Over the last few weeks, we have heard on several occasions as to how miraculously our universe; our ecosystem has devised ways of making corrections in our ways of living. It’s quite apparent that nature doesn’t need us to survive. There is an urgent need for us as humans to be able to co-exist, respect biodiversity and go back to regenerative living in order to survive.
In spite of 70% of our entire population residing in small towns and villages, urban development is on an overdrive- exclusive, degenerative and unsustainable.
Post the lockdown isn’t it obvious that the focus on development should be changed from urban to rural. The entire planning mechanism of our subcontinent should have a one point agenda of strengthening the rural economy. Not only the government but also the private sector and individuals, must realign their reform strategies and reach out programmes.
The current state of affairs needs healthcare and medical facilities to be prioritised in the rural sector.
Going to the basics, the Constitution of India under Article 21, which talks about right to life and personal liberty, guarantees every citizen the fundamental right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Also as per Part IV of the Indian Constitution, viz. Directive Principle of State Policy, under Article 38 it is the duty of every State to ensure that a healthy and proper environment is provided to every man, woman and child residing thereby.
In the matter of State of Punjab Vs Mohinder Singh, it was clearly held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India that right to health is integral to right to life and that Government has constitutional obligation to provide health facilities to all.
Even after the Constitution has clearly mentioned about the urgent need for adequate healthcare facilities to all, the reason behind the vast difference between what is provided in terms of healthcare to rural and urban areas is a huge issue to ponder upon.
Taking a quick glance at the Union Budget of 2020-21, the total allocation of Rs. 69,000 crores for the health sector in Union Budget 2020-21 was about 10 per cent higher from the year ago — negligible, considering consumer price index inflation was 7.5 per cent in December 2019.
National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the biggest component of the health budget, was allocated Rs 27,039 crores — the same as the previous budget and, in fact, less than the 2019-20 revised estimate of Rs. 27,833.6 crores. Several reports, including one submitted to 15th Finance Commission in January 2020 by an expert group set up by the Commission in 2019, sought more funds for primary healthcare, which caters to the rural population.
Although under the NRHM, the PHCs were envisaged to provide an integrated curative and preventive health care to the rural population with emphasis on preventive and promotive aspects of health care, implementation of the same is visibly questionable. PHCs, the first contact point between village community and the medical officer are established and maintained by the State governments under the Minimum Needs Programme (MNP)/ Basic Minimum Services (BMS) Programme.
At Rs. 2,178 crores, the allocation to schemes dealing with communicable diseases was unchanged. Last year, a National Sample Survey Organization said communicable diseases are responsible for more Indian diseases than any other ailment.
The biggest dip in allocation was for Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana — from Rs 156 crores to Rs. 29 crores. The allocation for Ayushman Bharat which is a government’s National Health Policy aiming to provide free healthcare benefits at the secondary and tertiary level remained unchanged at Rs 6,400 crores though it needed to be scaled up. Allocation for Food Safety and Standards Authority of India was reduced to Rs 283.71 crores from Rs 360 crores.
An extensive self and community hygiene awareness programme needs to be set in place. Doctors, nurses, medical interns to be completing their trainings in rural areas only, should become a norm.
Like a fresh breath of air in 2019, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India suggested the Government to frame a uniform policy for compulsory rural service for doctors. The Apex Court suggested that compulsory service will be rendered by doctors who are trained in government institutions.
The Supreme Court asked the Medical Council of India and Central Government to frame a uniform policy that will be applicable across the country.
Impetus on building rural hospitals by offering lucrative compensation schemes to developers could bring about the required change. Contracts of cleaning and maintenance of healthcare facilities have to be awarded and well rewarded to deserving hospitality services.
In 2014, the Government initiated the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to meet the need for sanitation. Since then, SBM has become the largest sanitation program in the world by changing the behaviour of hundreds of millions of people regarding access to and use of toilets.
Similarly, sanitation facilities have to be created in every rural education institutes and residential dwellings. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in the Union Budget 2020, has made a host of announcements geared towards strengthening the country’s infrastructure and encouraging the flow of credit in the financial market
Sustainable rural development is vital to the economic, social and environmental viability of nations. It is essential for poverty eradication since global poverty is overwhelmingly rural.
Civil regenerative construction to be adopted in the process of every infrastructural, development in the rural belt focussing on roads, water reserves and renewable energy for electricity.
 Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana that was extended to 115 districts was launched with the main goal of facilitating physical infrastructure development in the most economically ‘backward’ districts in India. Under RSVY, each eligible district was entitled, over three years, to receive Rs. 450 million (2010 exchange rates) to address ‘critical gaps’ in physical and social infrastructures. The funds were to be used to develop or make complementary improvements to existing infrastructure, rather than to brand new projects, according to the guidelines. RSVY could therefore be seen as an infrastructure-enhancing grant.
