Assessment of PURA Model of Rural Development

It will be surprising for you to know that it was Mahatma Gandhi who underlined the exploitation of rural society by its urban counterpart. Gandhi wrote in Village Swaraj:

“The British have exploited India through its cities. The latter have exploited the villages. The blood of the villages is the cement with which the edifice of the cities is built. I want the blood that is today inflating the arteries of the cities to run once again in the blood vessels of villages.”

As a policy statement, Gandhi stated:

“The cities are capable of taking care of themselves. It is the villages we have to turn to.”

Gandhi to develop a harmonious relationship between the cities and villages categorically mentioned:

“It is only when the cities realize the duty of making an adequate return to the villages for the strength and sustenance which they derive from them, instead of selfishly exploiting them, that a healthy and moral relationship between the two will spring up.”

There is definitely no doubt that the planning procedure did make an effort to develop the villages through community development projects. Irrigation facilities were expanded and green revolution did provide an opportunity to the rural people to increase their share in national and per capita income, however still the rural-urban divide carries and there is a relocation of population from rural to urban areas. Urban population which was 17.3% of the total in 1951 has increased to 27.8% in 2001. In absolute terms, as against 62 million persons living in urban areas in 1951, the numbers crowding in them have rose up to 285 million-an increase by 357 per cent. This has generated problems of congestion and growth of slums.

You must observe that the goal of PURA is to propel economic development without population transfers. To explain in the words of late Prof. A.M. Khusro:

“Instead of moving human beings where infrastructure exists, it is better to take infrastructure to villages where human beings live. The PURA concept is the response to the need for creating social and economic infrastructure which can create a conducive climate for investment by the private sector to invest in rural areas.”

It is important to note that on the other hand a mere provision of Rs. 3 crore per cluster as against

the need for Rs. 100 crore is too meagre. The best way to shelve a proposal is to accept it in principle and make a modicum of investment towards its implementation. Such a move is potential to kill the proposal. Actually, there was need for giving a more severe thought to the proposal and to support it to attain success. But such a thin layer of the investment as intended by the Cabinet is not going to attain the objectives of PURA.

A more pragmatic method would have been to select almost 600 blocks in the backward areas and invest at least Rs. 25 crore per block to provide the needed infrastructure to Block Development Committee throughout the Tenth Plan, the remaining 35% and 40% should be granted in the Eleventh and the Twelfth Plan. Those states which promise to provide 20% out of their revenues should receive 80% grant from the Central Government. This would have needed the Centre to contribute Rs. 20 crore and with the present level of support of Rs. 12,000 crore, the PURA concept could have made a dent in formulating the backward areas.

Secondly, the PURA proposal imagines three types – A, B and C. Type C being in the interior required much greater initial push, type B comparatively less and type A can attract even private sector investment. Government should, thus, develop a vision 2020 for the PURA development clusters and grade the degree of financial and other support consistent with the level of development attained in a particular cluster. To overcome inertia, we require a big push and if the process begins to move, relatively lesser energy is required to give it a momentum. Therefore, a higher level of state support is required for Type C cluster.

Also, you must understand that the on-going programmes of rural development can be re-oriented so that roads, electricity and water are made available. When the social overheads are developed, it will be possible to appeal private sector investment. It is adequately clear that private sector invests only in areas and projects which harvest a high rate of return. It will, thus, hesitate to move in the remote interior clusters unless the Government offers essential infrastructural support and some incentives for the goal.

The major obstacle to the PURA mission will be the on demand side. This can be attained by undertaking such activities which generate wage employment and therefore, enlarge demand potential of the rural population. If PURA can become a catalyst for another green revolution in the backward rural areas in the less booming states, the Vision 2020 of the President to attain a food production of 400 million tonnes can be attain. For this objective, it is essential to develop synergy among the different components in the fulfilment of the PURA mission. Only then can we have the dream of development of rural India without population transfers realised.

You must also keep in mind that even though PURA draws its inspiration from the Gandhian model of development which focuses rural development as a fundamental postulate, however in the prescription, it is neo-Gandhian in the sense, that it means to bring rural regeneration with the avowed goal of taking modern technology and modern amenities to the rural areas. In this sense, it does not enter into the disagreement of labour intensive versus capital intensive measures. Nevertheless, it does emphasise the enlargement of employment as the sole purpose to make use of rural manpower in several development activities. In this sense, it does not think of a second grade status for rural citizens and therefore can become more tolerable to them. In other words, the PURA model efforts a reconciliation between employment and GDP growth objectives.

The Eleventh Plan has offered Rs. 248 crore for executing the PURA scheme in compact rural areas in public-private partnership mode. The sum is very insufficient to provide urban amenities in PURA groups to bridge the rural-urban divide.

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