India evokes many pictures but a picture on the screen that is hard to dispel is that of a seething mass of humanity living in abject poverty. This can also be characterised as a state of deprivation, dependence and degradation to live in conditions below physically and socio-culturally acceptable norms or standards set by society or nation associated with a minimum level of living for its population. The definition aptly suits the rural Indian segments where a total of 33.4 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.
Rural India constitutes a total of 0.63 million villages with a population of 534.4 million. The basic statistics of rural areas show that there is a skewed distribution of landholding and population in villages. A large number of workers, as landless labourers, survive on poor wages as even bonded labour. They are deprived of the basic amenities expected by the village folks.
In addition to the economic constraints, there are religious attitudes, castes stereotype personality patterns, superstitions and taboos which perpetuate the ingrained inegalitarian social structure. All these factors hinder the pace of development in rural India and plunge society into poverty. Agriculture, the main profession, feeds more than 70 per cent of the population. Ruralites remain dependent on agriculture for their survival, owing to the lack of any other side or main channel for income. The poor rate of agriculture growth keeps the masses in low income in the zone. The major strain on agriculture growth is due to landholding. The size is not sufficient enough to permit the use of advanced technology. Scarcity of rainfall or excess rainfall presents another big problem. There is still a need to carry the irrigation water to fields. According to government sources, there has been a lag in the utilisation of created potentials. Even at the end of 1991-92 utilisation was 73.1 m. hectare against a created potential of 81.2 m. ha. The delayed rainfall and its effect can be labelled to any of the reasons but the ultimate effect is poverty in the field and efforts of people to migrate to urban colonies. The recent authorisation to village Panchayats has boosted the efforts to evolve new formulae in the rural area. This has fastened the utilisation of funds.
Illiteracy is another problem in rural areas. This shatters the efforts of the ruralites in the villages. They need really good and dedicated teachers. The village folk is still exploited by the middlemen. They bind or tie up the needs of the people and keep the farmer under continuous strain.
There have been efforts to transform the villages through schemes like community development programme 1952 IRDP, TRYSEM, Operation Blackboard (1987-88), National Literacy Mission 1988. Integrated Child Development Programmes 1975, Balwade Nutrition Programme, Indira Awas Yojna etc. Besides all this, Panchayati Raj Yojna has been established at village, block and district levels for democratic decentralisation and devolution of powers to people.
The co-operative movement aimed at the development of the weaker sections has also not succeeded much. Pandit Nehru said, “The state should promote and assist the co-operative movement instead of trying to control it. The movement must be popularised as a people’s movement and government assistance should be such as help it in its growth and not stifle it by interference and controls.
The rural segment still looks for proper drinking water and in most cases, well water is used for the purpose. This causes morbidity and severe mortality very frequently. The infant mortality rate in villages is almost 50 per cent higher than the urban areas.
The other problems of rural poverty are youth employment, brain drain, social tensions and implementation of development planning etc. It is clear that a solution will come up from a higher rate of economic growth. They are likely to involve conscious interventions aimed at reconciling the growth with the distribution. There is certainly a need to transform the village social structures as a part of rural development. Land reforms and social revolutions have to be more effective and brisk. There is complete confidence that we will do it and we will win the success.
“Hum Hongey Kamyab, Hum Hongey Kamyab
Hum Hongey Kamyab Ek Din…….”