In the matter of Hanuman Laxman Aroskar Vs Union of India, Justice Chandrachud held that the process for sustainable development will benefit both environment and local livelihoods. Additionally it was stated that with regards to climatic variations, the EAC felt that additional initiatives such as Green Infrastructure Development program, adoption of low emission intensive technologies, renewable energy program, and Airport Carbon Accreditation need to be adopted to reduce the impact on Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and thereby climate change.
Madras High Court in 2013 directed the government to pay special attention to the fields of education and spread of literacy, agriculture, rural development, environment, health and family welfare and science and technology.
Coming to the scenario of Indian agriculture, Article 43 under the Directives Principles of State Policy states as follows, “The State shall endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter, of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle.”
Union Budget 2020-21 could not instil our confidence in the Government’s plan of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. It increased allocation to the agriculture department by a mere 2.9 per cent over the previous budget. Worse, it seems the department will not be able to spend that previous allocation.
On 1 February 2020, Nirmala Sitharaman distributed Rs 1, 34,399.77 crores to the Government Assistance of the Horticulture, Partnership and Ranchers Division. Of the Rs 1, 30,485.21 crores allocated in 2019-20, the Association Government may have the option of spending only Rs 101,904 crores, as per revised frameworks.
The biggest lump Rs. 75, 000 crores of the ranch financial plan for 2020-21 went to Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-Kisan), the plan for giving money backing to ranchers. It was apportioned the equivalent in Financial plan 2019-2020, yet modified appraisals peg spending at just Rs. 5,4370.15 crores.
Sitharaman announced a 16-point action plan for doubling farm income on February 1. It included measures to provide farmers access to faraway markets by running trains (Kisan Rail) and flights (Krishi Udaan) and providing relief to farmers from water shortage. But these announcements too have received poor response from farmer leaders and experts.
“This 16-point action plan is not going to cover more than 10 per cent farmers of the country,” said Rakesh Tikait, president of Bhartiya Kisan Union, terming budget disappointing. “This budget also reduces the subsidy on chemical fertilisers, which is going to impact productivity as well as income of farmers,” he added.
In such situations it is a welcome thought that contract farming with minimum rate and wages guarantee in agriculture could ensure substantial protection from losses to our normally grieved farmers.
In this overdrive for economic growth, where does the agriculture sector fit in? This is not to highlight the importance of the sector to rural Indians, but to raise in a new structural context, a political and economic question.
Rural India is no longer agrarian in terms of both economy and employment. Economist Ramesh Chand has analyzed the transformation in the rural economy in a research paper for the Niti Aayog. His verdict: It has been a non farm economy since 2004-05.
Farmers are quitting agriculture and joining non-farm employment. It is an economic decision they have made because the latter earns more. The dynamic shift came after the 1991-92 economic reforms. The research paper by Ramesh Chand shows regarding 1193-94 until 2004-05 as follows, “growth in agricultural sector decelerated to 1.87 per cent, whereas growth rate in non-farm economy accelerated to 7.93 per cent.”
It is evident from the relentlessness reading of the above that there is something flawed in this system where the agricultural sector and rural areas are ignored. Therefore, it is the need for the hour that educated urban youth participation in rural agricultural activities with smart modules is a ray of hope that can radically alter the scenario in the rural employment sector. Skilled training, upliftment of local art and craft through reform structured laws could be a progressive change.
The corporates have realised the potential of rural India and have been making bee lines to the rural sector. It’s time that the government and the urban entrepreneurs get the drift and act swiftly.
India became the first nation legally mandating corporate social responsibility on 1 April 2014. The new rules in Section 135 of India’s Companies Act, 2013 make it mandatory for some turnover and profitability companies to spend two percent of their average net profit on CSR over the past three years.
Policymakers and development specialists acknowledged corporate social responsibility as a feasible driver of rural development. Private firms’ involvement is a key element in the promotion of rural development strategies. It is expected that companies involved in integrated value chains will serve as a strategic partner providing market opportunities for rural producers, as well as sharing with them the requisite technologies, expertise and knowledge.
Over the last few decades, international organizations such as The World Bank and the United Nations have promoted related initiatives to address poverty in rural areas through multi-sector cooperation. Such organizations have developed programs for furthering rural development, based on alliances and partnerships between actors from different sectors (governments, civil society, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders).
In the end keeping in line with our existent laws and policies, it is crystal clear to state that rural development is the need of today for a better future for the citizens of our country. The primary idea to improve the present scenario is for the government to ensure the proper implementation of various policies available at this point and to amend it with the changing needs as per times. In essence, we as citizens should also help diminish the gap between urban and rural development.
(State of Punjab & Ors. Vs Mohinder Singh Chawla etc.)
 (Association of Medical Super Speciality Aspirants and Residents & Ors. Vs Union of India & Others) https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2018/10415/10415_2018_9_1502_16069_Judgement_19-Aug-2019.pdf
 (Hanuman Laxman Aroskar Vs Union of India, 2019) https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2019/17588/17588_2019_8_1501_19510_Judgement_16-Jan-2020.pdf
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Research Paper(Pdf Format) : Rural India Raring to Go