Creating Opportunities for Inclusive Growth –Integrated Rural Development

We as a nation are at an inflection point. While we are claiming our rightful place on the world high table as an emerging economic power, we still have a large number of our fellow countrymen struggling for two square meals and a dignified livelihood.

In a country of our size and resources, majority of our rural population is still living in abject poverty and has not benefited from our rapid economic development of last decade. Dependence on agriculture as primary source of income for majority of small and marginal farmers is the main reason leading to rural poverty.

Despite our rapid economic growth, our rural population has not benefited from it. Economic theory of “Trickle Down Effect” has not worked for rural India for obvious reasons. India’s recent economic growth has been driven primarily by services Industry which constitutes around 60% of our GDP now while agriculture, primary source of rural livelihood, has shrunk to below 20%. Meager land holding of our small and marginal farmers leads to the fact that agriculture alone can not sustain rural livelihood.

Is Rapid urbanization with mass migration of rural population to the cities will solve the problem of rural poverty?

I am afraid not!

It is true that cities have been the growth engines of current economic growth because this growth has been concentrated primarily in services and industrial sectors. Unfortunately uneducated and unskilled rural population can not participate in this growth story as they do not have required skills and knowledge to get absorbed in these high growth sectors of our economy. Hence majority of unskilled rural migration to the cities ends-up in daily wage jobs at construction sites or similar physical labor with earnings barely enough to survive. Consequently despite migrating to the cities, neither they can afford a dignified livelihood for themselves nor can they support the financial needs of their families left in the villages. They live a life of misery and hardship with no hope for a better life even for the next generation. On the other hand due to this mass migration, our cities can not provide basic infrastructure & civic amenities, thus resembling shanty towns with slums all around.

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