The misconception about the village as a revenue unit of administration as “backward” needs to be changed. A village is not necessarily an antonym of a city. On the contrary, a village is a social and cultural unit of pure happiness. It is a different matter that Indian planners have neglected these units in favour of cities and now, from cities to smart cities. It is time to focus our attention on making our villages self-sufficient in ways that complement their natural strength as an organized human habitat engaged in gainful employment and happy living.
Happy living may sound weird for most urban thinkers, but they need to remember that there is greater happiness even today in the Indian villages in comparison to the cities. The city folk are ever hungry for a village experience, which is selling at unusually high prices at artificially created The Village or Chokhi Dhaani and other relaxation hotspots. Guests want to live the experience of life in a village relishing village food and drinks like makki/bajra/jowar/missi roti with freshly churned butter, chhach and lassi. There is plateful of desi ghee ki jalebi & hot milk with a liberal spread of malai. The list on the menu is mouthwatering, the experience unique, the price nothing compared to the few hours of happiness of the whole family including children and aged parents. Mixing with the village women and getting mehndi applied to the palms adds to the pleasure. Children have no less a wonderful time by running around without fear of accident, playing, making noise and chirping their sweet little ideas. There is a portrait-man who can draw a perfect portrait on the spot. You can live those few hours with your memories of the past and the fun and frolicking in the mela (fair) somewhere on the mela ground in the nearby larger village.
Have our cities lost much of this happiness in the process of urbanisation, industrialisation and economic betterment? The growth of slums, pollution, garbage, disease, distances, decline of humanness, crime, fall in values, sense of insecurity and isolation afflicts all.
Migration to cities is not the only option for the poverty-stricken villagers. What the cities offer them can be achieved in the villages also, provided we start doing something for improving the conditions there. The primary needs are education, healthcare and livelihood opportunities. Rural roads have connected villages and electricity has reached their homes. People are greatly aware of needs and opportunities today. Their aspirations are high. Panchayats and MGNREGS has infused them with new energy. Fortunately, the necessary infrastructure has already been created. It needs only to be upgraded. It is high time we stop compromising on quality as a nation. Cities have made access to healthcare excessively costly, which only the very rich can afford. Professional services like lawyer, chartered accountant, doctor, teacher etc. have already gone out of the reach of the common man with average national income in hand. So, in financial terms, both the villager and the city folk stand equal. The village is happy only because it needs the minimal of these services.
If the year 2018 is devoted to reaching quality services to the Indian villages, it will improve living conditions to the desired level. Those interested in pursuing higher education or professional course could always migrate, but the villages should be able to provide high school level quality education. In a vast country like India, it can be done with the help of technology. If the farmer can search for the best price of his produce with the help of a mobile phone in his hand, he can ensure these basic services in the village. Funds are no problem for rural development now. Only honesty of purpose and an honest public service delivery agent is enough to achieve the desired result.
Mechanisation of the order of advanced industrialised cities may not be necessary. Climate change, pollution and life style diseases have already spurred thoughtful people to move to virgin lands not polluted by noise, poor quality air, contaminated water, internet, TV, newspapers. Wasn’t that being offered by the villages? If means of livelihood are made available, people would like to live in villages. It is possible to do so as there is enough work for every hand as there is enough food for every stomach. To achieve it, we must improve traditional production and marketing practices with the help of modern technology and take modern technology-created work to the villages. Training in skill development has always been required; it is required now and will be required in future also.
Happy villages will make India happy.