Bolstering Rural Industries

The comments from a previous post questioning the value of urbanization discussed the need of developing rural industries and services. According to iGovernment, the government has made a real step toward this with the Ministry of Panchayati Raj and the Khadi and Village Industry Commission (KVIC), a non-profit, working together to promote the Rural Business Hubs (RBH) initiative.

Under this initiative, Panchayats and KVIC will jointly identify potential projects that can be supported under KVIC schemes and also extend marketing support through the corporate members of industry working on the RBH initiative.

Wherever required, skill development and skill upgradation training will be provided to the potential beneficiaries by KVIC through accredited training agencies.

Considering the fact that RBH has been in place for three years, I wonder how successful programs under the initiative really are. In addition, there is a barrage of other questions that come to mind: Do the MoUs actually become operational? Are the rural areas in which they enact MoUs seeing an increase in economic development? And more importantly, does the development of rural industries allow for self-sustaining local economies, or does it make them more dependent (in an arguably negative way) on global markets?

Local Governance: (Re)presenting Women

According to a recent A. C. Neilsen ORG MARG survey, the approximately 10.5 lakh women in panchayati raj (village level governance) have gained significant influence in key decision-making.  In fact, the report has also found that a larger proportion of women have risen to local governance positions within the panchayati raj:

The survey, conducted across 24 states and likely to be tabled in Parliament in early April, also emphasises that of the overall 28 lakh male and female panchayat members across the country, 80,000 women sarpanchs (chairpersons) have been elected to positions of responsibility.

This transferrance of governing power into the hands of women is significant, as, according to the study, female panchayat members tend to be concerned about key issues such as “dealing with the effective functioning of the midday meal programme, health and sanitation, and potable drinking water.”  In fact, the Hunger Project has even gone so far as to call this “transfer of power” the “greatest social experiment of our time.”

In response, states such as Bihar and Sikkim have extended reservations for women within the panchayati raj to 50%.  Problems persist, however, as women still face backlash from their families and communities, and must combat illiteracy during the course of their tenure.  Complementary employment and literacy programs are necessary in order to further maximize on the impact of women’s rise in local governance.

Source:  OneWorld South Asia