Shivananda Shahapur
Making villages self-reliant
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

One of the biggest problems India is facing today is unemployment. It is even worse in the rural regions. Many traditional jobs such as pottery, cobbler, goldsmith, etc., are fast diminishing in the rural areas. The main reason that can be attributed to this, is the mass migration of the villagers to the nearby towns and metro cities.

The only ‘major’ occupation that is existent in villages today continues to be agriculture. Unfortunately, due to the division of agricultural land among successive generations, many of the families are today, left with only 1-2 acres. The introduction of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and expansion of the cities is further adding to their already existing problems. Due to various such hindrances, many of the farmers are now reduced to mere agricultural labourers.

Both the central governments and the state governments have tried to contain the mass migration of the rural masses and provide employment to them through various programs such as the  Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) etc., Barring the corruption and fault lines that exist in these schemes, the villagers are still employed only for a period of 100 days in a year and do not help them in becoming self dependent in any way.

Ever since India got its independence, there have been various schemes, programmes aimed at developing rural areas. Today, there are roads, hospitals, electricity, schools, drainage and other such basic facilities that have been provided by the governments. But in reality, the financial condition of the villagers has not improved to a great extent. In other words, many of them continue to stay in ‘below poverty line’ condition.

There should be a concerted effort by both the state and central governments to not only restrict the migration of villagers, but also, an attempt should be to make them as self dependent as possible. The only way to solve this problem is, in addition to the ‘employment guarantee schemes‘, ‘employment generation schemes‘ should also be implemented.

According to the census reports, each family in a village earn up to Rs.60,000 per annum. The central government figures peg it even below at Rs.48,000 per annum. This amount can only meet their daily requirements; expenses like marriage, medical ailments, construction activities, etc. can never be met. This leads to the villager borrowing money at high interest rates and ultimately succumbs into the vicious circle of debt.

The plight of the women in rural areas is even more pitiable. Not only does she have to work in the fields/projects, she also has the burden of looking after her family as well. So it becomes all the more important to ensure the conditions of the women and the villagers at large are improved.

To address this issue, we try and put forward a small experiment that was carried out in a small village by the name Varkod, which is situated about 20 kilometers away from Mysore, Karnataka. Families in a section of the village were provided with two cows at a subsidized amount and interest free loans. The villagers were taught the importance of dairy farming and the benefits of using the organic manure as a replacement of inorganic manure.

Soon with the yield of 6 litres of milk every day, the villagers, mostly women were able to earn a sum of Rs.7200 per month by merely selling milk to the nearby dairy. The annual income they earned by selling the milk was about Rs.86,400. If we also include the cost saved by avoiding the usage of inorganic manure, the sum will be much higher.

Now, consider the fact that the man of the family continues to work in the fields and other government schemes and manages to earn about Rs. 48,000 (central government figure). Add the sum of Rs. 86400 to this, which will be come up to Rs. 1,34,000.

This above figure is sufficient for the family to lead a contended life and also avoids the migration of the rural masses to a great extent. Started with just 3-4 families, this was successfully expanded to 68 families of the village who availed this benefit and are today in happier and better situation.

This was only one experiment which could bring in lot of positive changes in the tiny village called Varkod. There are various such solutions that can be implemented to usher in change and bring about developments in the rural hinterland of India.

I end with the following quote by someone who has very extremely dedicated and passionate about the rural development or what he called ‘Gram Swaraj’.

I would say that if the village perishes India will perish too. India will be no more India. Her own mission in the world will get lost. The revival of the village is possible only when it is no more exploited. Industrialization on a mass scale will necessarily lead to passive or active exploitation of the villagers as the problems of competition and marketing come in. Therefore we have to concentrate on the village being self-contained, manufacturing mainly for use. Provided this character of the village industry is maintained, there would be no objection to villagers using even the modern machines and tools that they can make and can afford to use. Only they should not be used as a means of exploitation of others.

– M. K. Gandhi