India lives in villages and the development of villages is of utmost importance if India has to get aligned with the developed countries of the world. A revolutionary approach for rural development is taken by Model Gaon that believes that development cannot come from outside it should evolve within the village and the people should play the role of changemakers. Highlighting the fact, Alok Ranjan, former Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, interacted with Arpit Gupta and Adarsh Som of Elets News Network (ENN) in an exclusive interview.
How can India climb to be a developed nation when its villages are not developed. What should be the roadmap for developing villages?
The development of India is not possible without the development of its villages. We may talk about various developments in the urban areas such as IT, infrastructure, roads, and so on but unless we focus on developing our villages India can never be developed.
India lives in villages. If we consider population statistics talk of the state of Uttar Pradesh, we see that 66 per cent of its population lives in villages. Unfortunately, these are the areas where there is poverty, lack of proper facilities and amenities, lack of proper road connectivities, lack of electricity and piped water connections, lack of proper education facilities, public toilets, etc. and if these things are not set right it leads to inequalities. Inequality in healthcare facilities, inequality in education, inequality in public services, and the list goes on. This hinders the overall development of villages. Therefore, for the development of India, it is essential to develop our villages, our youth in villages and provide them with apt facilities, education, skill training, as these form the future of our nation.
Policy reforms, schemes, government benefits reach the villages at last just like development. Is this lack of will or is the interest of big companies is limited to cities only?
Every government that comes to power do include agriculture and rural development in their agendas but somehow the type of development that should reach the villages does not reach there. We have seen that there are development schemes like linking villages with pucca roads, providing tap water connections, providing electricity connections, and so on and so forth. However, these schemes work in silos and focus on developing individual aspects. Whereas, to change the scenario of villages what is needed is holistic development. There are no effective initiatives taken that focus on comprehensive development. We need to bring all the stakeholders together to work towards the comprehensive development of rural areas. For this, what is required is comprehensive planning. This comprehensive approach is lacking in our efforts due to which it appears as if the benefits have not reached the villages.
Moreover, it is seen that there are issues in implementation. Schemes are being rolled out, funds are being allocated but implementation is not always as expected because the people in villages are unaware of the schemes and hence, are unable to reap the benefits out of those schemes. Therefore, it highly significant that people are aware of the government schemes, become a part of them and reap benefits. If people become aware they will become knowledgeable and once they gain the knowledge they will demand development. When the people themselves will plan and demand the development of their village then the right kind of development will flow towards them which will eventually lead to the development of the community.
In the comprehensive development plan of villages what should be the key areas that should be included in the agenda of the government?
There are numerous things when it comes to the development of villages. It should have proper road connectivity, there should be healthcare centres, nutrition centres, schools, toilets, electricity connections, solid and liquid waste treatment facilities, it should have schemes for providing employment, and much more. However, it is important that we train the youth of the village to brainstorm about how do they plan for their village development. So we should look forward to them for planning as they know the best about their village.
One thing that is of primary importance is that the people of villages and the youth should be made aware of their village so that they can be the changemakers and contribute significantly to develop their villages. As changemakers, these people can draw a village manifesto, a development plan and should demand the government to act on it. People should be developed first then they will develop their community and develop their village.
‘Model Gaon’ is working towards the development of villages. As per you, how significant is the role of Model Gaon and how do you think they’re bringing forth the agenda of village development?
I am supportive of Model Gaon as they are working on a people-centric approach. Model Gaon also believes in the ideology that the development cannot be brought from outside it has to organically evolve within the village itself. Village youth should themselves take the responsibility to develop their villages. The youth in rural areas must be made aware of their villages so they should know what kind of facilities are required, which kind of agricultural produce they should grow, what type of water conservation and supply methods are needed, how much electricity do they need, what charges do they pay for electricity, what type of waste treatment is needed, and so on and so forth.
There are many such issues on which the Model Gaon is focussing on to develop villages. Moreover, when the changemakers will be trained, they will further upskill and train others in the village to bring in true development. They will be able to draw up a village plan on the basis of which government schemes can be designed to benefit the people and the community at large.
Considering villages we would be needing low-cost innovations and solutions to rural issues. In what ways the government can support small innovators and startups?
The government should completely support such initiatives and innovators or startups. A lot of youth in villages have innovative ideas to resolve issues in their villages and they can become social innovators or social entrepreneurs. These ideas can be turned into schemes to benefit their villages and society at large. Therefore, the government should encourage young talent to come up with development-centric ideas. Also, competitions can be arranged to bring out the best of innovations from young minds from rural parts of India. For those ideas which are good enough, scalable and targets the issues, the government should nurture those into real-life solutions and form schemes out of those. The government should extend its support to such ideas financially, physically and in all possible ways. Thus, the government plays an instrumental role in nurturing and executing a real-life solution from an idea that came out of the village youth.
How the concept of self-reliance is applicable to villages and how can that be achieved?
The real concept of ‘Aatmanirbhar Gaon’ or self-reliant villages can only be possible with an approach like that of Model Gaon. Wherein, the village people, youth should identify the areas that need to be developed, issue the village is facing and draw a village manifesto and chalk out a development plan for their village. So, people should think and plan for the development of their villages. When people are empowered to plan their development and the government do the handholding for realising those plans and aids proper execution then genuine development takes place.
With this approach, even if one village becomes a model gaon then that can be scaled up and such a model of development can be replicated across a state to develop other villages as well. So, Model Gaon focusses on a development model that directly involves people’s participation and urges them to decide and plan for themselves to bring out the best and actually needed development in villages.
Further, through egov, I would like to encourage the youth to actively come forward and contribute to the Model Gaon approach in every possible way. This is important as unless the villages of India are not developed India will not develop.