S&T perhaps can empower best the poor most of whom stay in rural India. Such a dimension of S&T is likely to demand radical departures from the contemporary modes of organizing sciences and technologies, including even their contents. A crucial aspect enabling this departure would be how S&T integrates with and remains answerable to or is governed by the rural people of poor disposition. The urban-based supply side and linear approach (from the concept to technology use) to pushing S&T - needs a serious relooking. S&T research problems formulation and technological solutions are currently organized around the industrial model. The supportive institutions of law, banking and regulations, including that of the executive, have been designed primarily for volume-based energy and materials intensive, low-employing and often unsustainable economically and environmentally, modes of high-growth production. Such production modes when simply scaled down for rural production, especially of manufacturing types, bring about breaks in the integrated living of rural communities. Life in rural India as it is elsewhere has an integrative approach to the agricultural and other than agricultural modes of wealth creation. This latter is our focus. Prosperity in India can come primarily from rural capacities and capabilities to manufacture, value add, innovate and remain sustained with agricultural production. The new role of S&T to empower rural poor could be addressed, in the immediate, by focusing on non-farm earth resources sustaining modes of production.
Innovation, to recall, is a mode of redistribution. Innovation redistributes assets, capacities, capabilities, earnings and consumptions. Empowering rural poor through manufacturing within rural areas could thus be brought about only by innovation, however, of a variety that is very different from the high growth oriented often unsustainable and high resource-consuming as well as waste generating modes of innovation. Most of our institutions including of the S&T have been designed for the latter variety of innovation. Therefore in order for S&T to be innovative for rural living – institutions and structures of not only S&T but others as well, need restructuring and refocusing. Over the last six decades the democratic governance system of the country has created a very large number of structures and institutions whose original purpose very often was to address the innovation befitting rural India. However, the agenda capturing power of the dominant urban institutions appears to have taken over much of the original intent and today S&T for rural manufacturing has virtually been reduced to a subset.
S&T for the rural non-farm sector requires most immediate attention. Such a refocus could target amongst others creation and sustenance of assets, capacities and capabilities; in particular the ‘concentric circles’ model of Mahatma Gandhi would inform us that refocused S&T and institutions could especially address inter-rural markets for expansion and commerce. A moot question would be around coordination and governance. The country has a very large S&T infrastructure devoted to rural areas; change in coordination and governance with special emphases on local government could bring about miracles. The great resources of diversity, earth resources, knowledge and skills that rural India possess could thus be greatly enhanced through innovations in and brought about by S&T. This theme has been partially explored by looking into several facets of potential areas where S&T could bring very important changes in the lives, health and economics of the rural Indian.
Rural development in India has evidenced several changes over the years in its emphasis, approaches, strategies and programmes with a view to improving the socio-economic conditions of the people: in providing good infrastructural facilities, support services and employment opportunities. Many organizations of the government like Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART), National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Department of Science and Technology (DST), National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) support the generation and promotion of appropriate technologies under various schemes. In addition, engineering based educational institutions, state government organizations, non-government organizations, voluntary agencies and private establishments augment these efforts. In spite of the advances made, there still remains much to be done to bring prosperity in the lives of the people in the rural areas, thus ending the so-called divide between Bharat and India.
In the present theme, an attempt is made to document briefly the approaches and strategies adopted by the government in the field of rural development, the recent trends and the programmes implemented under the restructured departments of Ministry of Rural Development. The scope of non-farm activities in rural areas is huge and can effectively be exploited as potent stimulator for economic growth. A short review of the rural non-farm sector (RNFS) has been made focusing briefly on the structure, growth and trends in employment and income generation. Management and distribution of safe drinking water are essential and critical for better livelihood. Power is a key requirement in rural areas, for agricultural as well as non-agricultural and domestic uses. Technology is now capable of providing reliable power at comparatively low cost in a decentralized manner. It needs to be upgraded and scaled-up in a big way with emphasis on renewable and non-polluting technologies. Deployment of technologies for post-harvest processing, cold storage and cold-chains for transportation to market and other means of adding value are required to enhance rural employment and incomes. In this theme, various issues in the field of rural development like shelter, food grains, sanitation, energy, medicine, post harvest management, livestock mixed farming system, bio-pesticides and genetically modified crops etc have been discussed. In addition to this some sectors like fisheries, mushroom culture, horticulture and sericulture were identified as ideal and potential avenues for socio-economic development of the rural communities. The role of information technology in agriculture marketing i.e. in providing information related to commodity prices, transportation, agricultural practices, weather, etc. to the farmer has also been discussed. The scope for application of Geospatial information technologies for rural development, strategies for alleviation of rural poverty, a review of the use of tools and modern implements, an appraisal of rural artisans, of the mechanisms and standards for developing and fixing food standards and a proposal for an agricultural innovation policy are some other things that the theme explores.
- Rural Energy Security in India: Reality Checks
- Applications of Geospatial Information Technologies for Rural Development & Inclusive Growth in India