Improving village life will keep villager home

  • 14/11/1992

Improving village life will keep villager home THIS ORGANISATION (Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology or CAPART) has two elements. One is to advance people's action. This is not new at all... From time immemorial our rural societies have had a very great amount of autonomy built into their functioning. Whether it was a king or an emperor or anyone above, they did not really interfere with the working of these institutions at the grassroots level or whatever level they were working. So, the voluntary part of it is known to us. It is in our tradition. We are good at it. Today, perhaps, there are thousands and thousands of these voluntary bodies dotting the country. Some of them have done extremely well. Some have languished for various reasons. On the whole the working of these bodies could be considered satisfactory while there is a lot of scope for further improvement. This is a kind of mixed picture we find before us. What do we do now and where do we go from here?

Very shortly we are going to have elected bodies at the village level. We have them already in many states. But the new Panchayati Raj structure which is now before Parliament is likely to be passed in November or December. You will have a whole new picture of Panchayati Raj emerging at the village level where you will have 30 per cent of representation given to women and a lot of autonomy given to the panchayat bodies to do their own planning, with nothing to be imposed from above...

Now you will have a pulsating, living institution, political institution, at the grassroots level. But the panchayat institution is an elected body that will look after the programmes given to it by law. This is something which we have to understand. This law is going to be passed by Parliament. The law is not just legislation because that legislation could come at the state level. What is being done here is an amendment to the Constitution to say that every panchayat shall have the following powers. The state governments will not be able to take away the powers. Every five years or three years, whatever the Constitution says, the panchayats shall be elected. There is no question of stopping panchayat elections if the chief minister doesn't want it or some political party doesn't want it, as has been happening in the states so far... .

The Constitution lays down what is the work to be done by the panchayats. But the panchayat would need someone to help it...

How is the panchayat going to cope? It can only do it with the full backing of voluntary organisations at the local levels. That is where institutions like CAPART become important. By yourselves, you will be groping, you would not know whom to go to. But when the panchayat comes to you, you'll know exactly where to go and the panchayats know that if they have to succeed they'll need your aid. So, it is a question of your being present when the new panchayats come, when the new Panchayati Raj system comes and the new programmes are taken up by the panchayats.

Massive amounts of money are going to the panchayats for rural development. We have Rs 30,000 crore to spend in the next five years. We have not heard of such an allocation to rural development in any plan... It's a very big programme of creating about 100 crore man-days in the next five years; the wage employment being supplemented by self-employment of different kinds. I was not satisfied with what they came up with, so I said four or five ministries should sit together in the next few days and give me the full picture. If it is agriculture, agriculture has its own allocation plus rural development allocation. If it is education, education has its own allocation plus rural development allocation. So, all this comes to much more than Rs 30,000 crore. How are you going to spend it? Unless you have a plan, unless you have the necessary back-up from voluntary agencies, you will be simply wasting the money. I don't want the money to be wasted. With great difficulty we have pulled so much money from other sources, from other programmes and put it in rural development.

I think this meeting here has come exactly at the time I wanted it. It could have come earlier but the point is you must be ready to take over a huge programme of rural development from now on. As I said, rural development has two aspects. One is people's action, voluntary work. The point is you will never be able to do any successful voluntary work until the necessary technological assistance is available to you. In the old days, we made do with old technology... But that's not going to be possible now. The young men and women in the rural areas will run away, and you cannot blame them for going away because they would like to have the same kind of life, or at least a similar kind of life, which their cousins who are perhaps in Delhi or Bombay or Pune or wherever, have. Now, that is where the voluntary agencies come in. You will have to give them job satisfaction... The work which they do has to give them some satisfaction that their quality of life is more or less comparable with what exists everywhere in India. That is where the transfer of appropriate technology becomes very important. So, these two aspects would have to be taken into account.

This is somewhat a testing time... .There are going to be very, very difficult responsibilities because it involves changing the attitudes of people. It is not just giving money, taking up of a programme in a mechanical sort of a way.

The first thing is to motivate the people. We had undertaken some specific programmes in rural development -- like how do you prevent a rural artisan, a carpenter or a blacksmith, for instance, from seeking employment elsewhere? How do you make him live in the village? He will not do so unless you give him improved tools, unless he is able to increase his productivity. Increased tools are the only way of increasing his productivity. There are more than 5.5 lakh villages in India. Imagine the programme, the magnitude of the programme! It is not just making showpieces of a few villages.

I am not sure this has been fully planned. I am told something has been done. But that is not enough. We would like to see that every artisan - and it is not just one artisan, there are different artisans, starting from the carpenter, the black- smith, the cobbler, the basket weaver and you name it -- and the whole galaxy of rural industries is modernised, is made more productive. For that the involvement of institutions like CAPART will be absolutely necessary. The government by itself will not be able to do it. How will the villagers remain there, if they have difficulties of land ownership? I also mentioned in my speech on August 15 that there are some important aspects of rural life that impinge on peace, on tranquillity, on the desire of rural people to remain in the villages, particularly the younger people, and unless you have the land records and the land relations in the village properly regulated, there will be trouble again in the village. We don't want any trouble in the villages. We have hundreds, literally thousands of villages where you have trouble. The gun is ruling the roost. People are not able to live there. The leadership of the village is being drained. This cannot be allowed to continue.

You have to think of how to make the village peaceful, how to make the village productive and how to prevent as far as possible migration to the town. This will be possible only when a satisfying life is available to the villagers where they live and it is in this that CAPART and other similar institutions would have to take up the challenge...

This is an edited excerpt from a speech by Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao made while inaugurating the annual general body meeting of CAPART on September 24, 1992.

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