Despite a continuing fall in the growth rate of India's GDP for the last several quarters there are indicators that point to a turn-around of the rural economy. Positive and long-term improvements can be seen in foodgrains production, in horticulture, dairy, poultry and fisheries, access to physical infrastructure such as electricity and roads, per-capita income of poorer states (which have a high percentage of rural population), wages of unskilled labour and growing employment in non-farm occupations due to programmes such as MUDRA. However challenges still remain in some vital sectors, such as water, marketing of fruits and vegetables, skill development, education and health.
There's consensus now across the political and ideological divide that even in the high- growth years, a large section of the population was not receiving the dividends of the progress India has made. There are a number of deeply-entrenched factors because of which every Indian has not been able to benefit from the GDP growth India has seen in the last two and a half decades post-liberalisation in 1991.
Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY), which provides access to institutional finance (MUDRA Loans of <10L) to small business units and entrepreneurs, has led to 5.5 crore jobs in just over two years, addressing the most critical challenge facing the country. According to the survey titled 'MUDRA Scheme: a Game Changer Initiative on Job Creation', a total of 54,479,763 jobs have been generated through MUDRA. These include 37,753,217 direct jobs and 16,726,545 indirect jobs. The report was released at the 49th SKOCH Summit at New Delhi.
Anupam Verma, who works for a multi-national company in Mumbai, was deeply disturbed after reading a report regarding the presence of poisonous chemicals in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that he and his family used to eat everyday. The report was indeed scary. It said the consumption of these produce might cause life-threatening diseases like cancer, neurological defects, autism and respiratory and reproductive problems. Verma did not want to take a chance and decided to use only 'organic produce', which are presented in the report as a healthy alternative.
The British colonial administration brought in progressive developmental forces by bringing in education (Kindergarten to University) and railway networks for commercial exploitation of agricultural, forest and mineral resources and various social activists rose to the occasion with giants such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ranade, Gokhale, Phule, Dadabhai Naoroji, Pantulu, Sayyad Ahmed, Narayana Guru, Sane Guruji, Vidyasagar, Swami Vivekananda, etc.
The socio-economic development in India has been severely hampered because of the significant divide between the urban and the rural economy and a wide gap between the rich and the poor. While 30 per cent of the urban population has a wide range of remunerative employment opportunities, over 80 per cent of the rural population have to be dependent on a highly uncertain agricultural sector.
Whereas the number of poor can be fixed simply through a sample survey, identifying them would need visiting each and every household. While Planning Commission was the official agency to estimate the percentage of population below poverty line (BPL) once in five years based on the National Sample Survey on Consumption Expenditure, a Census to identify the BPL households has been conducted by the states through the Ministry of Rural Development of the Central Government three times (1992, 1997 and 2002) in the last 25 years.
A chain, they say, is only as strong as its weakest link. How then are societies and economies grow successfully without safeguarding and strengthening their weakest members?