Big Ideas for India Contest: Question 9: How do we serve the needs of India’s rural population?

India has a large rural population of about 700+ million people. Living in one of India’s 600,000 villages is tough – with the large majority facing the dual challenges of low incomes and the lack of availability of basic services that we take so much for granted in urban India.

There is a need to get past the romanticism of village life. Villages cannot be the self-sufficient islands that Gandhi envisioned. If India has to develop, the pain of daily life in India’s villages has to be eased.

What is the future of India’s villages? Urbanising the bulk of India’s rural population will take a long time. In the interim, there is a need to make life much more livable in the rural areas. What can be done for provisioning services in rural India?

Contest Overview.

6 thoughts on “Big Ideas for India Contest: Question 9: How do we serve the needs of India’s rural population?

  1. It would be a very wrong idea to pull out what has worked in urban india and try to apply that to rural india. we need to list down the positives of rural india and see how we can work on those even more – the issues you have mentioned will resolve by themselves. let us take an example. say there is a village that has become popular since there is a very good temple. once word spreads, the other issues you mentioned would be taken care of automatically. So the real issue we have is this: how do we pick up what is working, for every village, and boost that? I think somewhere around this idea, is the solution for rural india.

  2. Well, I think two things are most important.

    1. Accessibility
    2. Accessibility

    1. Accessibility: to outside world. By this I mean, the villages should have physical infrastructure primarily good roads followed by accessibility to education and health care.

    2. Accessibility: of information.

  3. As a public good government should build high-speed rail and road network that connects small villages to the nearest big city. If the city is not reasonably close build a new city.

    It should be such that a person can get up at 7 in morning and by 9 he should reach his work place and return home in the evening. Faster transport smaller is the perceived separation between city and villages.

    As the time goes by the villages closer to the city will start becoming part of the city itself.

  4. Rural India needs to be understood in the context of aspirations of rural communities all over the world – they seek to migrate to urban areas to benefit from the better access they get to opportunities, income, public goods and services, etc.
    Given that increased urbanization is inevitable globally, and even more in India, the solution does not lie in giving rural Indians a method of building a good life for themselves in their villages, it lies in improving our existing and developing new urban communities where the rural populace has a chance to improve their lot.

    In the interim, we need to –
    a. Seek to reduce commitments made to the rural populace (free power to farmers, NREGA-type dole-outs, etc.)- in some sense, incentivising urbanisation
    b. Improve access to urban areas – roads networks, rail, phone penetration
    c. Re-think our approach to agriculture in general – the benefits of the Green Revolution seem to be long gone; farmer subsidies benefit no one, but distort food prices and we have made no investment worth the mention in enabling the rural populace to monetize agricultural earnings more efficiently. Cold storage chains, the elimination of governmental intervention like minimum food prices paid to farmers or export bans on commodities would go a long way. Finally, we have to come up with a solution to reduce our dependence on the monsoon – whether it be more large dams, a nation-wide river network.

  5. I agree that villages can no longer be islands, however their micro-economies still cannot afford solutions deployed even in tier 2-3 cities. They seek solutions that scale down to their immediate short term gaps

    a. Energy – Solar, Wind
    b. Sanitation – Subsidized assisted development
    c. Healthcare – Telemedicine
    d. Education – Distance Education
    e. Market Access – New supply chain co-operative dynamics to be developed / deployed. Pre-paid upfront commitments will allow more medium term investments from locals.
    f. Materials – On sharing basis, short-term loan/ lease.
    g. Microfinance Products access – Kiva / etc.

  6. Bit late in reply. Visited the blog today. Some ideas below from my personal experience.

    1. Roads/Bridges to connect easily to main cities/towns.
    for example recently Bengal Govt built a bridge on river Matla to connect Canning/Sunderban area to Kolkata. Now if you start from south Kolkata at 6 am in the morning, you can reach Sunderban area at 8:30 am, where earlier you could reach by 1 pm. So in 2.5 hours an abmulence could reach a nursing home in Garia/Ballygunge if there is a health emergency. No wonder farmers can now take thier produce to bigger markets quickly. So lets connect our rural areas to main cities.

    2. English medium Govt./Private schools or let english training thru cell phones/physical centres to make rural graduates employable. Strengthen primary education.

    again example from Bengal- a girl from Sunderban area from a modest family after class 10th working in Bigbazar retail outlet in bangalore now can speak fluent english/Hindi after intial struggle in Bangalore.

    3. may be Rural area focused TV channel, community radio stations, services on mobiles to reduce information/ideas divide

    4. Solar/wind to lighten up.. it is happening, I saw rural TV sets/fans are run on solar cells subsidized by Govt. how can we make this more affordable? need entrepreneurs in this area to reduce costs of solar cells.