Smart villages for inclusive development

Netaji promise

On the lines of Prime Minister Modi’s plan to build 100 smart cities, Union Rural Development Minister Choudhary Birender Singh has said that he will discuss the idea of developing 1000 smart villages with the PM.

In October, PM Modi launched Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) under which around 2500 smart villages will be developed by 2019.

Earlier in the aftermath of cyclone Hudhud, Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu had assured that within one year, all cyclone-hit villages will be converted into smart villages. Well-designed houses will be constructed to withstand cyclones.

Why build smart villages

The focus on building smart cities is prudent and timely. Simultaneously, if smart villages are built, apart from the benefits that it will bring to villagers, it would also solve one of the biggest problems cities are facing today – migration.

In Manipur, according to the local media reports, the State Government is acquiring about 3000 acres for government- ‘100 Smart Cities’ project. This includes tribal villages along the Manipur-Myanmar border. In a protest by Manipur tribals against government’s smart city plan, Ginkholen Singson, education secretary of Thadou Students Association (TSA), said that he was surprised that a township is being built 'in the middle of nowhere'. 'Once we become smart we can build a smart city ourselves. First, let’s have the basics.'

A member of the Thadou community, Cain H Singson, who teaches yoga in Delhi, said, 'I don’t understand why they can’t build a smart village where rights of tribal people are protected and basic necessities like water, sewerage, roads, schools and hospitals are ensured. Our land is very valuable to us.'

While launching SAGY, Prime Minister Modi said, 'If one village is developed in a block, it is likely to have a viral effect and development would permeate other villages also.'

How to build smart villages

The Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, conducted a workshop on ‘How Design Can Change the Ecosystem of Rural India’ at the ‘Design for a Billion’ International Conference held earlier this month.

Lumium, a US firm which has successfully installed a new variant of portable solar cookers in a large number of villages in Odihsa, Jharkhand and Rajasthan, made a live presentation on how the system can be replicated in other rural parts of the country. Almost 87 per cent of families in rural northwest India depend on firewood for fuel. Women walk 2.5km a day to collect firewood. Smoke leads to chronic bronchitis and respiratory infections. Now, these can be minimized by using this alternative energy source which is different from conventional solar cookers. Traditional solar cookers cannot be used for making rotis and frying.

Developing eco-friendly gobar gas (biogas) plant can make a village self-reliant for its fuel needs. Drip irrigation can meet the water requirements for crops. Different village development plan should be implemented for different villages keeping in mind the needs of a particular village.

Just like smart cities, a smart village should be interactive and multi-functional; there should be active participation of people in various activities. A smart village should have power, knowledge, healthcare, technology, entrepreneurship and internet connectivity.

Vietnam example – Vietnam is to build three ‘climate smart’ villages to cope with climate change in three provinces. In these villages, people will be given updated weather information, forecasts and recommendations related to their farming activities through broadcast television and newspapers, and even via text messages sent to their mobile phones. Farmers in these villages will take part in agricultural insurance programs to cover possible damage to agricultural production and cattle breeding caused by adverse weather conditions.

Expansion of Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) or launch of more such programmes can help quick initiation and execution of rural development schemes with involvement of very few resources at the local level 'If the same work is to be done by the Government of India then a Cabinet note will be prepared, departments will give their comments, it will get a Cabinet nod, followed by tenders etc. But through SAGY there will be no need for tenders, budget and Cabinet.' Prime Minister Modi said while launching SAGY.

Courtesy Niti Central




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