The concept of building new smart cities and restructuring existing ones has been accepted as a means of growth and economic development for countries. The ideal smart city would be a place that is self-sustaining, environmentally friendly and technologically advanced.
India has a huge population and a majority of this number (around 68% as per Census of India statistics) live in rural areas. Constant efforts must be made to bridge the gap between the urban and rural areas. Rural development is crucial, after all cities are an extension of villages.
Rural development implies economic betterment of people and therefore is needed for social transformation. This can be achieved if we make our villages smart. To make ‘smart villages’ it is necessary to involve rural people in development programmes.
Mahatma Gandhi had visualized smart villages a long time ago. He believed that a village should be self-sustaining and have everything from food, water, education, sanitation, cloth, electricity, roads, and places of worship, health care, transport, houses, industries and employment.
While smart villages hold plenty of promise, challenges go hand in hand. Smart-village solutions would have to be customized according to requirements and strengthened to deal with problems to make them viable.
To be able to do so we need to actually look into the various problems of most villages. Some of them are lack of funds, housing, sanitation, electricity, potable water, pastures for grazing cattle, primary and secondary schools, lack of employment, roads and lack of technology.
Information regarding government policies has not been adequately disseminated to the rural youth for them to be able to actually utilize the facilities provided by the government.
Few steps in this direction
As a solution to the above mentioned issues India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has taken quite a few strides in this direction and has initiated special schemes and allocated funds for the various schemes that will assist in the making of smart cities and smart villages.
The information and broadcasting department has planned to increase FM radio coverage from the current 45% to 65% approximately in the next couple of years (around 2.5 to 3 years). This will be achieved by using the existing cell towers and installing digital FM transmitters. A smart move in the right direction. An example of smart solution customized to the scale and requirements of the place.
India being largely an agrarian economy can take advantage of foreign direct investment (FDI). According to the announcement made by the government, 100% (FDI) will be allowed through the Foreign Investment Promotion Board route for marketing of food products that are produced and manufactured in India. When productivity in agriculture increases and surplus is accumulated it opens up the prospects of manufacturing and food processing. If the rural area provides labour and raw material for this, it would lead to marketable products. This would generate additional rural incomes leading to rural prosperity
The government has planned ‘Housing for All’ by 2022. There are plans to build 60 million homes of which 40 million will be in the rural areas and 20 million in the urban areas. The Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) has decided to include communities in the green building agenda and will also demonstrate green building projects in villages. The basic raw material being employed is mud (using mud based technologies) instead of cement.
The government of India has proposed the Shayama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) which is aimed at developing rural areas by the provisioning of social, economic and physical infrastructure facilities.
What is the Rurban concept?
Large parts of rural areas are not standalone settlements, but part of a cluster of settlements with relative proximity to each other. These clusters have potential for growth. Once these clusters are developed they can be classified as Rurban.
Objective of the mission:
The objective of this mission is to create 300 well planned Rurban villages in a period of 3 years, with all basic services and to stimulate local economic development.
Components of the Mission, Proposed schemes and their desired outcomes:
- Upgrading school and higher education facilities: The ministry of Human Resource Development has implemented (RMSA) Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyaan, (SSA) Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, and Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyaan. These schemes will help to improve the quality of education and bring it up to an acceptable level.
- Sanitation: The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation through the Swachh Bharat Mission- Gramin SBM(G) strives to improve the levels of cleanliness in rural areas through Solid and Liquid Waste Management activities, providing sanitation facilities to make India clean and pollution free.
- Public transport: Roads/streets – The Ministry of Rural Development has implemented The Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) which will ensure inter connectivity between villages.
- Drainage system for the streets: Such drainage systems would dispose storm water thereby preventing flooding. If channelized this water could be collected/harvested and used during drought like conditions, and also to improve the underground water table.
- Street lights: With advancement in solar technology and its application it is now possible to provide solar powered street lights thus reducing the use of non-renewable energy.
- Piped water supply: India is exposed to the vicissitudes of an erratic monsoon. Since potable water and agricultural produce largely depend on the availability of water it is necessary to identify and create mechanisms to overcome this pertinent problem. Under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation intends to provide drinking water for every rural person within 50 meters of their household by 2022.
- Fully equipped and functional mobile health care units: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will provide (MMUs) mobile medical units under National Rural Health Mission (NHM)-Rural. These units will be equipped with medical and para-medical personnel, diagnostic equipment and accessories such as ECG, X-ray, ultrasound machines and laboratory facilities. These mobile units would provide service in rural and remote areas.
- Agricultural services including processing, storage and warehousing: Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare wants to ensure irrigation facilities to all the farmers. This scheme will focus on providing all farming solutions like preparing for rain water harvesting, treating sewage water to be reused for the purpose of cultivation, drip irrigation systems, monitoring of soil humidity through smart meters etc. This will help the farmers to increase agricultural produce, thereby improving agricultural income and therefore overall economic growth.
- Skill development: Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDUGKY) has been implemented by the Ministry of Rural Development. The focus will be on skill training programmes (for the youth) based on national and international market demands which will thereby progress to a career, a transition from farm to factory.
- LPG gas connections: Rajiv Gandhi Gramin LPG Vitaran (RGGLV) scheme aims to provide a one-time financial assistance to people in the BPL category for new LPG connections. Funds for the same would come from six major public sector oil marketing companies like IOCL, HPCL, ONGC, GAIL, BPCL and OIL under (CSR) corporate social responsibility.
- Digital literacy through Digital India Mission:
The aim of Digital India Mission is to ensure digital literacy to its citizens so as to be able to fully exploit digital technologies (ICT) at Citizen Service Centres (electronic services and connectivity) set up by centre and state governments. This will empower the citizens and help them to get better information and livelihood opportunities and thus become economically secure. Some of the technology is available now but it is fragmented and needs to be put together by proper planning, implementation and execution, and above all monitoring these systems through appropriate governance models.
To summarize, a smart village will be self-sustained with all the basic services such as water, electricity, roads, education, health care, transport and communication, industries, housing, and sanitation. Communication and information technology plays a vital role in bringing together all these services and can be used to further the cause of building smart villages. This will reduce the migration of people from villages to cities, in search of livelihood.