LSE’s Ruth Kattumuri argues that technology can drive inclusive rural development across India. This article first appeared in the Hindustan Times.
A visit to some villages near Kolar district, near Bangalore, evidenced positive developments in these rural areas. This suggests a case for coordinated efforts by the public and private sectors to enhance inclusive rural development. This region benefits from good government initiatives, some private sector projects and good interventions by NGOs. The infrastructure development in this region is commendable with roads from the villages being very good and easy connectivity exists to Bangalore city and the airport.
Primary and secondary schools have excellent committed teachers as well as adequate buildings. Children are able to conveniently get to and from their schools. All Class 8 children attending government schools are given bicycles; additionally, public transport – motorised vehicles and buses – operates regularly to go to nearby towns for high school and college.
An important social indicator, the status of women, was positive and refreshingly encouraging to behold and worth emulation. Two very interesting observations in one village were that women were respected and treated as equals in the family. Women and men were also equally involved in their farms and women were as knowledgeable (occasionally more so) about all matters related to their agricultural occupation. Most homes had televisions and often women apparently have precedence of the programmes that are viewed at home.
The government of Karnataka, World Bank, Infosys and Karnataka Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (KRWSSA), are among the institutions actively involved in rural water and sanitation projects. These projects have been helping to improve rural water supply, sustainable health and hygiene, empowerment and inclusion of rural poor and women and strengthening democratic governance through community participatory approaches.
Yethinahole (Netravati river diversion) project and rainwater harvesting are among the water supply projects under consideration. However, access to water continues to be the main challenge in this dry region. Agricultural production has been declining, reportedly due to increasing shortage of water with groundwater levels declining year-on-year. Hence government and other institutions should continue to prioritise and develop rural water supply projects.
The major consequence of water shortage is the lack of occupation in the villages. Some people migrate to Bangalore for work, others return from Bangalore being dissatisfied with the quality of life in the city (including a family whose daughter, having worked as an office assistant in the city, is happily engaged in teaching children in the local primary school). Some young people said that they do not wish to leave their village but would like to find work where they are.
What future do these young people, comprising India’s future labour force, have to look forward to? Many of them have completed Class 10 or have studied up to graduation and with additional skills and opportunities can enable and enhance development in their villages and towns.
Technology can be a key driver for inclusive rural development and offers great scope and opportunity for skills development. Taluks where there are high schools and colleges can also be places where IT training institutes and internet centres can be set up to provide additional training opportunities for these young people.
Skills development institutes (IT, other technical and creative skills) can be created through public, private and NGO partnerships wherever there are high schools and colleges. Industrial Training Institutes (ITI) with public and private sector involvement need to innovate and evolve in scope and accessibility to provide training relevant to current requirements.
The public and private sector should also coordinate efforts to facilitate and create job opportunities. The proximity to a high-tech city provides an advantage. Business process outsourcing need not be the privilege of young people in cities alone, but young people in villages can also be trained and it would surely be possible to source jobs from the cities to young people in the villages.
Schools (including through alumni support) and other institutes can help to create formal networks and processes with private companies in cities to source work to trained young people in villages and towns. For example, migration to cities happens through family contacts and informal networks.
Formal programmes can enable job opportunities for both those who wish to migrate as well as those wanting to stay in their own villages and towns.
There will no doubt be challenges, not least that of intermittent electric supply. But this can be addressed through other initiatives and meanwhile much can be achieved even with intermittent electric supply.
Greater coordination among public and private organisations and NGOs and adopting multi-dimensional approaches to skills training and providing employment opportunities for rural youth will enable and enhance inclusive rural development not only in this region but also across other relevant regions in India.
About the Author
Dr. Ruth Kattumuri is Co-Director of the LSE Asia Research Centre and India Observatory.
Photo credit: Deepsan