlier. 

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